Next Media's freesheet makes debut in chase for ad revenue Next Media, the Hong Kong-based publisher of Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, broke into Taiwan's free newspaper market yesterday with the debut of the tabloid Sharp Daily. Sharp, which joins its sister Taiwan Apple Daily in the island, published 200,000 36-page copies yesterday for distribution at Taipei Metro stations during the 7am to 9am rush hour. The move comes as advertising revenue at Apple in Hong Kong is being eroded by three free dailies, with give-away papers now accounting for almost 10 per cent of the newspaper advertising market in the first half. Sharp competes with free condensed editions of two mainstream newspapers, United Daily News and China Times. United Daily News Group also publishes Cola, a freesheet that focuses on cultural and trendy news and has a daily print run of 100,000 copies. Next Media, in a move to defend its advertising market share before other freesheets enter the market, plans to tender before the end of the year for the exclusive distribution right within Taipei Metro's stations. The future of the new publication will depend on its reliance on Taiwan Apple Daily, analysts said. 'Advertisers may buy advertisements in Sharp Daily under the bundle with Taiwan Apple Daily,' an analyst said. 'This may drag down the yield at Apple Daily and may not benefit the growth of the freesheet.' Taiwan Apple's net advertising revenue surged 61 per cent last year to NT$2.9 billion (HK$670 million), even as advertising spending in the island's newspapers declined 1.2 per cent to NT$16.3 billion compared with 2004, according to researcher AC Nielsen Taiwan. The full-colour maiden edition of Sharp carried 11 full-page advertisements and several classified advertisements. A news section with short stories and rich in graphics takes up half the paper, backed by lifestyle and entertainment news. 'Advertisers responded well, even though the advertising rate for this promotion period is lower than the normal rate,' a source said yesterday. Sharp is seeking NT$170,000 for a full-page advertisement, with the cost after discounts being about 80 per cent of that, a Taiwan advertising agency source said. The paper is also offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal for its advertising space. 'We launched this free daily as a strategic move into the free publication market, rather than to make a huge amount of money,' a company source said.