The New York Times launched a Chinese-language website this week. The site will feature roughly 30 new articles per day, most of which will be translated from English. The rest of the content will be produced in Chinese.
The English-language New York Times website has a pay wall. However, viewers of the Chinese site will not have to pay, at least not at first, according to Denise F. Warren, chief general manager of nytimes.com.
The goal is to “provide China’s growing number of educated, affluent, global citizens with high-quality coverage of world affairs, business and culture,” according to a statement released by the newspaper.
The New York Times will host its content on servers located outside of China. The Times also launched accounts on Sina Weib0 and Sohu.com, two popular microblogging sites, this week. The following day, the social media accounts went offline. According to The Washington Post, it is still unclear whether it was an act of government censorship.
The New York Times’ venture is an interesting one when you consider the struggles of newspapers, online and off. Devoting its resources to a country where the content could likely be blocked is a risk. However, China is now the world’s third largest media market. And with 500 million people online, it claims the world’s largest population of internet users.
The New York Times is also not the first English-language news provider to venture into the Chinese market. Others include The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. In 2010, The Wall Street Journal published a story about the Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo winning the Nobel Prize. The Chinese government blocked The Journal’s website for five weeks.
My guess is it’s only a matter of time before The Times runs into similar problems (if it hasn’t already). The New York Times might eventually turn to self-censorship to avoid disputes with the Chinese government. Not so long ago, another titan of industry enthusiastically took its operations to China. Google later had second thoughts after being asked to compromise its ethics. The companies’ services are different, but the potential for trouble is there.
(The screenshot is from the new online Chinese version of The New York Times and is used here under fair use and fair comment guidelines.)