Removing paywall is part of SCMP's 10-year plan

Mr Gary Liu says the Post plans to capitalise on the world's desire to understand China better.
Mr Gary Liu says the Post plans to capitalise on the world's desire to understand China better.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) removed its paywall last year to give readers full access to its news content online, with an eye to coming up with a revenue model within five years and making money after seven years.

Mr Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice-chairman of Alibaba Group, which bought over the Hong Kong newspaper in 2015, said the Chinese e-commerce giant generally has a gestation period of 10 years for its products.

The first three years will be focused on product development, said Mr Tsai at the three-day Rise tech conference, which opened in Hong Kong yesterday.

He said the focus of Years Three to Five is to devise a revenue model.

"From Year Five to Year Seven, you think about the path to profitability. Beyond Year Seven, you try to harvest. After Year 10, you have to go back and reinvent yourself," he said. He said there will be a subscription model in future.

In 2015, Alibaba paid HK$2.06 billion (S$370 million) for the media assets of the SCMP Group, including the Post, which has a circulation of about 100,000. This came as media firms were closing down or cutting costs, with critics speculating that the deal was part of Beijing's foray into the Hong Kong media sector.

SCMP's removal of its online paywall also went against the global trend of newspapers charging customers for online articles. "We want to have a broader global reach, more users and readers from all over the world. Anywhere where they speak English, SCMP should have a readership base," said Mr Tsai.

Post chief executive Gary Liu said it plans to seize opportunities arising from the world's desire to understand China better. He said SCMP, which already has journalists in the United States, would continue to build up its presence there.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Removing paywall is part of SCMP's 10-year plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe