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Old December 8th, 2005, 01:04 AM   #1
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Free Newspaper War

The first audited circulation figures for Hong Kong's newest free dailies have...
8 December 2005
South China Morning Post

The first audited circulation figures for Hong Kong's newest free dailies have confirmed a new dynamic in the intensifying battle for newspaper readership and advertising revenue.

Hong Kong Audit Bureau of Circulations this week issued official circulation reports for Sing Tao News Corp's Headline Daily and property agent boss Shih Wing-ching's am730 for the period from August 1 to October 24. Headline's average daily circulation for the period was 521,365 copies while am730's was 254,282.

"The audited figure met our target," am730 marketing director Agnes Chan said.

Ms Chan added the current daily circulation was about 260,000 copies and its distribution network had extended to all stations along the East Rail and Ma On Shan extension of Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp.

Headline chief editor Siu Sai-wo said an official circulation of more than 500,000 a day had secured a stable group of clients.

"Our advertising to editorial is more than 50 per cent," he said.

Analysts said the audited figures and other survey data would boost client confidence to spend with the newcomers.

Some newspaper circulations in the first half of this year jumped more than 5 per cent, which was expected to lead to a rise in the rate card for some paid dailies next year.

"The exposure of the free dailies is much higher than paid dailies," said Tsang Kam-ching, the chief executive of media agent Mindshare Hong Kong.

Ming Pao Daily News sold 8 per cent more copies over last year at 103,700. Hong Kong Economic Times' audited circulation was up 6 per cent over the same period at 85,593 copies.

But Next Media's Apple Daily average audited circulation in the first six months of this year was 343,187 copies, down 1 per cent from the same period last year.
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Old February 15th, 2009, 04:07 PM   #2
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MTR-Metro deal's end may start news free for all
11 February 2009
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong's free-newspaper market may be headed for a shake-up as Metro Daily's exclusive contract to distribute within the MTR system will expire next year, industry sources said.

Media Eye learned that MTR Corp will invite tenders as early as April for a new newspaper distribution contract to start next year. The results could be announced in the third quarter.

Industry watchers said it is normal for MTR to invite tenders a year before existing contracts end.

Metro Daily's contract expires in April next year. MTR could not be reached for comment.

Metro Daily, published by Metro International of Sweden, secured the ground-breaking free-newspaper distribution contract within MTR's urban lines in May 2002 as a new customer service introduced by former MTR chairman Jack So Chak-kwong.

The newspaper turned profitable shortly after it was launched. Profits amounted to tens of million dollars in the first three years, before newcomers tapped the market in 2005.

Metro Daily now has a daily circulation of about 340,000 copies, with average daily readership of 561,000. Its dominance among free newspapers was broken after Sing Tao News Corp's Headline Daily and property agency Centaline Group's am730 hit the streets in the summer of 2005.

Without an MTR deal, these titles were distributed outside MTR exits and in residential estates. They also distribute inside the former KCR lines - the East Rail, West Rail and Ma On Shan lines

Headline Daily, leveraging on its parent's resources, has boosted its circulation to 700,000 copies from 500,000 copies when it was launched. It has more than 1 million readers and is ranked as the city's third-most widely read paper.

Meanwhile, am730 rose to fourth position, with an average of 608,000 readers.

Sources said Metro Daily needs to share a certain proportion of revenue with MTR for the exclusivity rights. However, the popularity of am730 and Headline Daily proves that exclusive distribution within the MTR is not the only success factor.

"We do have plans to distribute outside the MTR system if the payment to MTR is too high," a source close to Metro Daily told Media Eye, adding that the cost of distributing the newspaper would be less than payments to MTR.

The group's annual results showed the Hong Kong edition of Metro Daily was still profitable despite the softening economy. Revenue in Hong Kong dollars was down 12 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter but increased 3 per cent for the full year.

Parent seeking fresh funds

Net sales last year decreased 11 per cent year on year to {euro}295.5 million (HK$2.96 billion). The company made an operating loss of {euro}20 million.

"The group does not have sufficient working capital for the next 12 months, and funds are needed in order to repay outstanding bank loans in its entirety, to continue operations, execute Metro International's strategy and implement cost saving measures to increase shareholder value," Metro said in the results announcement last week.
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Old July 16th, 2009, 05:49 PM   #3
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Poor economy may delay tender for free paper Media Eye
15 July 2009
South China Morning Post

MTR Corp may delay the tendering process for the contract to distribute a free newspaper on the railway network because of the current economic climate.

The existing exclusive contract held by Metro Publishing Hong Kong, which has produced Metro Daily since April 2002, expires next April and if it is to be put out to tender, the process should be started before then.

However, a source said: "MTR may delay the tender because it could be difficult for industry players to decide their long-term investment plans amid the economic downturn. If that was the case, MTR would make a temporary arrangement with Metro to ensure the newspaper service would not be affected."

Existing free sheets such as am730, owned by property agency boss Shih Wing-ching, and Sing Tao News Corp's Headline Daily are favourites to compete with Metro for the contract, which offers access to more than three million commuters a day.

Metro is understood to pay a royalty fee to MTR for exclusive distribution rights on the Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong, Island, Tung Chung and Tseung Kwan O lines (former MTR lines before the merger with Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp).

The company can distribute the newspaper in the paid area of stations and must have it available in all stations by the time the trains start running in the morning. At present, Metro Daily has a circulation of 340,000.

"It will be unfair to other free newspaper publishers if MTR delays the tender," said a senior manager of one of the freebies.

"In fact, they should open the system to everyone as it is unfair for readers not to have a choice of dailies when taking the MTR."

Headline Daily and am730 can only distribute their newspapers outside MTR station exits, although they have had access to stations on the former KCRC West Rail and East Rail lines since 2005.

Metro has had non-exclusive rights to 10 stations on the West Rail and East Rail lines since the rail operations were merged in December 2007.

Media monitoring firm admanGo said free papers accounted for 23 per cent of total local newspaper advertising spending in the first half. Headline Daily ranked No1 with advertising revenue of HK$914 million, up 18 per cent on a year-on-year basis. am730 saw a 7 per cent drop to HK$623 million, while Metro Daily was down 5 per cent to HK$442 million.

New magazine

Elle, a fashion title published by Hachette Filipacchi Media, is starting a free magazine Elle and the City, to be distributed in Harbour City shopping arcade this month.

The publication, tailor-made for shoppers and packed with new product information, has launched a cover-girl promotion campaign backed by a free make-up service.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 02:56 PM   #4
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No papering over news differences
The Standard
Friday, September 09, 2011

The advent of free newspapers has reshaped the Hong Kong media market, and one of the recurring concerns is whether some of the paid papers will be eliminated in the ensuing competition.

Sing Tao News Corp is the first newspaper group to come up with both paid dailies and giveaways, posting the highest profits in both operations last year.

And, statistics by Admango show, there was strong growth in advertising revenue for Sing Tao Daily in the first half of the year.

Synovate Media Atlas has also found the paid paper's readership numbers rising in tandem with those of its free tabloid sister, Headline Daily.

But paid papers cannot afford to get caught off guard amid unrelenting competition.

When Headline Daily made its debut, Sing Tao maintained its niche by focusing on politics, education, business and property news.

These are the areas the middle class is most concerned about, and a free paper is not designed to delve into such issues in any great depth.

This has proven to be a winning strategy, helping Sing Tao Daily grow its paid readership. Experience also shows that certain advertisers - most notably the property and luxury watch industries - will only choose the paid papers.

The free paper has not been able to make inroads into this market because the ads mainly target the middle class and the affluent, for whom presentation is more important.

There is also one other factor where property ads are concerned: homebuyers need a huge amount of informa
tion that the free paper is not equipped to provide.

While the free paper has a large circulation its readership is also more diverse, hence it is not as effective as Sing Tao Daily in reaching its target audience.

Another question that has often been asked is whether there is room for free papers specializing in financial content in the SAR.

In my view, with meticulous planning, this is a viable proposition.

The public has become more investment conscious in the past decade, with the number of stock investors growing to well over one million.

Siu Sai-wo is chief editor of Sing Tao Daily
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Old February 7th, 2012, 02:57 PM   #5
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Cold facts behind hot news war
The Standard
Friday, November 11, 2011

Three months after the free-newspaper market war started, the situation is beginning to stabilize somewhat.

So far, the fray has not touched the positioning of paid newspapers targeting middle-class readers.

With more players coming into the field, the more immediate concerns are the prospects for the free-newspaper market.

To be competitive in the newspaper world, content is, of course, key. And in the case of a free paper, distribution channels and printing capacity are just as important.

One can go on forever talking about how to successfully run a free newspaper, but the calculation is rather straightforward.

Since July, the total daily circulation of free papers has increased by about 1.5 million copies.

With costs at between HK$1.2 and HK$1.5 per copy, the daily capital outlay totals between HK$1.8 million to HK$2.25 million, adding up to an annual aggregate of about HK$500 million, on a five-day publication-a-week basis.

Adding editorial costs and extra resources needed to deal with competition, the entire trade would need to spend about HK$600 million a year.

The bottom-line question: will there be sufficient additional advertising revenue to pay for the vastly expanded cost base for the trade as a whole?

As free papers have no circulation income, they rely entirely on ad dollars to survive.

Even if a free paper achieves a 1:1 ad-content proportion, it could still be a losing venture, as profitability depends on the rates that advertisers may be
charged.

This is illustrated by Hong Kong's pay-television operations, which have been languishing in negative territory for years.

Free-newspaper wars have also been seen overseas. In one, an Iceland consortium barged its way into the Denmark market.

The case is highly relevant for those who want to gain a clearer insight into the local free-newspaper market.

Siu Sai-wo is chief editor of Sing Tao Daily
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Old August 24th, 2012, 04:27 AM   #6
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Evening newspapers a tough sell
The Standard
Friday, August 24, 2012

A free newspaper, the New Evening Post, was launched this week, with the tabloid hoping to be a trailblazer and seeking to capitalize on the lack of an afternoon rival in the market.

But, for some, the absence of evening papers speaks for itself. In fact, the New Evening Post is one of the failures, having ceased publication in the 1990s as the niche market shrunk.

Its return isn't particularly promising either. In its previous incarnation, it wasn't a freebie and its content was underwhelming, causing it to lose readers as they aged.

The distribution network also worked against it, with publications relying heavily on newspaper stall vendors who started bright and early, when business was generally good.

They considered evening papers too hard a sell, so there wasn't much motivation.

The last paper to hit the streets in the afternoon was Next Media's Sharp Daily: its evening runs ended when they proved not to be particularly successful.

Evening papers seem to have a hard time of it. Although Sharp Daily's evening edition had some fresh content, most of its news was a rehash of the morning fare. As such, its relevance waned for readers.

But the most important thing was that it failed to come up with an advertising market and development plans tailored for the paper.

For morning and evening papers are two distinct product types, like night and day.

For example, firms would not put breakfast- related ads in an evening paper.

Therefore, the two products need properly directed strategies in the ad market.

Further dulling the penetration of Sharp Daily was the hard time it had with its morning paper when the evening edition was up and running.

With the evening paper using up resources without adding to revenues, the only thing for Next Media to do was to cut their losses and pull out of the evening market.

Even though both the New Evening Post and Sharp Daily have experienced failure, we can't say definitively that there isn't a market for such papers in Hong Kong.

Before the first free newspapers hit the streets in the early 2000s, many people weren't too optimistic about how they would fare. But now, there are already three free papers, all of them profitable.

If the revived New Evening Post can make a breakthrough in its content, and bring its operating costs under control, it may stand a good chance of surviving.

Media guru KK Tsang takes a candid look at life.
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