South China Morning Post redesign leads to audience growth


There was a time when Anne Wong knew how to market movies and theme parks but didn’t know how to sell news. The eventual director of marketing at the South China Morning Post proved to be a quick study.

The Post, an English newspaper out of Hong Kong that’s printed since 1903, needed an overhaul in terms of its look, Web site, and content. So in 2010, executives at the South China Morning Post realised the need for change and, like other industries affected by new technologies, that journalism wasn’t dying — it was simply changing. 

“It’s a lot of news like what you’ve covered, although it’s a slightly different angle,” she told delegates Monday at the 82nd INMA World Congress.

Criticisms of the newspaper before its overhaul, Wong said, included readers calling it the South China “Boring” Post and complaining it wasn’t geared enough toward Hong Kong natives. 

“We had to change in order to capture all of these people,” Wong said.

So she and the newspaper adopted a three-part strategy: elevate, engage, and expand. 

The South China Morning Post set out to elevate its brand quality and voice in hopes of engaging both readers and its own staff. The newspaper’s new tagline was “Make Every Day Matter.” 

“(This applies to) every aspect of your life, and not just news,” Wong said. “Whatever it is, we’re going to help you.” 

Eventually, to achieve the makeover they desired, the Post hired design guru Dr. Mario Garcia, who changed the “anatomy, health, and fitness of (our) newspaper,” Wong said. Garcia successfully changed the newspaper and the Web site.

In addition, five tabloids — one for each weekday — and an editorial section were added.

“Now there’s a reason to purchase the paper every day of the week,” Wong said, and, adding about the new app, “We decided to redesign and have a ‘sexier’ one.” 

The newspaper also set out to include its audience in an ongoing conversation, which meant adding polls to the Web site and allowing visitors to take a tour through it. 

“We want to show them that we are human,” Wong said.

The Post even started campaigns, including a drive to raise money for Hong Kong’s homeless and hungry population. It raised $1.7 million for the cause.

The newspaper was also criticised as a manly newspaper as well, so it began an editorial about women. Two Chinese blogs were added as well. 

“We’re trying to sell what people want, and what they want is content,” Wong said. 

The Post’s circulation is up by 3%, it had a cover price increase for the first time in 10 years, and readership is at an all-time high, Wong said.

“Right now we’re marketing at the speed of news,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

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