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Hong Kong’s oldest English-language newspaper launched an international edition in April as it seeks to capitalize on the world’s growing interest in China.
The South China Morning Post will look to expand its readership by showcasing coverage of issues that would appeal to a global audience. The inaugural edition, published April 20, featured stories about Chinese search giant Baidu’s work on self-driving cars; Beijing launching an investigation into retired military chief Guo Boxiong amid a government crackdown on corruption in the People’s Liberation Army; and fossilized dinosaur eggs unearthed during road work in southern China.
“As a 112-year old newspaper anchored in Hong Kong, we believe we have a unique perspective of a globalized world in which a rising China has become the biggest story of our lifetime, ” said SCMP Group Chief Executive Robin Hu in an interview conducted via email.
The publication’s online reach and influence already extend beyond Hong Kong, with 30 percent of its readers coming from the U.S. and Canada. It also draws a following from the U.K., Malaysia and other English-speaking countries. The edition’s managing editor, George Chen, recently spent time in the U.S. at Yale University where he was a 2014 Yale World Fellow.
As with newspapers around the world, the SCMP seeks to bolster its digital readership at a time when its print subscriptions are contracting. It publishes around 104, 000 daily copies of its broadsheet, though its website grabs about 2.07 million monthly unique viewers — a 40 percent gain over 2013.
The soft-launch of the global edition comes at a time when Chinese technology companies are grabbing headlines around the world. One of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone makers, Xiaomi, became the most valuable tech startup with a funding round that valued the company at $45 billion. E-commerce giant Alibaba set a record last year with its $25 billion initial stock offering.
The reader appetite for independent news from the region has intensified as China rises as a global economic power. But reporting has grown increasingly difficult for both Chinese and foreign media, with a crackdown on press freedom since China’s President Xi Jinping took power. Last year, a record number of journalists were imprisoned in China, according to research from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Political unrest last fall in Hong Kong attracted thousands of protestors to the streets — and the eyes of the world.
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