BEIJING — China’s new, tougher regulations on digital media aren’t stopping publishing companies from launching new print titles: Vogue China will unveil a new bimonthly magazine at the end of March targeting China’s Millennials.
The new magazine, titled Vogue Me, was inspired by the Chinese language Vogue Mini app launched last year, whose digital content targeted the Middle Kingdom’s young, post-Nineties generation. Known as the “cool” generation, post-Nineties consumers are focused on individualism and are influenced by the opinions of their peers rather than authority, unlike older age groups, according to Vogue China editor in chief Angelica Cheung.
“[The magazine’s] targeted average age is 24. It’s the Millennial generation, but in China we call this the post-Nineties because Millennials are also 15, 16 years old [and that’s] not quite right,” Cheung said Wednesday on the phone from Milan, where she is attending fashion week. “Age isn’t key [but] it’s definitely a younger crowd and cooler because of the trend and culture going on in this generation.
“I don’t call it Teen Vogue because it’s not a teen magazine. I don’t call it Vogue Girl because, again, it’s not about being young only; it’s about being cool and with an attitude. It’s not really defined by the age only. It could be someone in their late 20s, but having that kind of attitude and mentality that is growing in China,” Cheung said.
She added: “It’s about me, that ‘me’ generation. What I like, what I admire, what I think is my attitude and style. That’s the meaning. Vogue Me is more reflective of the culture we try to reflect in the magazine rather than the traditional Vogue titles.”
The first issue of Vogue Me will be around 200 pages. More details about the new magazine will be revealed in the coming days. Vogue China currently has a readership of 1.8 million.
Over the past year, Cheung said the magazine was working to push a lot of digital content geared toward a younger audience. So far, the Vogue Mini app has attracted 600,000 followers and their subscription on chat app WeChat has attracted 700,000 followers. After seeing positive response numbers, Cheung decided to launch a new magazine.
The Vogue China editor in chief declined to comment on the new Chinese rules on digital media. While the application of the new restrictions on foreign companies publishing online in China is difficult to predict, the developments are not being seen as positive for international news media operating in the country.
“The environment for foreign media has never been encouraging, and it has become more and more difficult over the last few years,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei, a research firm tracking Chinese media.
New regulations jointly released last week by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology seek to restrict companies even partly owned by foreign enterprises from publishing any content online in China without approval from the government.
The announcement, from two departments that are part of the ruling Communist government’s State Council, said that beginning March 10, foreign companies or foreign joint ventures will be banned from disseminating a wide range of content online – including text, audio, video, games, animation, and maps – without the content first being approved.
“I don’t imagine there will be a drastic change of the day of March 10 itself, but the already very limited space for foreign-owned or partly foreign-owned media, Internet and entertainment companies will shrink. Meanwhile Chinese media companies will find it more difficult to use imported content,” Goldkorn said.
David Schlesinger, managing director at Tripod Advisors and former China bureau chief for Reuters, said that while this new round of restrictions may not overtly impact on the day-to-day running of international news organizations working in China, there will certainly be an impact.
“In practice for foreign news organizations, the restrictions are absolutely nothing new. What they do is send the strong and unmistakable message that what some had thought was a gray area is actually pretty close to black,” he said, adding that editors will be under pressure to think carefully about what they publish so they don’t incur the wrath of censors, who will be more watchful than ever.
Bloomberg and The New York Times are both blocked in China after publishing stories that displeased the country’s leadership, and media companies chasing a potential audience (and accompanying advertising opportunities) the size of China’s won’t be keen to join them on the banned list.
“The main effect of the new rules on foreign news companies will be in their boardrooms, I predict,” Schlesinger said. “Chief financial officers and sales managers will wail at the complete inability to accurately predict audience size or whether the site will be blocked for days, weeks, months, or years from the advertising targets.”
Also last week, President Xi Jinping undertook a high-profile visit to three of the country’s major state-run media outlets in order to encourage domestic media to promote socialist values in their reporting. It was the first time Xi has done such a tour of the People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV, and when speaking to employees of the outlets the president urged loyalty to the ruling party and to follow the CCP’s leadership in “thought, politics and action.”
“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name,” Xi said, according to the AP. “All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority and safeguard the party’s unity. They must love the party, protect the party and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.”