Hong Kong Gets a Tabloid
The Standard reinvents itself for the Internet age
For a city with deep colonial roots, Hong Kong hasn't distinguished itself in the English-language newspaper business. The South China Morning Post dominates the market and rakes in the loot, but it rarely produces original, first-rate coverage. Its sole remaining rival, the Hongkong Standard, is an also-ran, neglected by the market and plagued by scandal. Last year, several Standard executives went to jail for printing, and then destroying, thousands of copies to boost circulation claims; only a special pardon kept former owner Sally Aw out of the clink. The Standard's 70,000 circulation is only about one-quarter that of the Post.
Rather than throw in the towel, the Standard is undergoing an aggressive relaunch. Lazard Asia Fund, which bought out Sing Tao a year ago, has been hiring veteran journalists for the revamp. The 51-year-old paper will appear this week as a tabloid, hiply rechristened the Hong Kong I-Mail (the I stands for interactive, as the paper will provide handy links to its website). The goal is to take the paper down market and attract younger readers. The Hongkong Standard was always the little wife, says Clement So, a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The change may be good for them.
It's a gamble, but publishers are loathe to stand still these days. The Post itself launched a colorful redesign a few weeks ago, as did the Asian Wall Street Journal, a regional paper that's published in Hong Kong. Still, the I-Mail has an uphill battle. Tabloids don't work in Hong Kong, says Albert Cheng, an outspoken local radio-show host. Maybe not, but the old format certainly needed shaking up.