Death to lifestyle mags?

As if he doesn’t have enough burdens, on at least several occasions each week, the purchaser of the South China Morning Post receives a heavy glossy supplement of some sort, typically promoting a line of ugly luxury clothing or some preposterously named housing development next to a landfill somewhere. These extravagantly produced, full-colour publications go straight into the nearest bin. The old woman who picks it out for recycling is happy; the company that thought people would read it is none the wiser; the SCMP advertising sales team get their bonus.

I’ve just heard that the glossy thing that comes with the paper every Thursday isn’t supposed to be thrown away. It’s called 48 Hours and has the slogan ‘Your guide to the weekend’ (it has movie and concert listings at the back). It also says ‘Complimentary copy’, which suggests that at some point, when we have become addicted to it, they will publish it as a separate entity and expect us to pay for the thing. I am reliably informed that its mission is to ‘kill’ the Hong Kong edition of Time Out magazine. As if to prove its editorial determination in this regard, this week’s issue has an extensive, in-depth, searching feature on pizzas.

The SCMP recently confirmed that it has bought HK, the cheerful free listings magazine that makes up for lack of bulk by carrying Dan Savage’s extreme and un-put-downable ‘Savage Love’ agony aunt column. Does the rather chaotic BC free magazine still exist? Either way, the SCMP has made a cramped market even more crowded, and acquired a big chunk of it at the same time. Either they are happy to cannibalize the local English-medium lifestyle mag scene to bits, or they are planning to scrap one of (or merge) HK and 48 Hours – even if they succeed in slaughtering poor old Time Out (which at least had the guts to run the ultimate rant about our local tycoons).

While HK and Time Out have usually dabbled a bit in weightier content, 48 Hours seems totally devoted to trivia/arts/food. So any consolidation of the market could in theory lead to a slight reduction in the amount of more-or-less serious writing floating around – but not so much that you’ll probably see much difference. A paranoid would see this as an attempt by aging Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s family to monopolize local English media in order to brainwash us all into loving the motherland more. More likely, the younger Kuoks want to turn this troublesome little bit of their empire into a more productive asset, either to keep or sell on.

And anyway, there’s always the Harbour Times! So far, the libertarian publication seems to be taking compulsive-ideological articles from US pro-market/anti-tax quasi-think-tanks and adding a few paragraphs on Hong Kong to them. A bit of humour or just plain free-thinking would be nice, but hey – it’s more interesting than pizza.

And we always have books! I’m currently on Forgotten Souls by Patricia Lim. Yet another history of the horrors that were the 19th Century colonial Big Lychee, but with the added twist that the main characters are buried in Hong Kong Cemetery. Apparently, people in those days were obsessed with silly titles like Justice of the Peace and judged one another simply by their raw wealth… 

…I can’t imagine what it must have been like.

With all the eager and gleeful anticipation of a million schoolchildren awaiting the reflating of the giant rubber duck, I declare the three-day weekend open.

The great thing about someone who has achieved nirvana is that you don’t have to get them a birthday present.


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8 Responses to Death to lifestyle mags?

  1. The press all over wants us to just dumb down, consume, shop and work. Then drop dead, insurance fully paid up of course.

    The propaganda is liberal, the slavery is digital.

    Fortunately, these dinosaur glossy mags fool no one and fewer and fewer people buy them. The Chinese ones are often great with really gritty stories, as much as I can make out. Long live the gutter press.

    Which is where you come in…your viewers vastly outnumber sales of tawdry rags like 48. They can’t even sell it can they? People hang on your every word. All you need is an idea and a computer.

    PS. The SCMP finally caught up with the story about the sexist Secretary for Security yesterday. I alerted them at 10 am but they only thought it a story in the afternoon, citing Facebook and Twitter, not us. PPS I knew Patricia Lim. Glad her book came out.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    I never understood the raison d’etre of Time Out. One of those British transplants that are somehow supposed to appeal in exactly the same way to a market/demographic/culture that is completely different from that far away country of rainy skies and gales. I wonder how much their annual losses are ?
    M & S still can’t hack even after all these years.

    There is a bar/ “exclusive” club in Pottinger Street called Boogies or Bougies (Boogers ?) that is also a London export, inclusive of membership policy and “secret committee” blah-blah. Extremely very exclusive, VIP etc. The place is always empty. One would assume that before they make that effort and investment, they would do a little market research. And find better premises than an ex-curry restaurant.

  3. aghast says:

    ‘The great thing about someone who has achieved nirvana is that you don’t have to get them a birthday present.’

    Boom boom.

  4. Mongkok Mzungu says:

    The SCMP Group seems indeed to be following a strategy aimed at gaining control of all the English-language print media in Hong Kong. In any place with actual free markets, that would raise anti-competition concerns. But not in Hong Kong of course. So there, soon the SME targeting the expat market and which make up the majority of advertisers in publications like HKMag, The List and the SCMP (now all under the same ownership) will be faced with a single advertising sales department that will suck all the margins out of them.

    @Joe Blow – Not sure about the profit/loss of TimeOut, but it is telling that the much more widely spread HKMag and The List were sold to the SCMP Group for a mere HKD30m. No spare change for you and me, but hardly a large sum for a fully grown business, so the books can’t have been terribly impressive.

    PS. 48h is currently free with the SCMP on Thursdays, but already available on the newsstands as well on Fri~Sun, for 18 HKD per copy.

  5. rubber ducky says:

    I’m baffled by 48 Hours. I assume it’s targeted at the 20-30-something we-still-look-sexy-and-we-party-a-lot types, a la HK/BC/TimeOut, but those people don’t read the Post or much else that’s printed on dead trees, and the copy and graphics look like something generated by 50+ year olds who don’t get it. And the weird selection of ads seem targeted at that geriatric demographic.

    I’m not sure why anyone would pay money for this given that the competition is free and better, or at least it will be until Kuok neuters HK Mag, which given his record with SCMP, won’t take long. HK Mag has always had laughable pay and hours (and a constant stream of unpaid “interns”) so it’s not like working conditions there can get worse, anyway.

  6. Property Developer says:

    Off-topic, but of interest I hope: the most racist country in the world is… our own lovely HK:

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Not surprising that in spacious countries like North America, UK and Australia they are more tolerant of other races: all minorities have their own ghettos that are at a convenient distance so as not to degrade the neighborhood. So yes, all are welcome ! There is no way we can smell that fish head curry on the stove anyway.

  8. The Regulator says:

    The Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance is a Hong Kong law above all which says that we can do whatever we want so long as we don’t have to explain ourselvese

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