Today's relaunch of the New Evening Post - a pro-Beijing newspaper that closed in 1997 - as a free evening publication appears to be an attempt to win support for Beijing loyalists in next month's Legislative Council election, a political scientist says.
"The newspaper will surely have an influence on the election, as electioneering is at its peak," City University's Dr Sung Lap-kung said. "It is likely to give more voice to the government and the pro-establishment camp."
Some 400,000 copies of the Chinese-language tabloid, affiliated to the pro-Beijing Ta Kung Poa, will be given out at 100 distribution points, including MTR stations, from 5pm to 7pm every weekday. A spokesman for the newspaper said it would run stories on issues that affect people's livelihoods.
"I guess the newspaper will tilt towards positive stories, thus ushering in a more harmonious society," Sung said. "Such an environment will prompt indecisive electors to vote for the pro-establishment camp."
But Baptist University journalism academic To Yiu-ming said August was normally considered a poor month to launch a newspaper. "Students usually take up a significant proportion of a free newspapers' readership. Launching it in the summer holidays obviously means the paper doesn't target them," he said.
The tabloid will become the city's only evening paper, after Sharp Daily, a free newspaper set up by Apple Daily publisher Next Media, dropped its evening edition in March.
To said he had doubts about the "unique" operational model and said establishing an evening newspaper in the Hong Kong market would be a challenge.
"Hongkongers usually read newspapers on their way to work in the morning," To said.
"Also, it's difficult for the evening paper to differentiate itself from the morning dailies, as limited time will only allow it to cover a few news stories that happen in the morning."
Instead of relying on daily news stories, he said the publication might need a new model - such as dedicating itself to investigative journalism - to survive in the highly competitive free newspaper market.
The newspaper's spokesman said it might increase distribution, depending on interest.