We have a number of important stories on China’s media this week. Two of these speak to the rapid and steady decline of traditional print newspapers in the country — first, the closure of a major commercial newspaper in Gansu province, following a string of similar closures on the east coast (as print revenues decline in the face of internet growth), and second, the ongoing leadership saga at The Beijing News, long regarded as one of the China’s top professional newspapers. Also this week, the release of the 2018 Blue Book on China’s Media, a media industry survey produced by Tsinghua University, helps to explain where the development is actually happening in China — think mobile internet, which now accounts for almost 70 percent of the total internet advertising market and has surpassed the entire advertising market for traditional media.
In legal news, a district court in Shanghai rejected a defamation case brought by a major medicinal wine brand against a WeChat public account, on the grounds that the article in question fell “within the scope of protected freedom of expression.” That case deserves further attention, as such decisions, on free speech grounds, are exceptionally rare in China. [ABOVE: Screenshot from a Pear Video report on operating family newsstands.]
This Week in China’s Media
June 16 — June 22
➢ 2018 Blue Book of China’s Media released
➢ Approval of 5G SA standard paves the way for vommercialization
➢ Beijing Business Today (北京商报) editor-in-chief Li Hai becomes deputy chief editor of The Beijing News (新京报)
➢ Western Economic Daily (西部商报) closes its door on June 22, continuing trend of newspaper closures in China’s coastal and central regions
➢ Hong Mao, a medicinal wine brand, files suit against a WeChat public account for defamation, case rejected by court
 2018 Blue Book of China’s Media Released
On June 21, the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University released 2018 Blue Book of China’s Media (传媒蓝皮书-中国传媒产业发展报告), the ninth in the annual series, which looks at media development in China across various segments of the industry.
The Blue Book shows that according to statistics from the Financial Affairs Department of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) — an office that was recently slated for reform — revenues for television advertising in China for 2017 fell for the first time, dropping 1.84 percent from the previous year. Advertising revenues for print continued to drop in the double digits, down 14.8 percent from 2016, but the numbers for newspaper advertising were even worse — down 30 percent for a total of 15 billion yuan. Looking at traditional media, only publishing and film recorded growth for the year, but both were marginal in comparison to the internet. Online advertising, online games and online video were the three major engines of growth in the media industry, according to the Blue Book. The market size of the mobile internet has already surpassed that to the traditional internet, and mobile internet advertising now accounts for 69.2 percent of the total internet advertising market, and has itself surpassed the entire advertising market for traditional media.
According to the Blue Book report, the newspaper industry in China “reformed” and developed for around 40 years, enjoying a roughly 20-year golden period (辉煌时期). But faced with the challenge of new technologies, and new business models, newspapers were in an increasingly passive position. Some newspapers, said the report, had remained at the forefront of media convergence — for example the People’s Daily “Central Kitchen” (中央厨房), or “Media Hub,” designed to be a full digital convergence content supplier for a range of media clients. Other directions of development, the report noted, include “robot-generated news” (机器人新闻写作), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offerings and “data storytelling” (以数据讲故事), but these are not yet profitable businesses.
On the foundation of the capital invested in the big three Chinese internet companies — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, known collectively as “BAT” — links will continue to be made with other industries. Most of the leading news and entertainment media in China today are in some way or another tied to or dependent upon the big three, with examples including Jinri Toutiao (今日头条), Bona Film (博纳影业), Enlight Media (光线传媒), 21st Century Media (21世纪传媒), Youku (优酷), Tudou (土豆), Huxiu (虎嗅), Zhihu (知乎) and others.
Key Chinese Reports:
Sohu Account “Newspaper Transition” (报业转型): 2018年中国传媒产业发展报告（完整版）
People’s Daily Online (人民网): 《2018年中国传媒产业发展报告》在清华发布 预计2020年中国传媒市场规模突破3万亿元
 Approval of 5G SA Standard Paves the Way for Commercialization
3GPP, the international standards body that governs cellular standardization, approved the 5G SA (standalone) standard, meaning that the commercialization of 5G is drawing closer, due for a possible rollout in 2020. With the support of the China Academy of Telecommunication Research of MIIT (CAICT), China Mobile and Datang Telecom Group have formed three national engineering laboratories, and these, according to the People’s Daily, will be the primary vehicles for 5G innovation in China.
Reporting on the approval of the 5G SA standard, China Business said that the core question now was what sorts of breakthroughs 5G SA might support, following on ground-breaking changes with previous standards — messaging with 2G, smartphone applications with 3G, and new video capabilities with 4G. CAICT has said that 5G advances could mean new services in such areas at 3D high-res video, cloud offices and gaming, mobile-based medical services, self-driving vehicles, smart cities and smart homes.
Key Chinese Reports:
People’s Daily (人民日报): 我国5G产业将全面启动 为2020年规模商用提供支撑
China Business (中国经营网): 拓展5G移动生态 万亿级应用市场待启
 Beijing Business Today (北京商报) Editor-in-Chief Li Hai Becomes Deputy Chief Editor of The Beijing News (新京报)
According to Shanghai’s The Paper (澎湃新闻网), former Beijing Business Today editor-in-chief Li Hai (李海) has been transferred to The Beijing News, where he is now deputy chief editor. The move could be an effort to address the hemorrhaging of top management from The Beijing News, which was once one of the country’s most respected professional newspapers — although the position of editor-in-chief position at The Beijing News remains vacant. Li Hai was a long-serving editor at Beijing Business Today, and was the deputy editor-in-chief before being promoted to the editor-in-chief position.