Hong Kong-based weekly iSun Affairs announced yesterday it would stop its weekly print edition next week, ending an attempt by millionaire investor Chen Ping to establish a Chinese-language weekly magazine for China and Southeast Asia.
Within three months the iSun Media Group plans to restructure the publication into an "online platform" and re-launch it as a monthly magazine, the company's chairman and president Chen said yesterday. He said he was looking for a new managing editor, but could not say how many journalists would stay on the payroll.
"We need a publication that meets the requirements of the time," Chen said. "I knew several months ago that [the weekly] could not reach the level of development I wanted."
The move signals the end of an experiment that lasted only seven months. The high-profile departure of the chief executive, Cheng Yizhong, and the relegation of the editor-in-chief, Chang Ping, to chief writer over the past months left observers guessing about the magazine's future.
ISun started in a digital format in August 2011, before converting into a weekly print edition for sale on newsstands in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Malaysia. It is banned in mainland China, and searches for its name are blocked on microblog platforms.
ISun Affairs has been awarded two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards, the Asian equivalent of the Pulitzers, and two honourable mentions last year. This year, it has been nominated for eight SOPA awards, which will be handed out next month.
Despite its critical success, the print edition never managed to reach a target circulation of 25,000 copies, Chen said.
He added that the end of the print edition was not related to any political pressure from Hong Kong or the mainland. He was currently the only investor in the media company.
He also said the move was not related to iSun's interview with Lew Mon-hung, a former long-time supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, in which Lew alleged that Leung had lied about his handling of illegal structures at his home on The Peak.
The January edition was iSun's best-selling issue. Chen said he alerted his staff to Lew's story that led to the interview.
Two former employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said iSun had been struggling to break even.