Shih believes free newspapers have become a worldwide trend that will gain more and more market share. He agrees that free newspapers will in the near future become the way people are informed about daily events around the world, as a free newspaper avoids the conflict of interest which exists between the for-pay newspapers and their readers. As the primary income of a free newspaper is the advertisements and the income of those who advertise comes from the readers, this suggests that a newspaper's mostly valuable asset should be its readers; thus, readers should not be charged for the news.
am730 launched its first publication on July 30, 2005. Initially, ''am730'' was scheduled to be launched in September, but it was re-scheduled to July 30th for two primary reasons. First, it intends to keep up with one of its competitors, ''Headline Daily'', which was launched on July 12, 2005. Second is the convenient coincidence that the date of July 30th corresponds with the name of the newspaper. Two hundred thousand copies of ''am730'' were issued at its first publication and its current volume is around three hundred thousand copies daily.
The name of the newspaper is intended to suggest a fresh approach towards the methodology of naming newspapers. It does not incorporate the term "daily" because this word reflects the conventional way of naming a news journal. The name literally states the newspaper's aim to distribute the publication during rush hour, which is approximately 7:30am.
According to Shih, the newspaper is tailored to young people. 7:30am is about when the sun rises; it signals vitality, just like the young people who are at the start of a long journey through life. It is a new vision aimed to change the old quality of Hong Kong newspapers. In its first week, ''am730'' sold one hundred thousand copies. Eventually, it aims to increase circulation to three hundred thousand copies, which is similar to the other two free newspapers
Language and style
''am730'' tends to adopt internet slang and other expressions which are widely used on the Internet and popular among youth. The newspaper official says it is advisable to use internet slang and does not think that colloquial expressions in newspaper articles will affect young people's language proficiency. What is more crucial is using popular language to convey messages. ''am730'' intends to offer a fresh sensation in news to its readers; it aims to widen the horizon of its readers, both internationally and culturally, and to promote an optimistic outlook on life and hopes for the future.
While being consistent with market regulations, ''am730'' is a real newspaper which offers more attention to principles. Unlike numerous other newspapers, ''am730'' is against the idea of indecent news as the selling point. It wants to provide a newspaper with accurate, simple news reports targeted to youth who have just begun their careers. The fresh, youthful style of ''am730'' is designed to encourage more young people to read newspapers. Shih hopes that through this free newspaper, young people in Hong Kong will cultivate a greater interest in the news and in the future of Hong Kong.
''Headline Daily'', a newspaper which belongs to ''Sing Tao'', is the primary competition for ''am730''. Shih admits that ''Headline Daily'' has more resources than the privately investigated ''am730'' because of its attachment to ''Sing Tao Daily'', but that dependence on Sing Tao would harm the independence of its organization.
In many ways, ''am730'' is similar to a traditional newspaper. Like most newspapers, the contents of the paper include local, China, international, financial, entertainment and sports news. Additionally, Shih Wing Ching writes a column called "C Viewpoint" in which he gives his daily commentary on local or international news. "730 Angle" is also a commentary column, but for people from all walks of life. Differing opinions are welcome for critical discussions. Moreover, "Snapshot Hong Kong" is a column which cold-contacts youngsters on the street to ask their opinions. Hence, there is no doubt that the major target of ''am730'' is the young working class and it defines itself as a youth publication in the newspaper market. The reason for this, in Shih's own words, is because young people are full of hope: "Local papers follow the view in that they will only report bad things, as if there is no hope in this world, yet hope is what young people mostly need." The design and layout of the paper are colourful and appealing.
The detailed layout of the newspaper is as follows:
The lead story of the day occupies almost the entire page of the paper, filled in with colourful illustrations. The other stories vary from local top stories to China and international news.
Similar to a traditional newspaper, on the left corner is a column which briefly highlights the news of secondary importance that is available inside the paper. The highlights vary, including local, China, international, entertainment and sport news. At the bottom of the column is a display of the Mark Six results.
Typically, around three to four pages are allocated to the local news section. More important news such as politics and policies are reported in greater length than city news such as accidents and events. To maximise space usage, even the banner at the top of the page is used to cover brief news accounts. Shih's personal column, "C Viewpoint," can also be found in this section.
There is also a column for weather forecasts for local, China and international locations. The banner of this section is sky-blue in colour.
News from China and related to China's interests takes up about one to two pages of the paper. The banner colour of this section is khaki.
The international section covers major news around the world. The banner colour of this section is dark blue.
When this section appears, it is placed in the middle of the paper and covers two pages, but it is not always printed. At times, the middle pages are occupied by a full-page advertisement. Feature stories, when available, offer in-depth reports and analysis.
This is a short, concise one-page section on financial and business news, both locally and on the international arena. The banner colour of this section is dark green.
The Sports section covers both the local and the international sports scene. On average it provides a scoreboard summary of final scores and, on occasion, a brief schedule of live sports coverage on television. The banner colour of this section is light green.
The section is dedicated to news of advancement and electronic products, including mobile phones, computers, television and much more. Not to be missed is news of the Internet and recommended websites. The banner colour of this section is light green.
The Notes section usually offers articles of interesting, sometimes absurd events happening around the world. The banner colour of this section is purple.
*OL and Health
This section is dedicated to young working women, similar to those offered in popular women's magazines. Besides tips and advice on women's health and beauty, there is also a section dedicated to relationship advice for women readers with personal problems. The banner colour of this section is pink.
This section offers entertainment news regarding celebrities, music and movies. There are usually two pages dedicated to this section. One page focuses on local Hong Kong celebrities, while the other covers international celebrities. There are occasional extras in this section such as movie reviews and basic introductions of a foreign language. The banner colour of this section is mustard yellow.
"730 Angle" offers letters and readers' opinions on various issues. There is also a small section on events and book reviews. On the right hand corner is a "snapshot" section dedicated to teen fashion and trends, including the mobile phones they use.
This section that relates tips and overviews of leisure activities. Generally this section contains comics, western horoscopes, predictions of the future, and cooking tips and recipes.
This section provides a selected schedule of programmes offered on both local and cable television. At the bottom section, there is a review of some recommended programs. Last but not least are the credits of the editorial team as well as a list of contacts for the newspaper.
The back page of the paper is typically occupied by a full-page advertisement.
Generally, the news accounts presented are brief and limited, due at least in part to space limitations. As ''am730'' is a free newspaper, the operating cost largely depends on the advertisement revenue. A full-page advertisement appears on every other page, mainly placed between the local news section and the finance section. Smaller advertisements are scattered throughout the newspaper. Nevertheless, the newspaper remains an effective and rapid way to inform commuters about current issues in Hong Kong and the rest of the world.
Currently, the editorial team consists of 50 people. The key players of the team are :
*President: Alan Lo
*Vice President: Danny Fung and Ricky Lo
*Sales and Marketing Director: Ray Lee
*Associate Managing Editor: Dominic Leung
*Marketing Manager: Agnes Chen
*Chief Reporter: Kenneth Dai
*General Chief Reporter: Ray Tsang
*Photography Director: Edmond Wong
*Arts Director: Spring Kwok
Shih once said that ''am730'' would only be a success depending on the efforts of the staff. If the revenue and expenditures could be balanced within the first year, Shih promised he would pay his staff seven more months of salary.
''am370'' is widely distributed from Mondays to Fridays at around 287 locations. Distribution locations include railway stations along the and , the entrances of Mass Transit Railway stations, private residential areas, and many points in the Central business district .
Due to limited human resources and the specific target group of ''am730'', early distribution points were not as efficient. Its main focus is now in the commercial districts of Hong Kong such as , Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui.
The initial launch of the newspaper cost up to HK$100 million. It was Shih's private investment. At the first stage, working capital was just HK$50 million; another HK$50 million will be invested if the operation proves successful. Shih Wing-ching expects that revenue and expenditures will be balanced after a year of publication.
As a free newspaper, the major operational revenue is gained from advertisements. After the first month of publication, the revenue gained from commercial advertisements was HK$100 million while ''am730'' still needed to bear HK$100 million to HK$200 million in losses everyday. The advertising rates in ''am730'' are estimated to be HK$24,000 - HK$30,000, 30% to 40% lower than ''Metropolis Daily'''s rates of HK$32,000 to HK$40,000. This is a strategic action to attract more advertisements.
''am730'' is also easily accessible online for the IT-savvy public. Besides viewing the most recent issue, readers can also view archived issues of ''am730'' online. The is formatted in such a way that it resembles the actual printed paper.
''Club 730'' invites its readers to become involved with activities organized by the newspaper. Membership in this club gives the readers special benefits and privileges. It also cultivates brand loyalty among the readers. The application form for ''Club 730'' can be downloaded from the ''am730'' official website; membership cards will be delivered around two weeks after submitting the form. Members enjoy benefits like shopping discounts and will be invited to join exclusive activities organized by ''am730''.
Other special offers
''am730'' frequently offers free coupons. Readers can enjoy special offers by cutting the coupons published in the paper. One example was the ''Delifrance'' tea set offer on October 10th, 2005.
Impact of ''am730''
According to Shih, free newspapers represent the future trend of print news because they avoid conflict between readers and newspapers. The fact that ''am730'' is convenient and free of charge has attracted a large group of readers away from the conventional newspapers. Besides the advantages of large circulation and a large group of readers, free newspapers attract many advertisers. According to a survey, ''Metropolis Daily'' advertisements ranked 6th in Hong Kong newspapers. It has thus become a big challenge for traditional newspapers to keep up with free newspapers. Starting October 19th, 2005, '''', one of the newspapers under the Oriental Press Group Limited, cut the retail price for each paper to HK$3. It is believed to be responding to the emerging competition brought up by free newspapers. Other newspaper press groups declared they would not follow this action, but would closely monitor the situation.
With the emergence of ''Headline Daily'' and ''am730'' into Hong Kong's print media industry in July 2005, the competition among the numerous newspapers is becoming increasingly stiff and unhealthy. In fact, the existence of free circulated tabloids in general can be seen as a form of "self killing" in the industry, in which free tabloids are "killing off" the traditional broadsheets in terms of readership and advertising revenue. Besides this, the saturated market of three free tabloids in Hong Kong can also result in non-profitability for weaker competitors.
Another effect of the entry of ''am730'' and other free tabloids into the market will be on the advertising revenue for traditional broadsheets. Being highly dependent on advertising revenue, traditional broadsheets now face intense competition from free tabloids that are also dependent on advertising revenue as a primary source for their survival. A major advantage of ''am730'' is its easy accessibility to its readers. This means that despite higher advertising charges, companies might be willing to advertise in these papers to guarantee a higher exposure level for their products.
There are 3 main Chinese free newspapers and millions of copies are issued every day . In a survey conducted by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong in July 2005, by interviewing 1006 residents, 60% to 65% reported they had taken free newspapers, but 48.7% would throw the newspaper into rubbish bins instead of a recycle box. This practice is not only creating waste, but is also causing damage to the natural environment; for every metric ton of paper used, 17 trees are brought down and 1,500 litres of fuel oil are consumed.
A survey on Hong Kong free tabloid readership by Synovate, a leading research company, was conducted between 1 August 2005 and 21 August 2005. ''Metro Daily'', ''Headline Daily'' and ''am730'' have 16%, 18% and 8% of the total market share, respectively. From these figures, one can see that ''am730'', with a low circulation of around 260,000 in comparison with the other two tabloids, is performing reasonably well for a starter.
''am730'' aims at expanding the readership of the young working class. With its primary target of readers in the younger demographic range, ''am730'' has achieved its target; 65% of its readers are below 45 years of age, according to the survey. This could be seen as an achievement for the free tabloids whose professed aim is to raise awareness of current issues for the politically apathetic younger generation.
''am730'' is able to get a majority of its readers from the full-time working class, accounting for 81% of its readership according to the survey. This proves that the distribution of papers at railway stations does help in gaining accessibility to working class readers who commonly use public transportation.
Also, ''am730'' has a low readership from people in managerial positions, according to the survey. This is also true for other free tabloids. Generally, the percentage of professionals reading free tabloids only made up 7% of the total readership. In making their stories short and brief, ''am730'' and other tabloids are definitely seen as lacking depth among higher-educated individuals.
Newspaper vendors are upset because of falling sales in traditional newspapers, which directly harms their income. Hence, the vendors are seeking a deal with publishers of free newspapers to distribute the papers for a fee, and threaten to mount a noisy campaign if their requests are denied.