Transformation of Traditional Media and Media Integration
In recent years, profound changes have taken place in China’s media sector — competition is ever fiercer, traditional media face severe challenges, and the integrated development of traditional and new media is both an aspiration and a trend.
Traditional media are confronted by a range of competitive threats. According to a report published by Tsinghua University in May 2015 — the Development Report of China’s Traditional Media (2015) — the daily circulation of newspapers among urban residents decreased from 53.5% in 2013 to 45.5% in 2014, and TV penetration declined from 82.2% to 78.8%, while web video watching rose from 18.7% in 2012 to 53.8% in 2014. Statistics from CTR market research indicate that, in the first half of 2015, newspaper advertising expenditure and space shrunk by 32.1% and 33.9% respectively, and TV advertising decreased by 3.4% in spending and by 10% in numbers year on year. In 2014, more than 30 newspapers ceased publication or went broke. In contrast, advertising revenue on new media is soaring. According to Analysis International, China’s internet advertising market in the second quarter of 2015 was worth RMB53.24 billion, a year-on-year increase of 42.7%, up 33.1% from the first quarter.
Media integration offers further space for the transition of traditional media. On August 18, 2014, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping presided over and made a speech at the fourth conference of the leading group for deepen all-round reform. At the conference, Directives on Boosting Integrated Development of Traditional and New Media was reviewed and approved as a strategy and action guide to media integration work in the new situation. In proceeding with this work, media agencies apply the latest information communication technology, fully integrate resources, create new communication platforms and terminals, explore news release and dissemination modes that meet the demands of the new situation, and innovate the whole process through news collecting and editing and all the way to release so as to build an omni-media platform. In today’s China, almost all traditional media are merging into the new media sector, initially bringing into being a modern communication system with a variety of forms and platforms.
I. Newspapers, Periodicals and News Agencies
Currently, China’s newspaper market is dominated firstly by Party newspapers and journals and then by periodicals and newspapers featuring articles on local news, different industries, lifestyle, and entertainment, forming a content-rich, well-structured, prosperous and modern newspaper publication network.
1. Profile of newspapers and periodicals. By the end of 2014, published on the mainland of China were 1,912 newspapers, among which there were more than 800 (43% of the total) Party and local urban newspapers, and about 1,000 (57%) specialty newspapers. In 2014, the total print runs of newspapers nationwide were 46.39 billion, down 1.85 billion (or 3.8%) from 2013; the total of printed pages was 192.23 billion, a decrease of 17.55 billion (or 8.4%) from 2013. Three newspapers dropped out of the average-one-million-print list. The operating revenues from newspaper publication hit RMB69.78 billion, down by 10.2% (or RMB7.88 billion). The total profit was RMB7.64 billion, a reduction of RMB1.12 billion (or 12.8%). The prime operating revenues and total profits from 46 newspaper and periodical publication groups fell by 1% and 16% respectively. Of them, 17 press groups fell into deficit, two more than in 2013. By the end of 2014, published altogether on the mainland of China were 9,966 different periodicals covering natural sciences, technology,
philosophy, social science, culture, education, literature, arts, etc. In 2014, the total prints of periodicals were 3.1 billion, down 5.4% from 2013; the total number of printed pages was 18.36 billion, a drop of 5.7%; and the total pricing was RMB24.94 billion, a fall of 1.6%. In 2014, the operating revenues from periodical publication were RMB21.2 billion, 4.5% less than 2013; value added was RMB16.8 billion, down 0.4%; and total profits reached RMB2.71 billion, a fall of 5.4%.
2. Integrated development of newspapers and news agencies. China’s press at all levels is pursuing the full integration of traditional and new media. As a result, steady progress has been made in the transformation of the news collecting and editorial platforms, the content products have become more colorful and technological level has been further enhanced, the number of subscribers has increased, and their influence and public trust have markedly enhanced. All this indicate that a solid beginning has been made and brought about brighter prospects for integrated development.
People’s Daily has put media integrated development at the top of its agenda. It is building its brand on various new media platforms, changing itself into a new mainstream omni-media and media group with over ten platforms and hundreds of terminals, such as newspaper, magazine, website, web TV, webcast, electronic board, mobile news, Weibo, WeChat, and clients. People’s Daily now has 30 branch newspapers and periodicals, 44 websites, 118 Weibo accounts, 31 mobile phone client portals and 20,000 electronic reading boards. It is estimated that all the subscribers amount to more than 300 million. By July 5, 2015, People’s Daily downloads had hit 28.25 million on Baidu and Tencent app stores and App-China, and its followers on Sina and Tencent Weibo exceeded 52 million. In 2014, People’s Daily set up a research center for integrated development of traditional and new media to study how to coordinate its work in this respect. By fully exploiting its omni-media platform, it innovates its production chain — from planning content, collecting information, editing, and releasing — to introduce a model in which news, once edited, is released on a variety of platforms. It expands its coverage by posting information on its Weibo and WeChat accounts and its clients. It strengthens its influence and content by delivering in-depth reports, comments and theories. Its omni-media platform project, as the prerequisite and strategic engine to boost integrated development, is the foundation to realize the connectivity of news resources and business transformation and upgrading. This platform includes omni-media news hall, news production and management, news supermarket, and cloud services for media convergence. Through optimizing its platform, improving production process, integrating resources, readjusting the target subscribers, better management and decision making and an innovative business model, it has enhanced its influence and increased profitability. In March 2014, People Daily Media Innovation was founded with a commitment to cultivating a first-class core team for media technology in China.
The Xinhua News Agency embraces the internet spirit of “openness, innovation and cooperation” to seek breakthroughs, making information transmission mobile, intelligent, personalized and data-driven. It strengthens top-level and strategic design in new media development, committing itself to intensive, large-scale and standardized development of new media. It takes new media information transmission capability as an important booster in building its “online news agency.” It is building an omni-media platform to explore more efficient ways for a modern news agency to collect and edit news. Based on the omni-media platform, a so-called incubator, or test field, it produces over 300 headlines each year to create an omni-media platform through which unified command is implemented by cooperation from different departments. New concepts and means of news production are innovated to realize the full coverage of news on both traditional and new media. It focuses on upgrading content on new media, offering subscribers specific services with big-data, visual, graphic and mobile news products. It is building more powerful transmission terminals and has launched an upgraded Xinhua News Agency app and website. On June 8, 2015, the updated version of Xinhua News Agency app went online, sending its news to millions of netizens. On the launch day, the highest hits on one single item of news exceeded seven million with over 70 million page views. By the end of 2015, 100 million users had downloaded the Xinhua app, ranking top among all mainstream media apps. On June 15, 2015, the new version of Xinhuanet.com was launched as the first news website to become omni-media and mobile, with over 120 million daily page views on desktop and mobile terminal coverage of over 130 million subscribers. It values cutting-edge technology such as big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to promote their full integration with news production. On November 7, its express robot writer Xiao Xin started to work, marking the launch of its robot writing system responsible for writing newsflashes and brief stories on sports, economy and securities, producing over 100 pieces per day. Xinhuanet.com is the first to introduce unmanned aerial vehicles to news reporting, which helps to offer a unique perspective from above when covering emergency events.
Guangming Daily is relying on its integrated media center to gradually establish a multi-media and multi-tiered communication and reporting system covering different platforms such as newspaper, website, mobile internet service, social media, and electronic boards. Economic Daily uses new technology and platforms to boost communication on its newspaper, website and Weibo account, giving full play to each of their strengths. Local newspapers, such as Zhejiang Daily Press Group, Dazhong News Group and Shanghai United Media Group, are all engaged in various plans involving media integration. Some 95% of periodicals nationwide have opened up digital publishing businesses, realizing omni-media communication as part of an industry strategy of digital transition. Some periodicals can be accessed through mobile phone and iPad apps, internet database and other terminals, marketing on Weibo and WeChat accounts and doing electronic business.
3. Carrying on with reform of the press system. In 2015, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued its Plan of Implementation to Deepen the Reform of the Press and Publication, putting forward policy measures on reform in five key areas.
First, improving the management system of press and publication. It is to urge the Party and government departments to further regulate their relations with the press and publication enterprises and institutions under them, innovate the management system for online publishing and regulate online spread of the content, standardize management of information about the act of duty of press employees, establish a system for appraisal of the economic and social benefits of the press and publication, establish and improve a mechanism of market accession and exit from the market, strengthen copyright protection, and optimize publishing market management.
Second, enhancing the vitality of press and publication agencies. Efforts shall be made to deepen reform of not-for-profit press and publication agencies, carry on with the restructure of other press and publication agencies, explore equity incentive mechanism for state-owned publishing businesses, and allow state-holding publishing enterprises with necessary conditions to try out equity incentives. Encouragement and support shall be given to the integrated development of traditional and new media and publishing, and efforts shall be made to promote the merger and restructuring of traditional publishing businesses.
Third, developing and improving a multi-tiered publications and factor market. Efforts shall be made to establish a unified national information exchange platform for publications, press on with standardization of publication information, encourage and support trading of copyright, equity, trademarks and brands, encourage financial and social capital to flow into publishing, promote the in-depth integration of the publishing industry with new technology, enact measures of implementation for editing and production, and absorb social capital into pre-production and distribution of books and periodicals on the premise of publishing rights franchise.
Fourth, promoting the standardization and equal access to publishing public service system. Efforts shall be made to carry out a nationwide reading campaign, make rural libraries play a better role, give support to the development of the press and publishing industry of ethnic minorities, and improve the publishing public service work mechanism.
Fifth, opening up the press and publishing sector. Efforts shall be made to explore market-oriented, commercialized, industrialized, socialized and localized operation to promote the press and publishing sector to go out, press on with the “Classic China” international publishing, and “The Belt and Road Project” and other key projects, and press on with the program of giving support to the press and publishing sector of the border areas to go out.
In 2015, efforts were made to wind up the transformation of newspapers and periodicals not on current affairs under central and local authorities into enterprises, examined and approved the institutional reform plans of 105 newspaper and periodical publishers not on current affairs under central government departments, involving 141 newspapers and periodicals. In addition, specifically targeted reforms were carried out in 185 of such publishers, making the integration and structural readjustment of newspaper and periodical resources advance in an orderly manner.
4. Supporting quality newspapers and periodicals. By making efforts in strengthening quality newspapers and periodicals, it is expected to set a benchmark to guide the sound development of the industry.
Firstly, attention has been made to do a good job on the recommendation of the top 100 newspapers, 100 social science periodicals and 100 science periodicals (Known as “Top 100” for short). The recommendation of the Top 100 is a SAPPRFT-initiated program that has won extensive acclaim from the society since its launch in 2013. In 2015, the SAPPRFT organized a second session covering 99 newspapers, 100 social science periodicals and 100 science periodicals, representing the top most of the industry in China. They included both such mainstream newspapers as People’s Daily and Liberation Daily, and such pacesetters in integrated development, transformation and upgrading as Zhejiang Daily and Dazhong Daily. Top science and social science periodicals are all on the recommendation list, such as high-quality and influential Party journals—Qiushi, Xinxiang Views (Xinxiang Pinglun), and Communist, traditional journals with lasting influence such as Readers, Literature for Children, and Harvest, up-rising new stars such as Special Focus and CBN Weekly, and internationally-renowned journals representing the development level of China’s science such as Cell Research and Nano Research.
Second, endeavoring to enhance the international influence of China’s sci-tech journals. China publishes in total 9,966 periodicals and journals, half of which, around 5,000, are sci-tech ones. The SAPPRFT urges the periodicals and journals to focus more on the quality of their content while making efforts to improve the academic level. In the last decade or so, the number of citations and impact of China’s key sci-tech journals increased by 14% and 5.4%, respectively, with more and more of the journals being collected in major international search databases. For example, the number of Chinese sci-tech journals on SCI increased from 11 in 1987 to 142 in 2014. Among the journals included in SCI in 2013, 21 ranked among the top 30% in their discipline in terms of citation frequency and 20 in terms of impact. Among the Chinese journals included in Chinese S&T Journal Citation Reports in 2014, Light: Science & Applications entered into world top 100 three years after its launch along with Cell Research and Nano Research. China Association for Science and Technology and Chinese Academy of Sciences are leading the move from paper publication to e-publication, from single issue publication to collection publication, and from subscription publication to open access publication.
Third, building newspaper and periodical publication groups. China carries on with the in-depth reform in branding newspapers and periodicals and integrating resources to build a modern press industry which is cross-industry, cross-sector and cross-media. By the end of October, 2015, 20 major newspaper and periodical groups had taken shape, some regional, others specific to sectors such as automobiles, energy and finance, or to academic fields such as science, education, medicine and health. Popular industry periodicals, such as Readers, Zhiyin (Bosom Friend), Special Focus and Zhuozhong Publishing Group embarked on corporate and shareholding reform to establish modern media groups which are cross-industry, cross-sector and cross-media by integrating publication and human resources, and building financing platforms. During the 15 years since its launch, Special Focus has developed from a single periodical to a multi-periodical press group, including Vanguard, Special Health, Chutian Legal Journal and a new media center. On June 30, 2015, it was listed on the Third-board Market, marking the formal entry of China’s mainland periodical business into the capital market. Founded in Lanzhou, Gansu Province in 1981, by the end of 2014 Readers had distributed 1.6 billion copies, earning RMB759 million in operating revenues. On December 10, 2015, the Readers Media Group got listed on the Shanghai Stock Market. Since its transition into an enterprise in 2007, the Beijing Zhuozhong Press Limited, a periodical publisher, has turned itself from a ten-periodical business into a company with one newspaper, 24 periodicals and three websites. Its annual turnover has increased from dozens of million yuan to 250 million yuan, reaping great social and economic benefits.