Thu, May 31, 2001 - Page 17 News List

`Next' ready to battle for market share

TABLOID HEAVEN The magazine's boss, Jimmy Lai, is known for his aggressive style and shocking reports as well as glossy, revealing photos, which local rivals lack

STAFF WRITER , WITH REUTERS

As part of a US$3.6 million advertising blitz, Next Magazine turned a building on Chunghua Lu in Hsimenting District into a giant ad resembling a dog, an allusion to paparazzi, known in Chinese as``doggy team.'' Next is to launch its Taiwan edition today.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The launch of Chinese-language Next Magazine (壹週刊) begins with a bang today as the company drops big bucks on a slick ad campaign. And they probably have to in a market saturated with over 1,000 different magazines, fighting for the attention of consumers.

Next Magazine is expected to spend NT$120 million (US$3.6 million) on a four-week advertising blitz for the tabloid-style magazine's launch.

But the competition -- China Times Weekly (時報週刊) -- says they have long known about the intrusion into their newsstand space, but believe their strong reputation will prevail.

"We already knew last October that Next Magazine would launch its Taiwan edition when some of our advertisers approached us and discussed the issue," said a China Times official surnamed Lin, who refused to be further identified.

Lin confidently questioned the Taipei Times, "Have you heard of China Times Weekly? I think most people in Taiwan know who we are but few of them are aware of Next Magazine."

But maybe a 17-storey building shaped like a dog's head will get their attention. The company's headquarter's has done just that in the center of Taipei's movie district.

Lin added that the China Times was not interested in competing with Next's big ad budget.

"We don't think it is necessary for us to spend that much money to increase public awareness about us," Lin said.

The magazine's boss -- flamboyant publishing magnate Jimmy Lai (黎智英) -- is no stranger to controversy.

"Controversial stories will sell, but controversy doesn't mean it's libel," said 52-year-old Lai, who moved to Taiwan from Hong Kong where he started Next Magazine.

Known for his clashes with Beijing, Lai plans to launch Next's Taiwan edition today with a targeted circulation of 250,000, which would make it the country's best-selling weekly magazine.

The China Times was skeptical about the sustained sales of the magazine at that volume.

"We don't think the Next's 250,000 target is feasible in the long run. They may distribute that many magazines during the first few weeks but I doubt how long they can sustain that circulation because it would be too costly," Lin said.

But one of the three publishing firms contracted to print Next's Taiwan edition confirmed to the Taipei Times the numbers were for real.

"They are printing 250,000, of which we are responsible for 40,000 copies," said a printing firm official who requested anonymity. The same firm also prints for rival rags the China Times Weekly and TVBS Weekly.

According to the printer, TVBS Weekly also started out with big dreams, but later downsized to match market demand.

"When the TVBS Weekly was first introduced about three years ago, they put about 200,000 copies into circulation, but now they put about 120,000 to 130,000 per issue," the printer said.

While Taiwan has its share of gossip magazines, Lai brings with him Next's aggressive style of shocking readers with glossy, revealing photographs of celebrities' private lives while his local rivals rely mostly on text and newsprint.

"I want the pictures to deliver as much information as possible," he said.

Lai hopes Taiwan's raucous, freewheeling democracy will prove fertile ground for his style of journalism.

"It's very exciting to live in a democracy. It's too tempting," Lai said when asked why he officially changed his residence to Taiwan last December.

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