Earlier today we posted a story about what appeared to be a new direction for the New York Times: a Chinese-language news site, and a blogging account with Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. The New York Times has now confirmed its move into China and the authenticity of both. The Weibo account now has over 10,000 followers, and the site will be kicking off on Thursday morning, Beijing time.
According to the statement from the NY Times we’ve just received, the site will be launched as a beta version. “The site will grow in scope and functionality over the course of the next several months,” the statement says. A spokesperson has confirmed to me that it will sit outside of the paywall.
The statement continues: “The goal of the new site is to provide China’s growing number of educated, affluent, global citizens with high-quality coverage of world affairs, business and culture. The site will be edited specifically for readers in China, presenting translations of the best of The Times’s award-winning journalism alongside original work by Chinese writers contributing to The Times.”
The site will have around 30 articles per day, in Chinese. The NY Times estimates that about two-thirds of the content will be produced by its staff in the region, which numbers about 30; the rest will come from local contributors.
How about censorship? As we pointed out earlier today, this has been a touchy subject for other Western companies doing online business in China.
Facebook and Twitter, for example, only work in the country through proxy servers; and Google has also had problems with its search business there coming up against what people commonly call the “Great Chinese Firewall,” or the country’s media and Internet censors.
In a post on Media Decoder, Joseph Khan, the paper’s foreign editor, somewhat addresses that question. He notes that the site’s servers will be located off the mainland, and that the site will continue to adhere to the Times’ journalistic standards.
That might mean the occasional blocking of a story — something that has happened in the past with NY Times articles.
The NY Times is moving into an area that is new for itself, but not for Western media. Other sites that have launched Chinese editions include the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.
What perhaps makes the NY Times significant is that it is the world’s most-read daily newspaper, and it is making the move at a time when there is a lot of focus on its digital strategy already. The company recently added a digital heavyweight to its board, in the form of Joi Ito — and of course there is the deal with Flipboard announced earlier this week.
As we pointed out earlier, Flipboard has been one of the notable exceptions in the spread of Western tech companies East — it launched a Chinese edition in March. For now, the spokesperson says that its Chinese site will not show up in that Flipboard app.