A new print title for a newspaper company may sound like heresy these days. Yet here we are, more than one year in, persisting with that act of digital deviance. This Week in Asia was first conceived as a new print-first product by the South China Morning Post, to augment its content menu ahead of a price hike for the weekend edition.
That price hike never materialised, thanks to the paper’s new owner Alibaba — yet even so, the company recognised This Week in Asia as an idea whose time had come. It was launched without much fanfare on August 7, 2016.
The magazine contains compelling cover stories dealing with major developments and trends in Asia. These have included a region-wide survey ahead of the U.S. presidential election; the rise of a small boy band that could help China project its soft power; the overcrowded jails of the Philippines; and an exclusive interview with a former prime minister of Malaysia, who is now the oldest leader of the opposition.
It also carries shorter features that reveal the lesser-known aspects of life across the region, from the rise of Millennial men in Japan who don’t drink and don’t drive, to under-age child maids, to a home-grown Malaysian carmaker that’s reached the end of the road. These stories appear not only in print, but also under the This Week in Asia section of SCMP.com, where they are complemented by our online-only stories.
A key strength of the magazine is expert analysis by Asia watchers. We rely on a wide range of commentators from across the region, from noted Indian politician and writer Shashi Tharoor to former permanent secretaries, historians, and veteran resources.
Like with all weekly publications, our challenge is to report and analyse the news as it happens: We have to be there for our readers with the analysis they need, when they need it. We have to follow the news cycle closely without being out of date or irrelevant. This Week in Asia delivers a content-rich, Asia-focused package of opinion and analysis for a weekend audience that has the time to appreciate a more in-depth approach.
In a resource-scarce newsroom, the magazine started conservatively with a team of just four, two of whom are in dual roles. It expanded with the recruitment of two additional reporters, both of whom also produce content for other sections of SCMP.
We also rely on a network of contributors from across the region, and correspondents from other departments, who have come to value working with us. Our commitment to quality means we have attracted strong writers and expert commentators who feel confident that ours is a platform that treats their ideas with respect.
Two key ideas guide This Week in Asia. One is age-old: Content is king. The other is to seek out stories in places where people are starved of a diversity of information and insights. We challenge orthodox thinking, and fill the niches neglected by other media.
The magazine builds on SCMP’s core appeal to its international audience: the newspaper’s ability to make sense of China. But we recognise that, for our audience, the China story is not only about China. What’s more important is to be able to connect the dots, to explain the interactions between China and the rest of Asia and the world.
Our publication is a bonus rather than an essential — there are enough players in that space already. There have been several pan-Asian publications that have burned more money than they have earned. This Week in Asia stands apart from them. It gives readers that little something extra, insights that go a little bit further, and the added knowledge that readers can share in their own conversations.
These ideas are reflected in the growing number of readers who turn to This Week in Asia when they want to understand the story behind the story. The magazine has traveled some way from its humble beginning as a sweetener for a price hike that never came.
We are uniquely placed to ride another, far larger, growth story: that of Asia itself.