As previously written on 90blog, China presents a fantastic opportunity for a company seeking a large, media-hungry audience. However, that opportunity is not without strings attached. Pretend you’re a kid again and imagine your parents taking you into a candy shop (stocked with every candy ever) and telling you to choose whatever you want. Sounds pretty sweet, eh?
But wait, did I mention that your parents went into the candy shop first and removed anything they determined wouldn’t be good for you? Sadly, there’s not much left at this point, except some poorly-wrapped butterscotch hard candy (you know the kind).
Before we get too carried away with what few pieces of candy would remain after parental censorship, let’s look at the New York Times’ latest venture. They have just announced a Chinese-language news site, not restricted by a paywall, and an account with Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social network we also discussed in an earlier 90blog post. Is my candy analogy beginning to make some sense now? As expected, China would not willingly allow a global news service (like the NY Times) to operate in the country without having some control over what their citizens may read.
While the site presents the NY Times with an audience most likely eager to consume news from the United States, it’s not without some concerns. How much will the NY Times try to get away with in terms of news they must tailor to the Chinese audience? Will readers from the US and other parts of the globe see more pro-China articles than before? Without a paywall blocking articles to the NY Times, they are opening up a lot more content to millions of new readers. To be fair, the content is only viewable after the reader’s parents (read: Chinese government) have had a thorough look first.
Do you think the NY Times can maintain its journalistic integrity while still adhering to the censorship required by the Chinese government? Let us know in the comments below.