With the development of technology and economy in major cities in China, the city’s RRT(Rail rapid transit) is experiencing an unprecedented growth and progress. Metro as the city’s RRT, is playing a significant role in the development of urban transportation. At the same time, Metro also plays a unique role in culture development as the culture carrier in the city. It is obvious that in modern cities, the number of metro passengers are surging, which indicates that the power of spreading can provide a good opportunity for the growth of media. The rapid growth of RRT creates a great potential and vast development for the city’s business and culture.
In the age of timeliness and demand for information, the media plays a crucial role in informing the public. Against the background, the free circulation tabloid makes its first appearance in China. These tabloids are advertising vehicles that contains news. The content is easy to read in minutes. Metro Express came onto the scene on March 16, 2004, published by journalism group of Liberation Daily, marks the birth of China’s free newspaper. In 2006, Oct.8th, The tabloid Guangzhou Metro Daily, published by Guangzhou Daily Press Group and Guangzhou Metro Corp, carries 24 colour pages with news, consumption information and supplements.
In 2010, Dec.8th, the signing ceremony was held by Shenzhen Press Group and Shenzhen Metro Gorp, it means that the first free newspaper in Shenzhen-8 in the morning is born. Besides, Until 2011, Hong Kong has its 5th free newspaper-Sharp Daily on the market,, the other four are Metro Daily, Headline Daily, am730 and Skypost. The Sharp Daily, First day issue 0.8 million copies with plans to reach 1 million readers daily, is planning to excel Headline Daily.
The development of free newspaper in China ushered a new era in newspaper industry. It has a vast market space and adapts to today’s publishing environment. Free newspaper has an unparalleled advantage in attracting the young readers. According to the research by Institute of Public Opinion, People’s university of China, In Beijing the newspaper readers’ average age is over 41, the situation is similar in Shanghai and Guangzhou, the newspaper readers are now becoming an aging population. The main reason for why young adults unwilling to read newspaper is “ it costs money” They can get the free information from other sources. Another research conducted by CTR and CNRS shows that in 36 major cities in China, the reading time for each person has declined from 40 minutes to 38 minutes. The report also reveals that the young people do not want to waste a lot of time in reading newspaper.
The free newspaper enjoys its advantages in today’s newspaper industry. Firstly it meets the readers’ demand of getting informed in short time. When people are on the way to work, they don’t have much time to buy the newspaper, or they will feel boring when waiting the subway. So the free newspaper becomes their perfect choice. It can provide the information instantly, quickly and easily. People will choose the free newspaper for its convenience and for the effectiveness. The free newspaper usually distributed at most of the city’s metro stations, it is easy for people to get and read. What’s more, the free newspaper usually printed less pages than traditional newspaper, which means that it lessens that time of reading. People who are hurrying to work will prefer some short news rather than long, serious news.
Another advantage for the development of free newspaper is that it can arrest the young reader’s attention. That will encourage the advertisers to buy more and more space for the purpose of reaching the young people, which will make the free newspaper profitable. Take Guangzhou as an example, the average age of Guangzhou metro passengers is 35.6, with white-collar workers accounting for 41 per cent of the total. The free newspaper is targeting these people by providing information about recreation such as places to go or date, affairs about the movie stars, music concerts, art exhibitions. From this perspective, advertisers are more convinced by the free newspaper because their readers are of relatively high purchasing power.
Although the free newspaper is prospering in major cities, every coin has two sides. The obstacles are also noteworthy. From the perspective of newspaper industry, the falling competitiveness of newspaper is obvious. The mobile media and the network media are challenging the newspaper industry since it has fast speed of delivering message and directness to person. The CTR <2006 report on Chinese Internet users> shows that a person’s online time is increasing from 88.5 minutes in 2002 to 137.8 minutes in 2006. Its growth reaches about 56%. The mobile media is also threatening the development of free newspaper since it can not only displays text and graphics but also play both audio and video clips. From the perspective of readers, people with higher education will consider the free newspaper is not providing useful and high quality contents.
As a new way of promulgation, the influence of free newspaper is also worth discussing and analyzing. On the one hand, the most noticeable influence can be seen from the growing belligerent atmosphere between traditional newspaper and free newspaper. The free newspaper is getting more advertisers and splitting advertising revenue which causes traditional newspaper a huge loss of money. So the launch of free newspaper forced the paid newspaper to lower their price in order to minimizing loss. Apart from the conflict of interests, the free newspaper is bound to give an impact on traditional editorial theory. Traditionally, the editor will select the source of news carefully can verify the authenticity.
However, it is not the case for free newspaper. The free newspaper insists on providing quick information, the authenticity is not their top concern. But if we take a comprehensive view of general situation, we will find that the free newspaper is promoting the whole newspaper industry. On the other hand, the free newspaper has a positive influence on the society’s literacy. Suyuji, professor and dean, school of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong, says that in 2009, they had a research on the readership among the adults in Hong Kong and the results show that 50% of the adults always read free newspaper while 60% of them will actually pay for newspaper.
The percentage for both newspapers is similar, but the tendency is predictable that the readership of free newspaper is going to exceed the traditional newspaper. Another research conducted by GroupM, the global leading media investment management group, gives a more convincing result. This research had interviewed 303 people age from 15 to 49, 86%of them have the interests to read free newspaper. It also shows that some people who seldom read newspaper is also willing to have free newspaper to read.2/3 of the respondents said that they are satisfied with the content and they will continue to read free newspaper. From the above researches we can see that the introduction of free newspaper in China plays an important role in dissemination of culture to people.
Politically, the free newspaper can also serve as the correspondent for the government and people. The case in America is usual especially on campaigns and elections. Sometimes the media even helps influence what issues voters should care about in elections and what criteria they should use to evaluate candidates. In China, the content of free newspaper seldom concerns about political issues. The potential for political promulgation of free newspaper is huge. The government can have influence on shaping the public opinion and political value especially among the young adults. The free newspaper is an ideal tool for government to spread their ideas, inform the policies and communicate with their people.
Ecologically, the free newspaper may result in a number of adverse effects on environment. Because the free newspaper is distributed randomly, the possibilities of people litter the ground with free newspaper is higher than other newspaper. This problem can be solved by putting a recycling box in subway stations, encouraging people to recycle the papers.
Socially, the opportunities of increasing literacy through free newspaper is great, the reader’s social awareness will increase. Nowadays people read free newspaper for three major reasons: get informed, kill time and relax. However, since the free newspaper’s major income is from advertising, they will give more spaces for advertisements, thus the rights for reading the news will be neglected. In the future, more emphasis should be put on the quality of free newspaper, since some criticizes now blame free newspaper on false news and vulgar taste.
In conclusion, Free newspaper in China has just start its development, it is going to spend years to become mature in the newspaper market. The advantages of developing free newspaper outnumber its disadvantage , it can be assumed that the newspaper industry will experience a deep and profound revolution.
Free Newspaper Launched in Guangzhou
China Daily October 2, 2006
City’s sixth free newspaper hits the street
China Daily (HK Edition) September 20, 2011
The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in the digital age Joseph R.Dominick
Free newspaper focus on the new generation
Wangying Media Observer , 2006
Free newspaper made profound changes in newspaper industry Yanyu Bianjizhiyou ,2006
Master thesis on analysis of Chinese free newspaper
Huazhong University of Science and Technology
This year, Next year: China Media forecasts Groupm 2011 Autumn
Free newspaper influence on Hong Kong readers
Suyuji, professor, dean, school of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong
The New Trend of Urban Grassroots Political Promulgation：The Recent Development of Free Newspapers and its Potential Political Impact Journal of Fujian School of Administration and Fujian Institute of Economics and Management