Newspapers eye price increases amid rising costs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's Chinese-language newspapers are planning to increase their cover prices to offset a rise in newsprint and labour costs.

Most papers have been selling at HK$6 per copy since October 2000, although several titles such as Hong Kong Commercial Daily and The Sun have sold below that as part of a circulation battle.

'The small-scale newspapers want to transfer the cost burden to readers but it still needs to get the nod from leading newspaper publishers such as Oriental Press and Next Media,' a source told Media Eye.

Both Oriental Press and Next Media account for over 80 per cent of the daily circulation market.

'It will depend on our rivals whether we initiate the price increase or not,' said a source close to Next Media's Apple Daily. 'If our rivals raise prices, we will follow.'

However, not all publishers are enthusiastic about the plan.

'The negative impact from free newspapers has just stabilised,' one executive said. 'If we raised our selling price, we would lose our readers again to the free dailies.'

New name for Ming Pao

Ming Pao Enterprise Corp, publisher of Ming Pao Daily News, will drop 'Ming Pao' from its name following its merger with its Malaysian sister company next month.

The group, to be renamed Media Chinese International Group, will have a listing in both Hong Kong and Malaysia and will be a regional media powerhouse to be reckoned with. It will own five daily newspapers, including Ming Pao Daily News and Malaysia's Sin Chew Daily, with a daily circulation of over one million. It also will have 29 magazines.

'If everything goes smoothly, the new merged company will start operations by the end of February,' a source told Media Eye.

Ming Pao Enterprise went public on March 22, 1991 as Louis Cha, the founder of the newspaper, prepared to retire. The company came under the control of Malaysian tycoon Tiong Hiew King in 1995.

Ming Pao Enterprise will acquire Sin Chew Media and Nanyang Daily in a HK$1.02 billion share swap, bringing the newspapers owned by Mr Tiong under one umbrella.

The deal has the approval of the Malaysian government and will be put to a meeting of Sin Chew Media and Nanyang Daily shareholders next week. After the transaction, Mr Tiong will hold a 52 per cent stake in the enlarged company.

Worrying future

Despite the name change, Ming Pao Daily News staff are not a happy bunch.

The firm may have a new name 'but does it mean we have a better future?' one member of staff told Media Eye. 'Our management is only focused on the merger and putting less effort into boosting the local newspaper's revenue.'

Ming Pao management say that the title's performance has not been too bad, but it was still facing rising newsprint and labour costs.

Things are looking brighter at rival Hong Kong Economic Journal, where staff will be rewarded with a one-month year-end bonus and a pay rise thanks to the solid advertising last year.