The Last Stand: A Hong Kong Newspaper Seller Meets Changes in the Media Landscape

Mr. Chow Fook-wah has owned a newspaper stand for 13 years in Causeway Bay – one of the most valued retail spaces in the world — under a footbridge at the corner of Percival Street and Hennessy Road. His newsstand runs 24 hours, with three employees on shifts to look after the stall and one delivers newspapers to offices in the morning. Unlike the neighboring newsstands, he chose to operate it non-stop since the early 2000′s because of business opportunities from the patrons going to the restaurants and bars late at night in the neighborhood. From his observance, the vibrant night market in Causeway Bay has changed.

“Restaurants and bars are forced out due to high retail rents. Now they are replaced by luxury shops,” Chow said. And customers who once read printed newspapers are moving to digital news on iPads, iPhones, Androids, PCs, and other smart devices.

Though Chow is struggling to keep up, he says the mediascape in Hong Kong has changed for good. “The golden days of newsstand business was before the 1970s,” he said. “Then it began to slow down.” Today, “only older people read newspapers.  If newspapers in Hong Kong can no longer survive, it’s a shame….it’s going to affect society deeply.”

According to a recent Nielsen Media Index report, Hong Kong’s paid newspapers readerships are in decline. The Hong Kong Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the circulation of Apple Daily — one of the best selling newspapers in Hong Kong — dropped 32 percent between 2000 to 2012, from 371,465 copies in 2000 to 251,895 copies in 2012. With the competition of free newspapers in the market and new habits of consuming digital news, what is the impact on newsstand businesses and on society at large?

Related stories: News isn’t good for city’s newsstands, South China Morning Post
It’s all bad news when vendors are forced from their regular spots, South China Morning Post 

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