Alibaba of China is the new owner of SCMP or South China Morning Post, the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong. The cost of the deal is $266 million, based on the announcement released Friday. Aside from the newspaper, the publication’s magazines, websites and sister publications will also be owned by Alibaba, which is an e-commerce giant in China. However, there are some questions regarding the acquisition of the HK daily because of the close links of Jack Ma, who is the founder of Alibaba, to Beijing.
The newspaper will still have editorial independence, according to Alibaba, with its development leveraged on the technological expertise of the new owner. The SMCP Group said that they would be gaining around HK$1.4 million from the takeover, and a large portion of it would be paid out as a special cash dividend.
More than a century of existence
It had been 112 years since the paper was founded. While it enjoyed good patronage and high revenues before, the paper, just like the papers in several countries, suffered from lower sales and profits of late. It had been one of the most influential broadsheets in the region since its inception. It was also a publication that was reporting stories of what’s actually happening in China, which were otherwise banned from publication in the papers within the mainland.
New vision of the paper
The executive vice chairman of Alibaba, Joe Tsai said that the paper is unparalleled on its focus in delivering news about China in English. Mr. Tsai added that their vision is to attain global readership for the paper via digital distribution and quicker content access. He also said that compared to other media organizations in the West that sometimes do not agree with China’s system of governance that affects their news coverage, they want SCMP to report whatever’s happening in China as is.
To woo international readers, the paywall in the newspaper’s website will be removed, according to SCMP. Mr. Tsai likewise added that the paper would help the global audience to further understand China, which would also help Alibaba.
There are fears that news will now be manipulated because of the close relationship of Jack Ma, the richest man in China (as of 2014), with the influential forces in Beijing and that the paper would be reporting official views from the government. This is something that had been noticed by critics of late.
Jack Ma, according to analysts, is following in the footsteps of other Internet-based tycoons who had been into huge media brands. Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought Washington Post two years ago. Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, had bought majority stocks in the New Republic in 2012. Alibaba had acquired Youku Tudou, China’s version of YouTube for $3.6 billion very recently. The e-commerce company had also invested in Snapchat.
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