China-based e-tail juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. announced today that it has agreed to buy the South China Morning Post and all media assets associated with SCMP Group Ltd. for an undisclosed amount.
In addition to the flagship South China Morning Post newspaper, Alibaba will take ownership of the Sunday Morning Post, the SCMP.com website and related mobile apps, the two Chinese websites Nanzao.com and Nanzaozhinan.com and a portfolio of magazines, including the Hong Kong editions of Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, The Peak and Harper’s Bazaar.
In a letter to South China Morning Post readers, Joseph Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, spelled out the company’s reasons for the acquisition:
“The SCMP has iconic status in the region, with a strong reputation internationally for the quality and credibility of its journalism over the years, thanks to its reporters and editors, who have worked hard to build this heritage. Like many print media, however, the SCMP faces challenges amid the dramatic changes in the way news is reported and distributed.
But these changes play to Alibaba’s strengths, which is why we believe the two companies complement each other well.”
“With proven expertise in digital distribution, especially on mobile devices, Alibaba is in an excellent position to leverage technology to create content more efficiently and expand distribution without borders.”
Tsai went on to explain that Alibaba Group aims to expand SCMP’s readership globally by removing the paywall for content and providing the necessary resources to continue the newspaper’s analysis of trade, business, economy and society.
The executive also emphasized that the media company will maintain its editorial independence:
“In reporting the news, the SCMP will be objective, accurate and fair. This means having the courage to go against conventional wisdom, and taking care to verify stories, check sources and seek all viewpoints.These day-to-day editorial decisions will be driven by editors in the newsroom, not the corporate boardroom.”
U.S. investors have not responded favorably to the news. Alibaba Group’s stock is down about 4 percent in trading on the NYSE.