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Alibaba removes online paywall from South China Morning Post

Tue 5 Apr 2016

As Alibaba completes its acquisition of the South China Morning Post, an article posted to SCMP.com earlier today suggested that previously paywalled content would be free from 6pm (local time) this evening.

‘Two decades ago the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s premier English-language newspaper, paved the way for the city’s media companies to embrace the digital revolution with the pioneering launch of its online edition,’ the article reads. ‘Fast forward to today and the Post is blazing a new trail again by giving readers free access to its online and mobile editions…’

The site’s new editor-in-chief commented that the removal of paywalls would allow the media company to grow its readership globally. ‘It is our firm belief that as China plays an increasingly critical role in world politics and the economy, a global community of China stakeholders will demand insightful and trusted news and commentaries from a within-the-region perspective,’ she said.

The Post has also launched a new mobile app to accompany the paywall removal. The app will provide users improved search functionality, faster loading times, simpler linking with social media and easier navigation.

Robin Hu, CEO of SCMP Publishers, added that Alibaba’s vision and technological expertise would assure a positive journey for the company, moving into a digital future with ‘enhanced clarity and boosted confidence.’

While SCMP’s digital content will be free to read, the print newspaper and its PDF e-version will continue with its subscription-based model.

The Alibaba acquisition of the 113-year old publication was confirmed in December last year for £175 million, and shareholders approved the move last month. The deal includes licenses for other SCMP group media and digital platforms including Hong Kong publications of Elle, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar.

Critics have argued that the acquisition will allow China a tighter hold over Hong Kong, and compromise editorial independence.

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