Following Alibaba Group’s takeover of the South China Morning Post last year, the paper announced yesterday that it would be ditching its paywall and making all of its digital content available for free.
The move sees SCMP bucking a global trend in the industry towards subscription-based content, although its ePaper, an online PDF version of its print equivalent, will still need to be paid for.
Speaking about the decision, Jack Ma was quoted as saying, “[With the paywall taken down today] our focus now should not be on finding the right media business model. Our priority should be on how we should change to better adapt to the reading habits of our readers.”
Long the flagbearer of independent and authoritative reporting on China, South China Morning Post was owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp until Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok’s Kerry Media bought a controlling stake in the paper in 1993.
Once envied as the world’s most profitable newspaper on a per-reader basis, SCMP saw its profit peak in 1997, and was delisted in 2013 when the free float of its shares fell below the required 25%.
Between 2000 and 2012, SCMP weathered 10 changes of editors-in-chief, but none proved as disastrous as the 2012 appointment of Wang Xiangwei, a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member, and a former employee of the China Daily.
Wang Xiangwei, SCMP’s editor-in-chief between 2012 and 2015.
Soon after Wang took over the reins of the paper, he removed some of the paper’s finest reporters, including the multiple award-winning journalist Paul Mooney, and replaced them with young hires, many from the mainland.
The $266 million acquisition of the paper’s assets by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group in December 2015 has continued to stoke fears that the publication’s integrity and independence would continue to be compromised, as Ma’s ties to the governing elite in Beijing are well-known.
Yet despite its new ownership, the paper’s online presence in mainland China remains non-existent since internet censors shut down its microblogging accounts on Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, as well as its WeChat page on March 8.
Welcome to a new era of SCMP.COM… the paywall is down and our content is free for all.If you've always just clicked 'Like' on our stories here on Facebook and never clicked through… why don't don't you come on in and take a look around? Better yet – download our shiny new app here http://m.onelink.me/c0b1e49c
Posted by South China Morning Post SCMP on Tuesday, 5 April 2016