Rolling Stone hits a home run with its China edition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2006, 12:00am

United States pop-culture magazine Rolling Stone shimmied into the China market this month with mainland rock 'n' roll godfather Cui Jian on the cover and bundled with a baseball cap - all for 20 yuan.

Published in partnership with Hong Kong's One Media Group, the magazine arm of Ming Pao Enterprise Corp, the Chinese edition of the magazine had an initial print run of 125,000 copies and was distributed through 100 distributors nationwide.

'The magazine is selling well in Beijing and Shanghai and we are planning for a second print run to meet robust market demand,' a source from the magazine told Media Eye.

Rolling Stone last year selected One Media as its partner in a five-year licensing agreement that allows the latter to use the magazine's trademark, contents and photos for the mainland market for a royalty based on the turnover.

'The magazine, with the branding of Rolling Stone and high-quality journalism and photography, has no competitor in its class in the mainland magazine market,' says Robert Yung, the chief strategy officer of One Media.

Hao Fang, a former programme director at Star Group's Channel V and a major player in the mainland's pop music industry, is the editor-in-chief of the Rolling Stone Chinese edition.

For the maiden issue, the magazine focuses on Cui Jian's impact on China's youth.

'Mr Cui was the only choice for the cover for our first issue. He has an exclusive interview because he knows Rolling Stone well. He seldom conducts interviews with the media,' says Peter Brack, the chief executive of One Media.

Mr Yung says the magazine will be positioned as the leading pop-culture, entertainment and music magazine in China targeting 'trend-setting' readers aged below 40.

About 50 per cent of the Chinese edition will be local content, with the other half from the US and 10 other overseas editions, Mr Brack says.

'Rolling Stone doesn't want the mainland edition to be merely a translated version of its US edition. We have editorial teams in Beijing and Shanghai to contribute local coverage as well,' Mr Yung says.

He adds the title has been well received by advertisers in the luxury goods, fashion and vehicle sectors.

'Our target is to attract fast-moving consumer goods, such as soft drinks, to advertise with us,' Mr Yung says, adding that those clients are placing most of their budget on television, mainly with state-owned national network Chinese Central Television.

He believes that advertisers will gradually shift their budget away from television to magazines because of market segmentation and the rising penetration of magazines as new titles enter the market.

mixed-up signals

Sky TV, Rupert Murdoch's British direct-to-home pay-television operator, seems to have gotten its signals mixed up, confusing Tokyo for Hong Kong.

Media Eye's contact in Britain was miffed when Sky TV erroneously identified a shot of Hong Kong's Nathan Road in a leaflet as an area in Tokyo.

'I have sent a letter of complaint to Sky. It's clear the picture shows Hong Kong,' she said.

The leaflet promotes Sky TV's free satellite television service in Britain and the misleading illustration is about its Travel Channel.

Was this the handiwork of some befuddled researcher or does it mean it is time for the Hong Kong Tourism Board to lift the image of Asia's World City in London with some up-to-date shots of its famous scenic points, such as the Peak, and rebuild public awareness of Nathan Road, the tourist shopping paradise?

alternative audience

China has shut the door to foreign television channels since the end of 2004, with Beijing turning away applications for landing rights. Denied access to the huge mainland market, some foreign channels have been trying to develop a new audience base to maintain their exposure to the region.

Last week, Malaysian-funded and Hong Kong-based channel operator Celestial Pictures launched its first Chinese-language entertainment television channel, Wa TV.

However, instead of aiming at China's potential 1.2 billion viewers, the new channel is trying to catch the attention of Indonesia's Chinese community.

'Chinese TV viewers in Indonesian are underserved, presenting a good opportunity for the channel. Wa TV will enter the Malaysian and Singaporean markets as early as later this year,' said Annie Ng, Celestial Pictures' general manager of television in China, where the company has a programme-sourcing office albeit no broadcasting rights.

Indonesia's ethnic Chinese population numbers eight million, or about 4 per cent of the country's population.

The Wa TV channel will acquire programmes from China's 360 television stations and production houses and repackage them for mainly Asian viewers.