Words are cheap in Hong Kong newspaper war

Not only are Hong Kong newspaper publishers prepared to earn nothing from selling their papers, one publisher is actually paying vendors to sell them.

The newspaper price war that brought about this crazy state of affairs broke out in earnest at the weekend but has its roots in the June launch of the brash and innovative Apple Daily. Alone among the mass-circulation dailies, it says it will stand up to bullying from China and now claims to be outselling all other papers in the colony.

On Saturday the established market leader, the Oriental Daily News, announced it was slashing its price from HK$5 (about 40p) to HK$2; it was quickly followed by all the other mass-circulation papers, with one exception. However the Hong Kong Daily News went a step further and dropped its price to a mere HK$1. Previously all newspaper prices were controlled at the same level by an informal cartel.

At this price the Daily News is having to pay vendors HK$0.75 for every copy sold.

The Oriental Press Group, publisher of the Oriental Daily News, says it started the press war ''to reward readers on our 28th anniversary''.

This version is not accepted by a senior executive at Sing Pao newspaper, who said his paper was forced into price-cutting after the Oriental Daily News launched the price war because it can no longer tolerate the threat posed by Apple Daily. ''They want to retain their market leadership,'' he said.

Apple has responded by knocking just HK$1 off its HK$5 cover price, promising to freeze it at that level until 1997, ''unless the situation gets much worse'', said Loh Chan, the paper's editor.

His paper is a mixture of sex and crime stories, alongside hard-hitting political commentary and some of the best news reporting in Hong Kong.

The paper's publisher is Jimmy Lai, the former retail clothing tycoon. He has been one of the Chinese government's least favourite publishers since he wrote a blunt, insulting article about the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Peng.

China's dislike of the new paper was signalled as soon as it was published and Apple reporters were banned from covering a meeting of Hong Kong policy advisers in Peking.

The paper has proved there is a strong market for a publication prepared to consistently criticise both China and Chinese officials. The extent of its popularity has led to rumours that China will close Apple after it resumes sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.

Meanwhile, the price war is sending the shares of newspaper companies through the floor. Ken McKenzie, publisher of local trade magazine Media, said: ''I just don't think a price war at a time of rising newsprint prices makes sense for a prudent business, but there's a lot of passion in newspapers.''

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee