Apple of Lai's eye sells out on first day

Keith Wallis

A MIX of sex, gossip and the novelty of a free apple made Apple Daily, Hong Kong's newest newspaper, a sell-out, it said, even though distribution problems marred yesterday's launch.

Businessman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is spending $60 million on a month-long promotion campaign for the daily, which has an initial print-run of 220,000 copies.

The main difficulty yesterday was the limited number of delivery vans available to distribute the paper, rather than the promised boycott by hawkers.

Editor-in-chief Loh Chan said last-minute talks with newspaper distributors had averted a confrontation with vendors, who threatened to torpedo the launch in a row over special cut-price coupons.

The coupons allowed the public to buy a copy of the paper for $2, but hawkers said they would not accept the coupons because they were inconvenient.

Mr Loh said there had been a few isolated incidents where hawkers had refused to sell the paper or to accept coupons. Apple Daily was paying hawkers $4.50 a copy, compared with $1.50 paid by other newspapers, to encourage sales.

The paper might increase the number of delivery vans after several areas failed to get copies, Mr Loh said.

Readers who managed to buy the paper were treated to features on the biggest busts among female Chinese movie stars and the problem of night-time sex on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

The lead story reported on the top contenders for the territory's position of first chief executive after the 1997 handover.

Other sections in the 52-page first edition covered sports, technology, local and China news, fashion, property and horoscopes.