Jimmy Lai

Jimmy Lai

With Ferrari in mind, Jimmy Lai puts foot down in Apple shake-up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am

Unhappy Next Media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is shaking the tree at Apple Daily in Hong Kong looking for a better performance and product.

While Apple's Taiwan edition celebrates its place in the readership stakes, things are not going very well in Hong Kong with sluggish reforms causing Mr Lai much displeasure.

'Mr Lai is very angry with the slow pace of reform within the daily,' an insider at the newspaper's Tseung Kwan O headquarters said.

One source quoted Mr Lai as saying that one of the reasons that had led to the falling circulation of his newspaper over the past few months from 340,000 copies to 300,000 copies per day was its business news coverage, which he said was weak compared with rivals such as Hong Kong Economic Times.

So, Mr Lai has been stirring it up in the business section by suggesting changes.

'His latest order is that the news story should be written in a story-telling format, not a simple and dry direct report of the press conference,' an insider quoted Mr Lai as telling staff.

Moreover, Mr Lai has appointed two new editorial staff to the daily's business section - Simon Lee and Andrew Suen, both from the Lion Rocks Institute think-tank.

'They are participating in the daily editorial business section meetings and helping the business editor develop the headline story,' the insider told Media Eye.

'However, nobody at the business desk knows what position they hold at the newspaper,' the source said.

'But they are writers of Apple's editorial column.'

Mr Lai also has a new idea for the stock listing page. He thinks that shares traded daily should appear in a large font, and those that do not should disappear from the three-page listings.

'We should do it because we don't care about the shareholders of non-trading stocks. We are here to serve those who are trading and the public,' the insider quoted Mr Lai as telling staff.

'We should take risks in reforming our paper, just like a driver taking his red Ferrari to the hilltop.'

However, Media Eye's source at Tseung Kwan O said some of his colleagues thought that the move would turn the business desk into a call centre because many readers who loved investing in penny stocks might complain about the arrangement.

'Such stocks won't trade every day, but the shareholders have the right to know.'

luring the trendy diner

Cafe de Coral Holdings, reputedly the world's largest Chinese fast-food chain operator, has launched its aggressive campaign to lure young and trendy diners.

It has a new television commercial starring singing star Alex Fong Lik-sun and radio programme host Sammy Leung Chi-kin.

The chain has also set up a membership club, called Club 100, to encourage patrons to dine more and redeem bonus points for discounts.

'We want to reward our loyal and long-term customers and further develop our business in the youngster segment,' said Anita Lo, the general manager of Cafe de Coral.

The membership programme is not the only move the management of the 40-year-old fast-food chain has to attract the trendy.

It is concentrating its thoughts on a possible rebranding of its trademark later this year.

'We do have the option of changing our trademark to a more trendy style,' company chairman Michael Chan Yue-kwong said.

'However, as our brand has [existed in] Hong Kong for 40 years, we have to consider any change very seriously, but no final decision has been made.'

Rivals such as Fairwood Fast Food and Maxim's Restaurant have relaunched their brands over the past two years.

They have since successfully rejuvenated the brands and upgraded their customer profiles to middle-class diners.

Mr Chan's Cafe de Coral restaurants were undergoing a fourth phase of renovations.

'We want to provide hotel-style hospitality for diners to enjoy in our restaurants,' said Mr Chan, who has been visiting hotel restaurants and the renowned Eslite Bookshop in Taiwan to absorb its interior design.

'The bookshop attracts young Hong Kong people, so we need to take notice of it for reference,' he said.

The newly redesigned Cafe de Coral's restaurants are now being equipped with sofa seats and soft lighting, while their cashier counters will look like hotel reception desks rather than fast-food shop counters.

'We are the trendsetter in the industry. I believe our rivals will follow us in six months' time,' Mr Chan said.

Time will tell whether Fairwood and Maxim's will follow suit.