You can’t say that the New York Times is not entrepreneurial: after making a deal with Flipboard earlier this week,they launched a site specifically focused on mainland China this morning. The site, that has the exact NYT look and feel, contains a combination of translated articles and new local content. cn.nytimes.com is free to use for now and paid for by luxury goods advertisers. Smart idea? Maybe. Or maybe not.
The New York Times decided to host the site outside the Great Firewall, which is probably a necessity because they would have likely never received a Chinese Internet publishing license. But by doing that they run the risk that the site can by blocked at any moment. It is difficult to judge how likely that is, but for sure the government doesn’t like it when foreign media companies start targeting their population in simplified Chinese. YouTube is a good example, they were allowed in China until they launched a simplified Chinese language site.
So far the NYT was not blocked in China, although sometimes specific articles were censored. But with a Chinese site that may be different. One wrong article could lead to the whole nytimes.com domain being blocked (for some reason they did not use a separate domain name for their Chinese site, something I would have done to test the waters), meaning that also English language content won’t be available anymore.
I hope I am wrong, I love the NYT, it’s the only news app that I pay a monthly subscription fee for (both their iPad and desktop apps are great!). They have fantastic content that is absolutely worth sharing in Chinese as well. They even set up a Weibo (=Chinese Twitter) account for that, but shortly after the Chinese language NYT news came out this morning their Weibo account was suspended already. Not a good sign…
Update: The Weibo account worked again around 7 pm tonight, and already has almost 18,000 followers – at least that’s a good sign!