The New York Times Now Speaks Chinese

Last week, the New York Times learned a new language: Chinese. The US-based media company launched a Chinese-language website last Thursday at cn.nytimes.com.

According to the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog, a majority of the content will consist of existing articles that have been translated into Chinese. However, approximately 1/3 of it is expected to be original, created by freelance contributors and the newspapers’ Chinese reporters and staff.

What prompted the new site? As always, business considerations were part of the motivation. As the Media Decoder blog pointed out, China’s rapidly growing, conspicuously consuming upper class has become a prize demographic for advertisers. Denise F. Warren, the paper’s chief advertising officer, said that advertisers acquired so far have been “generally luxury manufacturers. But I believe there will also be an opportunity for corporate and financial advisers. We believe we will be reaching a global, well-educated, international audience.”

The other motivation, according to a New York Times statement to its readers, is to “provide China’s growing number of educated, affluent, global citizens with high-quality coverage of world affairs, business and culture.”

Successfully reporting on certain topics is likely to be a little bit more difficult than selling ads, but the company pledged to do its best. The website will be hosted on servers in Hong Kong, and there are no plans to become an official Chinese media company. As foreign editor Joseph Kahn put it,

“We’re not tailoring it to the demands of the Chinese government, so we’re not operating like a Chinese media company. China operates a very vigorous firewall. We have no control over that. We hope and expect that Chinese officials will welcome what we’re doing.”

Thus far, it seems the road may have been a bit rockier than the New York Times would have liked. The Guardian is reporting that two of the sites’ social media accounts were suspended for several hours following the launch, though the Times was happy with the traffic it has received since the site went online.

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