SCMP’s Gary Liu delivers keynote at Indian Media Leaders eSummit

Newspapers need a multi-channel revenue model

Gary Liu of the South China Morning Post Photo: SCMP
Gary Liu of the South China Morning Post Photo: SCMP

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a collapse in advertising revenue for newspapers globally. The crisis has brought this fact to the fore, and for newspaper companies to be sustainable in the long term, they need to develop a multi-channel revenue model, said Gary Liu of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in his keynote to the Wan-Ifra Indian Media Leaders eSummit.

“Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, our advertising revenue collapsed, and so we realized that we have to depend on multiple revenue channels to sustain ourselves. We are doing it by becoming a platform company from a product company,” Liu said. He added that newspaper companies would need a mix of advertising, subscriptions, events and B2B to have a successful multi-channel revenue model.

Beset with multiple challenges over the past fifteen months, the SCMP’s print advertising and digital advertising fell sharply during November-December 2019 and March 2020. However, at the same time, average monthly digital users increased at a fast clip. In March 2020, SCMP has 51 million average users monthly with 2.7 million in Hong Kong, 18.7 million in the US, 14.1 million in the rest of Asia, and 15.7 million in the rest of the world. Its monthly video views in March 2020 were 250 million, while its print readership stood at 0.4 million.

The numbers in March 2020 are significantly higher than what they were in January 2017 when SCMP’s average monthly users were 4.3 million, with 1.3 million in Hong Kong, 0.8 million in the US, and 0.7 million in the rest of Asia 1.1 million in the rest of the world. Its monthly video views were 4.1 million in January 2017, with the print readership even then at 0.4 million. It shows that all the readers the newspaper has gained in a little over three years are in the digital space.

As SCMP’s chief executive officer, with effect from January 2017, Liu’s appointment is part of the transformation of the SCMP since Alibaba Group Holdings bought it in April 2016. The digital transformation aimed to make the 113-year-old newspaper the go-to source for political and business stories about Greater China from an Asian perspective.

Unique value needed to for multi-channel revenue

Although Liu argues that newspaper companies need to construct multi-channel revenue models to sustain, they need to offer unique value to develop that model. As per Liu, the SCMP’s exceptional value is in its deep understanding of China.

“China’s rise on the global stage will be one of the most important stories of the world. And we are best positioned to cover the country. The way we understand China is the unique value we provide. From Hong Kong, we are objectively able to cover China for the world,” he says.

Role of technology

In a world that is fast getting digitalized, technology plays a crucial role. However, Liu believes that technology should not be adopted just for the sake of it. “Technology is fundamental as it makes newsroom faster and more accurate and productive. Technology also allows us to package and distribute our content everywhere. Our content should be translatable across social media. If not, we are irrelevant,” he said.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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