Media conglomerate Sing Tao News Corp (1105) announced yesterday its English-language newspaper, The Standard, will switch to free circulation next Monday - a move industry observers expect to change the landscape of the Hong Kong media market.
"There is a worldwide trend towards free tabloid newspapers that deliver news in an easy-to-read, lively and no-nonsense style," Sing Tao News Corp chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok told a press conference. "The time has arrived for Hong Kong's first free- circulation English newspaper."
The Standard has been struggling for years. Once upon a time it was the Hong Kong Standard and it was a credible alternative to the SCMP. Then it wasn't. About 7 years ago they switched it to tabloid format, hired Nury Vittachi and changed the name to the HK iMail, but that didn't work. They changed the name to The Standard and it focused on business news. That didn't work.
The only thing keeping The Standard going was that locally-listed companies were legally obliged to publish announcements in an English language newspaper. Not any more.
The Standard's move followed a change in the information disclosure requirements of the Hong Kong stock exchange, as listed companies are no longer obligated to place paid newspaper announcements, which comprised a significant portion of newspaper revenues. "The announcement of the Hong Kong stock exchange did have a substantial effect on the company," Ho admitted. "We had to change."
So now comes the inevitable switch to free distribution. Sing Tao already have 2 free Chinese newspapers, and adding a third title shouldn't be too much of a challenge for them. The Star (Malaysia) has more details (from AP, I think):
Sing Tao News Corp. said in a statement it will start next Monday with an initial print run of 120,000, a number apparently designed at edging out its better known rival South China Morning Post, whose average daily circulation ranged from 70,000 to more than 133,000 in 2006, according to audit figures.
It'll be interesting to see whether they can provide some competition for the SCMP.