Center spread

Updated: 2011-12-16 09:01

By Lu Chang (China Daily)

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Therein lies one specific problem: Foreign publishers cannot operate in China independently and are required to secure copyright cooperation with a local publishing partner. A number of local publishers said that there are many cultural differences and distribution challenges that are major hurdles to foreign magazines.

China's magazine industry may be booming, but it by no means equates to huge success in this market. So while the market remains highly appealing to international players, it is also highly complicated and challenging. Not every foreign magazine has fared well.

Li says "most foreign magazines have gone through some struggling phase when they come to China and major challenges come from regulatory, operation, distribution and network restrictions.

Sun Qun, CEO of the publisher of magazines by Italy's RCS MediaGroup, says it's not easy for a foreign company, whether in TV, print or film, to make money in China until it attains a certain level of success in its home country.

"If the company came alone all by itself, the cost of printing fees, operation and distribution can be much more expensive for a foreign company than a local publisher, who already has several publications," he says.

Sun, who founded a joint venture with RCS MediaGroup and published the Chinese edition of RCS' home decoration magazines Casa Design and Abitare, says that his magazines didn't turn a profit until this year - three or four years after their initial launch.

"We spent quite a long time to cultivate the market, and educate people how we operate and what we can offer," Sun says.

The company may launch a new interior design magazine or other new media portals in the near future, Sun says, without providing more details.

Another challenge that all magazines face comes from the Internet.

"The online media has squeezed the living space of print media and it forces foreign titles to update their quality of content, services, their ability to distribute in order to be more competitive," Li says.

Other foreign titles, on the other hand, have been successful in China by finding a niche.

As an English-language publication in China, Time Out, based in the United Kingdom, has positioned itself as a city-central magazine for expatriates who live in China.

Under a license agreement with SEEC Media Group Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed publisher and distributor, Time Out is published in Shanghai and Beijing with a circulation of 130,000 and is distributed to spots where expatriates frequent, such as diplomatic compounds, five-star hotels, bars, restaurants and airport lounges.

Kenneth Tan, editor-in-chief of Time Out China, says the publisher has doubled its revenue so far this year from the same period last year thanks to its strong and attractive global brand.

CCMC's Li says that the addition of foreign magazines have not only helped the industry's bottom line, they have helped domestic magazines develop and grow.

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