SCMP expands client base with e-book series on Umbrella Movement

By Benson Chao

News in Hong Kong these days is anything but dull.

The pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, originally known as Occupy Central, has caught the world’s attention with arresting images and put Hong Kong on the geopolitical world map like never before.

South China Morning Post’s reporters, photographers, and videographers were out there on the streets, bringing stories to our newsroom that would become staple reading for Hongkongers.

When the pro-democracy movement took to the street on September 28, SCMP dropped the paywall for pertinent content on as a gesture of public service. (The paywall mechanism allows registered users access to eight complimentary articles every month.)

The online community quickly picked up the news about the dropped paywall and online traffic to, understandably, jumped. Unique users during the three weeks since the beginning (September 28 through October 17) increased more than 45% compared to the preceding three weeks. Pageviews jumped over 110% comparing the two timeframes. 

Another realm of recognition came from our media peers. SCMP’s Umbrella Movement coverage was cited by a spate of international media, including Financial Times, Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, CNBC, and BBC. 

With such in-demand content on our hands, it became apparent that this pool of news stories is well-timed ammunition for a content marketing drive that could potentially expand SCMP’s targeted client base.

What followed was the creation of “How the Umbrella Movement Unfolded,” a free-for-download e-book series that combined the best of our editorial and digital strengths.

Part one and two, available in PDF format for free download at, takes readers through a chronological journey of how the movement was born and burst onto the global stage when the first canister of tear gas left the firing chamber.

In true e-book format, readers with internet-connected devices have access to multi-media content. First-time registered users will have free access to the download as well as eight SCMP online stories.

It is an understatement to say that the “Umbrella Movement” series gave our content marketing a leg up. Previously this year, we released two other e-book downloads (one on luxury properties and one on Hong Kong’s most affordable diners). But the “Umbrella Movement” series markedly upped the ante.

Visibility of the e-book downloads was heightened through an array of marketing tools, including our online, mobile and print properties, e-newsletter, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google search, and outdoor lightbox poster with QR code.

Part one and two downloads by new and current users tracked a 530% increase from the affordable diner e-book. Hundreds of new users signed up with us. Conversion was comparatively more successful with print ads, Facebook, and Google. Slightly more than half of the downloads were from Hong Kong while the rest were regional and international.

The upshot of the Umbrella Movement e-book series feeds fodder to the theory that content marketing is a formidable tool. This is backed up by the metrics. However, it should be noted that skillful execution of great news content with the right digital tools and marketing avenues is required to tap into the potential of opening up new connections with new clients.

About Benson Chao

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