South China Morning Post says credible coverage key to becoming global media brand

Michael Chu speaking at the INMA World Congress 2015

Michael Chu speaking at the INMA World Congress 2015

The marketing boss of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has talked about how the publisher shifted its local audience to a global one by emphasising its unique ability to cover the growth of China.

Speaking at the 2015 International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in New York, Michael Chu spoke about how in a competitive landscape of 13 newspapers SCMP pursued a “blue ocean strategy” to become a global media brand.

“We had to ask ourselves was do you want to continue investing heavily in our local readership and local coverage but to compete against our local competitors – 13 of them,” said Chu.

“Or do we want to examine a blue ocean strategy where we pursue a new audience, a wider audience?”

He said SCMP’s strategy of pursuing a global audience was now paying dividends with the newspaper embracing digital and emphasising its independent China coverage.

“Five years ago, before we launched our metered website, 90 per cent of our audience was based in Hong Kong,” he said.

“Today a very different picture emerges – 30 per cent of audience comes from North America and Europe, 30 per cent from Asia Pacific and 30 per cent from Hong Kong, China and the rest of the world.

“With these building blocks that really allowed us to go all in and define a new positioning as independent insider.”

Chu said Hong Kong position allowing free press under the ‘one country, two systems’ doctrine had allowed them to develop a unique position.

“One country doctrine gives us access to an increasingly complex political economy that is on the rise. Part of that is we have the security of press freedom that protects our independence,” he said.

“We wanted to report on China in its totality, but obviously as a company heading in this direction we needed a focus – that focus is very simple politics and policy implications, technology and ecommerce.”

He conceded that at the time it seemed ambitious, but argued that newspaper publishers facing global declines in print needed to emphasise a unique positioning and embrace digital.

“As a small local newspaper wanting to go global sounds likes a really ambitious step but in this digital age – one of the things we wanted to do was embrace the digital transportation of data and importantly embrace digital media.

“We tried to create and package content so that it would transport well on social media and in ways that it was accessible and palatable to global citizens.”

Key to the growth of the SCMP, said Chu, has been its use of inforgraphics and also listicles, which he said had developed an unfair reputation.

Chu noted the success of viral content sites like Buzzfeed in the space but argued serious news publications could also use them: “Buzzfeed built their empire on this and it was worked tremendously well for us in digital and social media.

“The things we would report on are the five most secretive research universities in China, the top five tech giants in China etc.”

Chu cited its coverage of the Tiananmen Square anniversary, anti-graph coverage, and most importantly the umbrella revolution as key to showing its independence and editorial integrity.

“What we wanted to do was collate everything in a 79 day live blog (on the umbrella revolution) converging everything online, onto Facebook, creating a three part ebook series all of which is unique content.

“It is not just about creating fun stuff it is about creating content which helps us anchor in people’s minds that SCMP is a creator of independent and credible reporting.”

Nic Christensen in New York 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.