Who Cares if Jack Ma Buys a Tiny, Dwindling Newspaper in Hong Kong?Posted: November 24, 2015
With the South China Morning Post, Jack Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
Josh Horowitz writes: After lengthy negotiations, Alibaba founder Jack Ma may be close to an investmentin the publisher of the South China Morning Post, according to reports in Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Caixin.
Neither party has commented publicly about a deal, and it is unclear whether Ma would buy all or some of the SCMP Group. He already has a media empire that rivals Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and has invested in two US-based social media apps—Tango and Snapchat. But the maybe-pending SCMP bid has already attracted nearly as much attention as any of those done deals.
That’s because with the SCMP, Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
The SCMP was once the English-language paper of record for reporting on China. Founded in 1903 as the “printing house for the Chinese revolution,” it covered far more than just Hong Kong. Throughout the fifties and sixties, it was often the first source for information about the famines and political clashes of the Mao era. After the country opened up, its multi-national staff would regularly break stories about political scandals and human rights abuses on the mainland, even after Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
Its reporting was rewarded financially. In 1997 it earned HK$805 million (over $200 million) in net profits, about $420 in profit per-reader. But in recent years, accusations of self-censorship and pro-Beijing bias plagued the paper. The industry-wide advertising downturn and shift to the internet hit hard:
After Rupert Murdoch sold his majority stake in the paper in 1993 to Robert Kuok, a Malaysian sugar tycoon with substantial investments in China, the paper’s reporting grew more conservative. Throughout the 2000’s, editors shuffled in and out the door as writers critical of Beijing gradually left the organization. Esteemed former staff like Jasper Becker, who authored three books before joining, Willy Lam, who covered politics, and Paul Mooney, pointed to killed stories as the cause of their departure….(read more)