The New York Times has launched a Chinese language version of its website in a bid to tap into the world's biggest internet market. The paper said the portal was targeted at "educated, affluent, global citizens" of China's growing middle class. The move comes despite concerns over China's strict control and censorship of online content. However, the paper said that it would follow its journalistic standards.
"We're not tailoring it to the demands of the Chinese government, so we're not operating like a Chinese media company," Joseph Kahn, the paper's foreign editor was quoted as saying.
"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."
China has more than 500 million internet users and that number is expected to grow further in the coming years. As more and more people get access to the internet, companies have been keen to use the medium to reach out to potential consumers. As a result, online advertising revenues for internet firms have been rising. Earlier this year Baidu, which is China's largest internet search engine, reported a jump in advertising revenue of more than 80% in 2011. The New York Times said it was hopeful that a specific Chinese language portal would help it tap into the lucrative market. The firm has already got international brands such as Cartier and Salvatore Ferragamo to sign up to advertise with it and said that it was confident of attracting other companies.
"I believe there will also be an opportunity for corporate and financial advisers," said Denise Warren, chief general manager of nytimes.com.
"We believe we will be reaching a global, well-educated, international audience."
However, the paper got an early indication of China's strict censorship of online content and its tight fisted control of social media, especially microblogging networks. According to the New York Times' Chinese language website, the paper has accounts with four of China's Twitter-like services, including the most popular one, Sina Weibo. But the paper's accounts seemed to have been suspended on at least three of these services within hours of the launch of its Chinese language portal.
A click on a link to its Sina Weibo account on the paper's portal resulted in the following response from Sina Weibo: "Sorry, the account that you are looking for has gone wrong."
Meanwhile, a similar effort on its Sohu Weibo link ended with this message: "The user has not activated his or her weibo as yet."
Attempts to link to its account on 163.com were also unsuccessful. Only its account with Tencent Weibo was working properly.