Chinese magazines see new opportunities and challenges


The secular magazine market in China is booming, according to Chinese publishers interviewed recently by Publishing Executive. Chris Hu, publisher of Elle Decoration and Quentin Lin, editorial director and associate publisher of Elle Men, were interviewed at the Yale Publishing Course in England last week. Both publications cater to the rapidly growing affluent urban population and both finance their magazines with advertising of luxury items. The advertising income is essential, they say, because glossy magazines cannot make money selling magazines on the newsstand.

Another challenge is distribution.  China is a large country spread across five time zones, and the 21 provinces have varying policies for periodical distribution, ranging from newsstands to the post office to state-owned stores, making it impossible to establish a unified distribution policy.

But one of the biggest problems is the gap between the rich and the poor and rural areas and cites. This requires different marketing strategies in different places.

Nevertheless, some magazines have managed to overcome at least some of the obstacles to grow exponentially. According to a China Daily report, Men’s magazines, a relatively new entry in the Chinese media market, have enjoyed an annual growth of 30 percent since 2006.

Social media may have been a factor in this growth. There are more than 500 million Internet users in China and according to a Chinese government report over half are on a social network. China’s microblog, Weibo, is an important tool for magazines, says Lin, and publishers are making increasing use of social media.

Work as a journalist in China, however, is not without its dangers. Two senior newspaper executives in Shanghai were recently removed from their positions, presumably because of incautious reporting on sensitive issues.

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