Many media experts have pooh-poohed the move by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying’s Next Digital to implement a subscription model for its flagship Apple Daily’s online edition, arguing that readers simply won’t pay for content and they are spoiled for choice in the market.
But on Tuesday, a sizzling video showing pop singer Andy Hui Chi-on and Television Broadcasts actress Jacqueline Wong Sum-wing in a compromising scene at the backseat of a taxicab reeled in more than 380,000 new subscribers for Apple Daily Online, after the footage was posted on its website at lunchtime.
The surge in the number of subscribers sent Next Digital’s (00282.HK) share price up as much as 22 percent in early morning trading on Wednesday.
Apple Daily said its total subscribers surpassed 2 million as of Tuesday afternoon as Hongkongers, tired of the same old debate about amending the fugitive law, rushed to the website to view the full and original version of the video of the latest scandal to hit local show business.
As almost everyone knows, Hui, 51, has been “happily married” to singer and actress Sammi Cheng Sau-man since 2013, while Wong, 30, who was first runner-up in the 2012 Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, is known to be dating fellow TVB actor Kenneth Ma Kwok-ming, 45.
Readers who wanted to view the entire video, which was exclusively obtained by Apple Daily, must register and log in to the paper’s website, and this was the reason for the sudden hike in its online subscription figures.
According to Apple Daily, the number of its subscribers jumped from 1.7 million at 11 p.m. Monday to 1.8 million at 1 p.m. Tuesday, or after the Hui-Wong video was posted, and then reached 1.9 million at 2:33 p.m.
Apple Daily said it surpassed the 2 million benchmark at around 5 p.m. and the number of subscribers continued to rise to more than 2.1 million after Hui hosted a press conference to publicly apologize to his wife, family and fans.
That said, the Hui-Wong video brought in around 380,000 new subscribers for Apple Daily in less than 24 hours.
The phenomenal rise in the paper’s subscription numbers showed that online readers are willing to register and log in to a news portal that offers the kind of content that they want to read and watch. The Hui-Wong video is what readers want, and so they registered to be a member of Apple Daily.
According to Next Digital’s interim report for the six months ended March 31, Apple Daily had a user base of 5.1 million unique visitors per month in Hong Kong, 11.9 million in Taiwan, 1.5 million in the United States, and 389,0001 in Canada.
Apple Daily’s Hong Kong edition reached 2.1 million subscribers on Tuesday, but that was less than half of its monthly unique visitors in March. That means the paper has a long way to go to restore its user base.
Nonetheless, the surge in Apple Daily’s subscriber numbers on Tuesday showed that content is still king when it comes to driving online media growth, and readers’ love for showbiz gossip only serves to support this.
Before Apple Daily’s video on Hui and Wong became the talk of the town on Tuesday, many media observers voiced doubts about its decision to build a subscription model, saying that people would not care to subscribe to a media outlet that focuses on gossip and “non-serious” news.
They noted that the subscription model is doomed to fail because people won’t bother to register to become an Apple Daily member as they could access news for free from other platforms.
Well, who’s laughing now all the way to the bank?
Readers will decide what kind of content they want to read or watch. If it’s celebrity gossip they want, then all the best minds in the media industry won’t be able to convince them otherwise.