Next Media eyes free newspaper market

A battle royal is underway over who will dominate Hong Kong’s free newspaper market, with Next Media and Oriental Press Group both set to launch free offerings.

Following the debut of Hong Kong Economic Times' free Chinese daily Sky Post, the giants of Hong Kong's newspaper industry are set to join the fray.

Next Media is said to be launching its free title Sharp Daily within weeks and rumours about Oriental Press Group joining the market are rife, but a title remains unknown.

Shih Wing-ching chairman of am730 Media Limited, told Marketing that if rumours about the soon-to-launch newspapers are true, Hong Kong is looking at four million copies of free newspapers a day - more than its working population.

He said it is likely the market will be forced to consolidate.

"A live or die competitive is inevitable - our market is not big enough."

Since the simultaneous launch of am730 and Headline Daily in July 2005, the newspaper battlefield has continued to heat up over the years.

Data from research group admanGo shows that while taking up only 10% of the ad market in 2006, market share for free newspapers increased to 35% during the first half of 2011.

Its estimates show that ad revenue for free newspapers has continued to show significant growth.

"As free newspapers continue to build up a steady readership, advertisers become more confident in investing their ad dollars in the media," Jennifer Ma, director of sales and marketing at admanGo, said.

"Even though paid papers are still leading the way, free papers have become the preferred media for advertisers in certain categories such as cosmetics & skincare. "While advertisers in this category have only invested 8% of their ad budget in 2005, the proportion has significantly increased to 60% this year."

Ma added that with more new comers in free newspaper territory, she expects to see further challenges for paid newspapers.

Marketing is currently seeking comment from Next Media and Oriental Press Group.