Reasons for the launch of the newspaper
The newspaper was launched as the Chairman of , Charles Ho Tsu Kwok, felt there was room for the further development of free newspapers in Hong Kong in terms of content, distribution network and advertising formats.
The pace of life in Hong Kong is so fast and people are so busy that ''Headline Daily'' was established to meet the people's needs by providing them with first-hand information on the hottest daily topics in a manner as concise and lively as possible, while attempting to portray a "positive" and "lively" image to readers.
In terms of market competition, the ''Headline Daily'' was also launched in a bid to gain a greater market share of the territory's for and to explore a new source of income for the corporation.
Daily issues are distributed during morning peak hours from Monday to Friday, except on . It is distributed in more than 600 different places, among which there are now three fixed distribution media: , , and nearly 500 residential estates. Moreover, the papers are distributed at more than 100 fixed or non-fixed spots, including commercial buildings, bus/mini-bus stops and shopping malls all around Hong Kong. Readers may simply get a free issue from the eye-catching red shelfs at most locations or from the staff at certain locations.
The newspaper targets the working population, who are usually too busy to read a large number of pages nor to read every piece of news in detail. However, these people are likely to grasp every chance to read newspapers for a short period when travelling or having breakfast.
In August 2005, a market research survey was conducted by , comparing the readership of 3 free newspapers in Hong Kong. The result shows that in the first three weeks of August, ''Metropolis Daily'', ''Headline Daily'' and ''am730'' respectively achieved 16%, 18% and 8% of the market shares. ''Headline Daily'' gains the leading readership of 893,000, compared with ''Metropolis Daily's'' 820,000 and ''am730's'' 401,000.
"Headline Daily" shares news sources with the ''Sing Tao Daily''.
The paper aims to present the most important news of the day in a concise way so as to provide readers with up-to-date, yet comprehensive, news and information on different areas in a short read. It usually has around 24 to 30 pages and has a layout similar to the following formats:
*The remaining pages are used for advertisements.
In a comment by Sing Tao chief executive Lo Wing-hung, he claimed that the average number of pages could be increased to 40 pages if its readership increases significantly over time. However, so far, more than three months after the first publication, the newspaper only consists of around 24 pages on the average.
As more and more free newspapers are appearing to fight for room in the local newspaper market, ''Headline Daily'' distinguishes itself by bringing new experiences to its readers. It tries to be competitive by implementing marketing strategies to attract readers' interest, such as:
* ''"lucky draws"'' & ''""''
* ''"apple-shaped pellet"'': a , which working class readers can use to relax themselves and relieve their stress, was once offered to readers along with their newspaper
* ''"happy lucky reader"'': one reader is randomly-chosen in public areas and awarded HK$500 on a daily basis
Moreover, to extend the market to overseas, a softcopy version ''Headline Daily'' is made accessible on line.
In order to build up a good relationship with readers, ''Headline Daily'' invites readers to submit news articles for publication in return for rewards as a sign of its cooperation with the public. According to the , readers can become reporters for ''Headline Daily'' by handing in any information. While this information should be deemed to be news-worthy, other guidelines are provided on what type of news should be submitted. Particularly, the paper states that it has no interest in collecting any commentaries from the public. Meanwhile, the usage of any material submitted is solely dependent on the newspaper's discretion. The paper rewards any readers whose materials are published or utilized with a one-time sum of $100, regardless of how many times the paper utilizes these pieces of news.
Professionalism of the free press
On the first day of its publication, ''Headline Daily'' claimed that "Headline news is important news, and different sections of the newspaper should have headlines. Not only the serious news has headlines, but also for entertainment news, let alone love affairs." This statement raised a controversy on whether ''Headline Daily'' is providing good journalism, which requires verification and objectivity rather than exaggerating the facts by making them headlines.
Reduction of newspaper hawkers’ income
Two days after the first publication of ''Headline Daily'', the Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association accused ''Headline Daily'' of having an adverse impact on the business of newspaper hawkers. They claimed that the free distribution of ''Headline Daily'' had resulted in a general drop in newspaper transactions of around 10% to 20%.
Effect on price and selling of the current newspapers
In addition, the Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association pointed out that under the current market conditions, it might be infeasible to decrease the prices of newspapers in order to maintain or increase their sales. Subsequently, they claimed to have considered taking ''Sing Tao Daily'' off their shelves in order to counter the threat posed by it.
On another front, the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association, Lam, gave an example of the impact. Ten years ago, an ice-cutting competition which was initiated by ''Apple Daily'' had resulted in the elimination of several old-fashioned newspapers. Drawing a parallel with that phenomenon, Lam speculated that if the current situation of free distribution of newspapers continued, newspapers run by small corporations might eventually be eliminated. This might in turn result in the undesirable situation of reducing choice for newspaper readers.
Three months after the launch of ''Headline Daily'', ''The Sun Daily'' was the first newspaper that initiated a price-cutting campaign as a response. On October 19, 2005, The Oriental Daily Group followed suit by cutting down the price of ''The Sun Daily'' to 50% from $6 to $3.
After the launch of the two new free papers, ''Sing Tao Daily's'' advertising revenue dropped by 12% in August , while ''Ming Pao Daily News'' and ''Sing Pao Daily News'' also suffered from a reduction in advertising revenues of 7% and 5% respectively.
Nevertheless, research figures indicate that the majority of free newspaper readers are 'new' readers or readers of both paid and free papers. The research concludes that even though the launch of free newspapers seems to have a negative causal effect on single copy sales of paid newspapers, the overall effect on readership and choices of newspapers might not be detrimental.
Also, it is suggested that readers who buy a paper everyday for its style and reputation are unlikely to change. Free newspapers would only lead to the repositioning or position enhancement of an individual newspaper. Free newspapers focus on the low-end market, while the priced newspapers target the middle-income class and professionals.
An obstacle to human traffic
The Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association suggested that the free distribution of ''Headline Daily'' outside MTR stations might affect the smoothness of human flow along the passageways. The Association suggested that Sing Tao News Corporation should improve the method of distribution and requested the government to interfere and deal with the problem seriously.
Moreover, some critics also think that free distribution may lead to greater wastage of paper. For example, a family with a few sets of free newspapers might end up throwing all of them into the dustbin directly without using them for other purposes as they did not pay for the newspapers. According to Friends of the Earth, on average, only 32% of newspaper-readers will dump their unwanted newspapers into recycle boxes. Since there are 500,000 issues of ''Headline Daily'' published every Monday to Friday, the wastage of paper and disposal problems may contribute significantly to the worsening of Hong Kong's pollution.
*'''' - ''The Standard'', Mark Lee.
*''''- ''The Standard'', Wong Ka-chun.
*'''' - '''', Frederick Yeung.
*'''' - ''Asia Review'', James Borton.
*'''' - ''JINN'', Coral Hui.