The real purpose behind Sharp Daily
Hong Kong - Next Media's boss Jimmy Lai tells Marketing his plans to turn his free newspapers into shopping platforms with the help of smartphones and group buying.
Q: Tell us about Sharp Daily and Sharpon. What's your concept behind that?
A: When we launched Apple Daily - that was 1995 - newspapers were selling at $5 and we marked our price at $2. What happened was the newsstand sold it at $2, and we subsidised them another $2. We lost a lot of money, but I needed people to buy our papers and see it for themselves. If I put up an ad, I'd be trying to convince them with a glorified message. But if I used a good incentive, if I could make them curious enough to pick up our papers, if they had a good experience after reading our papers, they would switch. That's how we made Apple Daily an overnight success. That's what we're trying to do for our advertisers on Sharp Daily.
Q: What about Sharpon?
A: To turn Sharp Daily into a business platform, I must create a buy and sell ecosystem. If, on a daily basis, I could sell something that everybody needs - rice, oil, instant noodles - at a 50% discount, readers will buy it. This is something we haven't achieved yet, but we're very close. People will read Sharp Daily with a mindset of a shopper, and that makes the advertisements we carry much more effective. Basically, we're turning Sharpon into a promotional platform that offers experience value.
Q: Can we say then the rise of e-commerce and smartphones are the reasons why you launched a free newspaper?
A: Yes. I wouldn't have launched Sharp Daily without smartphones.
Q: You wouldn't consider it if it was just a printed paper?
A: Frankly, there's no reason for me to start another newspaper - it's a dying industry. But the smartphone is changing everything. For example, our platform is equipped with geo-location. Say Café de Coral is giving out free coffee today, you will receive a notice on your phone telling you that when you're near a Café de Carol. That's a great promotion. In the near future all the Sharpon deals will be shown in the order of how close they are to our readers. That's something we have to do.
Q: How do you think Sharpon is different from Groupon?
A: Groupon is successful not because of the discounts, but because it has unravelled the whole advertising market. Groupon offers an experience. Those merchants will die if they keep giving deep discounts. But they see the experience value Groupon offers. The money has to be spent anyway, either on offering a discount or on advertising. This is Groupon's biggest contribution and that's something we have yet to do.
Q: Are advertisers taking up your mobile offers?
A: We're seeing growing interest in a bundled print and mobile offer. From now on, all print ads will also bear their own QR code. My goal is to bring print and mobile together. If our advertising is promoting a product in an ad, why not let our readers try it? There's no reason not to.
Q: Is this why you believe Sharp Daily will be profitable?
A: It's a major reason.
Q: Will newspapers eventually move onto mobile completely?
A: It's highly unlikely. It's not that easy to read newspapers properly on a mobile screen. We need something to trigger our reflection. Mobile is a device. It's not the beginning and it's not the end. The physical presence of a newspaper will always be needed to drive an impulse into an action.
For the full article, go to Marketing Magazine Hong Kong's April 2012 issue.
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- Next Media
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