Two of Canada’s largest media companies are investing in new projects aimed at expanding their reach into western Canada’s Chinese community.
On Tuesday, Shaw Communications Inc. announced that Global News will launch an evening newscast in Mandarin in both Calgary and Vancouver. Postmedia Network Canada Corp. also announced the Vancouver Sun will launch a new Chinese-language website, Taiyangbao.ca, which translates as “Sun Newspaper” and is published in both traditional and simplified Chinese script.
But the business case for these two projects is very different. Postmedia’s new website, which has been in its test phase for a couple of months, is an attempt to expand the Sun’s advertising footprint, giving it not just a bigger volume of online content but also a niche offering to sell to advertisers. But for Shaw, the advertising concern is secondary: it primarily wants to use media content to sell Chinese customers on its cable and satellite services, in the part of Canada where it is the dominant TV provider.
The moves are a symptom of the “vertical integration” in Canadian media, with more cable and satellite companies buying up broadcast assets. Shaw bought the former Canwest television channels last year, including the Global Television network. “Global National Mandarin” will be broadcast on two channels Shaw has always owned: its multicultural channels in Vancouver and Calgary. The federal broadcast regulator restricts the amount of advertising such community channels are allowed to air, but Shaw is hoping that if its Mandarin newscast attracts a following on these channels, more Chinese customers in western Canada will be convinced to sign up.
“Part of it is demonstrating to them the benefits of having Shaw as a provider,” said Global News vice-president Troy Reeb. “We know that in the Lower Mainland of B.C. and in Calgary, the number of Mandarin speakers combined is much larger than many of the cities we serve with Global local news.” The company is also considering launching newscasts in Cantonese and Punjabi, he said, although those plans are on the backburner for now.
There are already Mandarin newscasts in western Canada – produced by both the Omni network, owned by Rogers Communications Inc. , and the Fairchild Media Group. But while Global will feature Chinese-specific news,, Mr. Reeb said it will also report similar content as on the English Global National newscast, aimed to cater to Mandarin speakers who also want to “be included in that larger Canadian conversation.”
The Sun’s new website, by contrast, is a play for advertising dollars. People of Chinese origin make up roughly one-fifth of the population of Vancouver – a sizable consumer market. Taiyangbao.ca will compete with, among other publications, Ming Pao Vancouver and the Torstar Corp.-owned Sing Tao Daily, which has had a print edition in Vancouver and Calgary since 1988, and also has a Canadian website. According to the Sun’s deputy managing editor, Paul Bucci, the site’s ad inventory is nearly sold out for the next 90 days.
“We’re noticing besides an immediate response from advertisers, an immediate response from readers. It’s got a strong uplift from social media,” he said.
Both Global and the Sun say they can provide more in-depth news coverage than smaller ethnic media outlets because of the vast resources of their English-language newsrooms.
But Loretta Lam, president of the Chinese Canadian Advertising, Marketing & Media Association, cautions that to build a following, these media outlets will have to do more than simply translate their English-language content, which many in the Chinese community can read or watch for themselves. She points to Maclean’s magazine as an example, which published a Chinese-language edition from 1995 to 1998 that was unsuccessful. Roughly 70 per cent of its content was repurposed from the English edition.
“If they’re not able to develop a niche, they’re just another media outlet,” she said. However, if they provide a mix of Chinese news and Canadian content, she believes advertisers will buy in to access this growing community.
“They really want to capture the fast-growing and affluent Chinese marketplace in Canada … and through them, they want to target their friends, relatives and networks in mainland China,” Ms. Lam said. “This is always a good move for the mainstream media. I’ve been in the industry for more than 15 years. I’ve witnessed the evolution of the marketplace from something people are not aware of, not tapping into, until now. Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon.”