At a Glance
• Print media reach into mobile market
• E-book stores upbeat about future
• Terrestrial TV goes digital
Taiwan’s media enjoy extensive press freedom and there is intense competition within and among the diverse media sectors. However, the traditional media are fast losing ground to the rapidly growing digital media as changing consumer habits continue to alter the media and advertising landscape.
Instead of resisting the tide, many newspapers and magazines have drawn on Taiwan’s strengths in information and communications technologies, offering digital options through the Internet and mobile applications to distribute news and other content. E-publishing is injecting fresh vitality into the book industry as e-book stores are launched and e-readers are readily available at affordable prices. The multitude of choices has resulted in a dramatic increase of accessible information free of time and space constraints.
The digital shift is more significant in the television industry, largely because TV has a higher penetration rate than radio broadcasting and the print media. Terrestrial television has gone fully digital, while cable TV operations have moved into high gear in the race to provide digital programming and defend market share.
In Taiwan, the diversity of TV program offerings is the byproduct of a democratic system that allows for extensive freedom of speech and press. (Courtesy of Taiwan Review)
As of March 2012, there were 2,063 domestic news agencies nationwide, most of which focused on providing economic and financial intelligence to clients in Taiwan. The largest among them is the Central News Agency (CNA) 中央通訊社. Established as an arm of the Kuomintang 中國國民黨 in Guangzhou 廣州 in 1924 and relocated to Taiwan in 1949, it has been in operation longer than any other news outlet in the Republic of China. CAN used to serve as the ROC’s official state news agency. In 1996, however, it was reorganized as an autonomous newsgathering organization free of political interference in its reportage and editorial policymaking, though it is funded in part by the central government, and its top management is appointed by the Executive Yuan.
In recent years, CNA has rapidly extended its outreach by taking advantage of the Internet and digital technologies. With correspondents reporting from every city and county of Taiwan as well as from over 20 cities overseas, the agency provides domestic and international news in Chinese, English, Spanish and Japanese to media organizations worldwide. Among its other Internet operations are a global business information service, a news network serving the needs of Taiwanese businesspeople in mainland China, and a website catering to clients in Hong Kong and Macau.
The agency operates an online photo sales platform, the largest of its kind in Taiwan. It also provides audio news programs to radio stations and airlines, and news services to mobile phone users. Capitalizing on its worldwide newsgathering network, in 2010 CNA expanded into video news, furnishing clients with reports and video clips on a daily basis. In February 2011, it established a video news center. The general public can access CNA news stories in Chinese, English, Spanish and Japanese. The English-language edition, titled the Focus Taiwan News Channel, can be found at http://focustaiwan.tw.
Another prominent news agency, the China Economic News Service (CENS) 中國經濟通訊社, was founded in 1974 by the United Daily News Group 聯合報系 to provide overseas buyers with up-to-date business and economic news as well as contact and background information on Taiwanese suppliers. In addition, CENS publishes trade magazines in print and CD-ROM editions and facilitates domestic firms’ participation in overseas exhibitions.
Established in 1946 under the Ministry of National Defense, the Military News Agency (MNA) 軍事新聞通訊社 is the only domestic news agency that specializes in news about the ROC armed forces. Besides news releases and photos, MNA also provides video news reports.
According to The Nielsen Company, newspaper readership in Taiwan peaked at 76.3 percent in 1991 and has steadily declined since then. Its media survey for the first half of 2011 confirmed that print editions of newspapers continue to lag behind television and the Internet in terms of penetration rate. Newspapers have responded by going digital, delivering news to readers via websites and mobile devices such as phones and tablets. In a June 2011 survey, market survey company InsightXplorer 創市際市場研究顧問公司 found that 40 percent of people visited news websites once and 25.7 percent at least three times each day.
As of March 2012, Taiwan had 2,215 newspapers, but only a couple dozen are published on a daily basis and only a few have been able to sustain economically viable circulation and sales.
The Chinese-language Liberty Times 自由時報, the Apple Daily 蘋果日報, the United Daily News 聯合報 and theChina Times 中國時報 are Taiwan’s major dailies. (Unless otherwise indicated, newspapers and magazines mentioned below are Chinese-language publications.) According to a survey by Management Magazine 管理雜誌 in November 2011, The Liberty Times (27.5 percent) was considered by consumers to be the most visible brand newspaper for the sixth straight year, followed by the Apple Daily (23.5 percent) and the United Daily News (14.2 percent).
The Liberty Times, which began operations in 1988, is the only local newspaper to have joined the ROC branch of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) 中華民國發行公信會 (which conducts surveys of newspaper and magazine circulation primarily as reference for advertisers). According to ABC’s data, the paper had an average daily circulation of over 651,000 in 2011, representing the largest independently certified circulation among newspapers in Taiwan that year.
The debut of the Apple Daily in 2003 shook up the newspaper market by offering more excitement. Like its parent tabloid-style paper of the same name founded in Hong Kong in 1995 by Next Media Ltd. 壹傳媒有限公司, the Taiwan edition has carved out a niche by publishing intriguing accounts and photos of celebrities and figures in the worlds of politics, entertainment and sports. Its extensive use of graphics and issuance of breaking-news extras also contribute to its appeal. It enjoys a dominant share of the newsstand market and, according to a February 2012 study by Business Next 數位時代 magazine, is the most visited online news outlet in Taiwan.
Founded in 1951, the United Daily News continues to enjoy a loyal readership. Since September 2004, it has put out a supplement every Tuesday with articles from The New York Times, including a few with accompanying Chinese translation. Sister publications of the United Daily News include the Economic Daily News 經濟日報 and the United Evening News 聯合晚報, which has been Taiwan’s sole evening paper since 2005. The United Daily News Group also publishes the World Journal 世界日報, the most popular Chinese-language newspaper in North America and Thailand.
Founded in 1950, the China Times has repositioned itself as an intellectually more sophisticated paper that provides in-depth analyses and extensive coverage of international affairs. It has extended its operations into electronic media, bringing under its umbrella the terrestrial TV station China Television Co. 中國電視公司 and satellite TV channel CTI Television, Inc. (CtiTV) 中天電視. It has also crossed over into the tourism business, offering culture- and history-oriented tours across the globe. Sister publications of the China Times include the Commercial Times 工商時報, the China Times Weekly 時報周刊 and the Want Daily 旺報, a newspaper launched in 2009 targeting Taiwanese readers interested in mainland Chinese business affairs.
Recent years have seen the rise of giveaway newspapers. Among them, Next Media’s tabloid the Sharp Daily 爽報, which shares news content with the Apple Daily, has a daily circulation of over 400,000. This figure could increase by 25 percent by July 2012 as it is now also distributed at hospitals in addition to rapid transit stations, convenience stores and chain restaurants islandwide. A second free daily, Upaper, published by the United Daily News Group, targets the more than 1.5 million daily Taipei Metro 臺北捷運 passengers. Despite a decline in overall newspaper advertising, the Sharp Daily and Upaper respectively enjoyed an estimated 30 and 20 percent growth in advertising revenue in 2011.
Of Taiwan’s specialized newspapers, the most widely read are those focusing on finance and the economy. The leading dailies in this category are the Commercial Times and the Economic Daily News. For foreign residents in Taiwan as well as Taiwanese wishing to keep abreast of world affairs, besides a multitude of foreign newspapers available at major bookstores, there are two locally published English print dailies to choose from—the Taipei Times and The China Post. The Taiwan News ended paper publication in September 2010 and is now only available via an online edition. Another exclusively online newspaper, Taiwan Today, is published in both English and Japanese seven days a week by the government.
With 8,918 periodicals (as of March 2012) catering to all sorts of readerships, one might reasonably conclude that Taiwan’s magazine industry is reaching saturation. Each year, however, has seen more magazines enter the market than bow out of it despite a decline in circulation.
In response to fierce rivalry within the industry as well as to sharp competition of Web-based and other media for advertising patronage, magazine publishers have been trying to create multiple streams of income instead of relying mainly on advertising. Commonly seen ways of diversifying revenue sources include charging for access to periodicals’ databases, partnering with government agencies or enterprises to organize events, and forming alliances with other types of media to promote products and services.
Market surveys show that magazines on finance and business management, news and current affairs as well as fashion are the most popular among Taiwan’s reading public. In particular, a survey sponsored by the Magazine Business Association of Taipei 台北市雜誌商業同業公會 indicates readers are more likely to purchase magazines on finance and management than fashion and news magazines. Print editions remain the popular choice, with purchases being made mostly at chain bookstores and convenience stores. Less than a quarter of consumers read magazines online, but this may change as publishers offer increasing access via mobile applications.
Leading periodicals on finance and business management include the Business Weekly 商業周刊, Business Today 今周刊, CommonWealth 天下雜誌, Smart 智富月刊 and Wealth 財訊雜誌, while Next Magazine 壹週刊, the China Times Weekly, the Ming Pao Weekly 明報周刊, the TVBS Weekly TVBS周刊 and the Global Views Monthly 遠見雜誌 are readers’ top choices for news and current affairs.
Though magazines have been losing audience share and advertising revenues to electronic media, Taiwan remains an attractive market for publishers of internationally known periodicals. Some, such as Time, Newsweek and The Economist, offer direct subscription services or distribute their publications through bookstores, while others publish Chinese-language editions in pursuit of a wider readership. The Chinese editions of fashion magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE and ViVi have long enjoyed top spots in Taiwan’s sales charts. Those of National Geographic magazine, science magazines such as Scientific American and Newton, as well as sports and leisure magazines such as Golf, XXL, TENNIS, and Car and Driver have also succeeded in carving out a niche in Taiwan’s magazine market.
The success of English-learning magazines is also a noteworthy feature of Taiwan’s media market. Studio Classroom 空中英語教室 and Let’s Talk in English 大家說英語, both associated with radio and TV programs, have ranked among the top 20 best-selling magazines for many years.
The ROC government publishes a number of foreign-language magazines in print and online formats that report on Taiwan. These include Taiwan Review (English), Taiwan aujourd’hui (French), Taiwan heute (German), Taivanskaia Panorama (Russian) and Taiwan Hoy (Spanish). Another periodical, Taiwan Panorama 台灣光華雜誌, is published in two editions featuring parallel texts, one with Chinese and English, the other with Chinese and Japanese. Taiwan Review celebrated its 60th anniversary in April 2011, while Taiwan Panorama celebrated its 35th year in print.
Since the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) system was implemented in Taiwan in 1989, the number of books appearing with ISBN codes has grown steadily, exceeding 40,000 each year since 2005 and reaching 42,623 in 2011.
The nation’s two largest chain booksellers, Kingstone 金石堂 and Eslite 誠品, as well as its most prominent online bookstore and biggest retailer, Books.com.tw 博客來, reported sales growth for 2011. Eslite saw its sales revenue rise 12 percent year-on-year to NT$11 billion (US$373.34 million). Books.com.tw enjoyed 16-percent sales increase to total 14 million volumes, a figure made possible with about 70 percent of its transactions involving pick-up from convenience stores.
As of March 2012, there were 14,343 book publishers registered in Taiwan. Apart from a score of large ones affiliated with media conglomerates and enjoying ample financial and marketing resources, the majority are small, independent firms with registered capital under NT$5 million (US$169,700). Most of the books are published by smaller publishers and the variety of titles has added to the range of content available in the market. Given that Taiwan’s population growth rate is approaching zero and its book-reading public numbers less than 20 million, new titles are experiencing shorter shelf lives and declining sales. Whereas books must sell between 5,000 and 20,000 copies to be profitable, most new titles struggle to sell out their typical first printing of 2,000 to 3,000 copies.
In addition to works of fiction, books on personal and career development as well as health and fitness have a wide appeal among Taiwanese readers, with translations of foreign books continuing to sell well in 2011. The top-selling publication was the translation of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; other translations that made the top 10 best-seller list included Rhonda Byrne’s The Power, Stuart Diamont’s Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World and Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? In Taiwan’s book market, a bestseller is defined as one that quickly sells around 100,000 copies.
About 28 percent of new titles published annually are translations. The United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, mainland China and South Korea are the main sources for book licensing, while mainland China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and other Asian countries are the top buyers of publication rights for books copyrighted in Taiwan. The inward flow of publication licenses for translated works is greater than the outward flow.
Domestic publishers who have gained a foothold in overseas markets specialize in illustrated books and children’s books, such as Grimm Press 格林文化 and Heryin Books 和英文化. Writer-illustrator Jimmy Liao’s 幾米 works have been translated into a dozen languages and sold across North America and Europe. And, since Guji Guji made it to The New York Times best-seller list in 2005, the English versions of Chen Chih-yuan’s 陳致元 picture books have won widespread international acclaim, including children’s book awards in the United States and Japan. His work, Artie and Julie 阿迪和朱莉, was selected by the U.S. National Council of Teachers of English as one of the 10 most notable children’s books of 2009.
The digital publishing industry enjoyed an annual average growth rate of 15 percent over the past five years, reaching an estimated value of NT$600 billion (US$20.36 billion) in 2011. Publishers have become increasingly optimistic about the future of the e-book market, as private-sector interest in developing digital content has increased, e-book platforms have been launched and e-reading devices are available at affordable prices.
Aiming to boost development of e-publishing, the Executive Yuan in August 2009 unveiled the Digital Publishing Industry Development Strategy and Action Plan 數位出版產業發展策略及行動計畫, which grants subsidies to developers and producers of related technologies, products and services over a five-year period. With a budget of NT$2.13 billion (US$72.29 million), its goals are to establish two or three open platforms that offer digital publications compatible with any kind of e-reader, provide at least 100,000 Chinese-language e-book titles, and boost the combined e-publishing industry’s output value to NT$100 billion (US$3.39 billion) by 2013.
In coordination with this plan, the government allocated funding of NT$30 million (US$948,107) to 10 businesses in 2010 and NT$23.96 million (US$813,196) to eight businesses in 2011 to subsidize their sharing of digital know-how with small and medium-sized publishers. This led to the digitization of 4,335 books by 270 publishers during the two-year period. As to digital publication format, domestic content providers have adopted the EPUB standard set by the International Digital Publishing Forum.
Several e-book platforms have been established in the past three years by major telecommunications service providers in cooperation with local publishers. Among the leading e-book stores is Hami Bookstore Hami 書城, launched in October 2009 by mobile service provider Chunghwa Telecom 中華電信. With a selection of 20,000 e-books from over 250 publishing partners, Hami saw its sales revenue double in 2011 with 3.5 million downloads and anticipates its total downloads to exceed five million in 2012. Joining the market in July 2010 was eBook Town 遠傳e書城, an affiliate of Far EasTone Telecommunications 遠傳電信, which foresees a 50-percent growth in revenue in 2012 and an addition of another 10,000 e-books to its current collection of 17,000 e-books. Established in November 2010 by Taiwan Mobile 台灣大哥大, myBook myBook 書城 offers titles from more than 100 publishers as well as an audio publication inventory that includes language learning and business management.
Platforms operating on a smaller scale include Book11.com 拾一本數位文化, launched January 2010 and specializing in Japanese comics; and eBOOKs.popo.tw POPO數位書城, which was founded in September 2011 and currently offers about 1,500 books.
In addition to mobile reading devices, several e-book readers are available on the market. Examples include the next-generation 5.7-inch Jin Yong Reader 金庸機 featuring mirasol display technology that was unveiled at the 2012 Taipei International Book Exhibition by Qualcomm MEMS Technologies and Koobe 遠通科技; the EZRead Touch featuring a 6-inch grayscale touchscreen display launched in October 2011 by Greenbook 綠林資訊; and the 9-inch touch-screen Eee Reader from ASUSTeK Computer 華碩電腦.
As of March 2012, Taiwan had 171 radio stations. Of these, 142 began operation only after 1993, when media liberalization resulted in the release of more radio frequencies for commercial use. This sharp increase in the number of stations, however, has been accompanied by a declining number of listeners. Despite facing a challenging future, radio broadcasting continues to maintain a viable share of the media market. It is a great companion for drivers and plays a vital role in providing news when a major disaster occurs. It also serves English-language learning purposes, with 33 local stations receiving government funding totaling NT$8.37 million (US$284,075) to produce English-language programs in 2011.
Through segmentation of the listening public, radio stations—most of which are medium- and low-power—have created their own niche markets, providing content targeted at their respective regions. Surveys have found that music stations are the most popular, primarily attracting people in their 20s. In second and third places are variety stations and news stations, which are favorites among teenagers and male motorists, respectively. Compared to day broadcasts, evening programs draw a higher number of urban listeners.
Radio Taiwan International (RTI) 中央廣播電台, funded by the government, creates and broadcasts programs to regions around the world in 13 languages, highlighting Taiwan’s culture, society, and political and economic affairs. While most radio programs are in Mandarin or Holo 河洛語, some are produced in Hakka 客語, the Austronesian languages of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, English and other foreign languages (see Chapter 2, “People and Language”). For its in-depth coverage of Taiwan’s immigrant issues, RTI was invited in 2011 to participate in the Radio 1812 initiative by the nongovernmental organization “December 18.” This United Nations-sponsored online platform brings together migrant groups and radio stations from around the world to make, broadcast and share programs highlighting the achievements and concerns of migrants worldwide.
International Community Radio Taipei 台北國際社區廣播電台—ICRT—is the island’s only predominantly English-language radio station, and broadcasts talk shows, news reports and Western pop music. In addition, a dozen other radio stations air programs in English, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese, providing tens of thousands of Southeast Asians living in Taiwan with practical information about Taiwan, local labor regulations and news from their homelands.
Among Taiwan’s seven nonprofit, public service radio stations are National Education Radio 國立教育廣播電台, which primarily offers educational and language-learning programs, and the Police Radio Station 警察廣播電台, which specializes in round-the-clock traffic and news reports, helping people recover belongings left in taxis and facilitating rescue and disaster relief efforts.
Taiwan’s television industry dates back half a century to 1962. In its first three decades, TV broadcasting was monopolized by three terrestrial stations—Taiwan Television Enterprise 臺灣電視公司, the Chinese Television System (CTS) 中華電視公司 and China Television Co. The industry has become highly diversified since 1993, when multi-channel cable and satellite television system operators and content providers officially entered the market. Competition further intensified with the launching of two additional terrestrial broadcasters—Formosa Television 民間全民電視公司 in 1997 and the Public Television Service (PTS) in 1998.
The Taiwan Public Television Service Foundation 公共電視文化事業基金會 is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve the public interest, uplift national broadcasting standards, as well as safeguard freedom of expression and access to knowledge while enhancing cultural and educational development in Taiwan. Funded by the government and the private sector, it is mandated to operate as an independent institution free of political interference.
In 2006, the Taiwan Broadcasting System 臺灣公共廣播電視集團 was established to become the umbrella organization for several publicly funded television enterprises, including PTS, CTS, Taiwan Indigenous Television 原住民族電視台 (TITV), Hakka TV 客家電視 and Taiwan Macroview TV 臺灣宏觀電視, which produces and distributes Chinese-language programs about Taiwan worldwide. This array of programming resources is designed to cater to audiences often overlooked by commercial television, such as minority groups, children, senior citizens and the hearing-impaired.
The five terrestrial TV stations had been broadcasting in both digital and analog for a number of years. Starting in May 2012, the National Communications Commission (NCC) 國家通訊傳播委員會 oversaw a nationwide transition to digital broadcasting leading to a shutdown of all analog terrestrial TV signals by June. The changeover has freed up bandwidth and facilitates high-definition content-rich television programming. To this end, the government had provided NT$150 million (US$5.09 million) to NT$220 million (US$7.47 million) each year since 2006 to fund the production of high-quality high-definition digital programs.
As of March 2012, a total of 103 satellite broadcasting program providers offered 262 satellite channels. The term “satellite broadcasting business” as used in Taiwan’s Satellite Broadcasting Act 衛星廣播電視法 designates both retail direct broadcast satellite platform operators and wholesale cable television linear channel content providers distributing their programming via satellite to cable television system operators. Cable TV is overwhelmingly preferred to terrestrial television, as Taiwan’s mountainous terrain and high-rises in urban areas often result in poor reception.
NCC statistics show that as of the end of 2011, cable television had an analog household penetration rate of 62.82 percent with 5,061,737 subscribers. Cable television system operators—of which there were a total of 62 as of March 2012—typically offer subscribers a fixed package of over 90 analog channels at a monthly rate capped by the regulatory authorities at NT$600 (US$20). They adhere to more or less the same scheme for allocating channel numbers in accordance with different programming categories while ensuring access to public-interest programming.
According to a March 2011 survey by EOLembrain 東方快線網絡市調, movies are the most popular among television viewers in Taiwan, followed in order by news broadcasts, variety and entertainment programs, food and travel shows, and dramas. Widely carried foreign film channels, all of which provide Chinese subtitles, include HBO (Home Box Office), Cinemax and Star Movies. The most watched domestic news channels include TVBS-N, SET 三立, CtiTV and ETTV 東森, known for their large fleets of satellite newsgathering vehicles for live coverage of important events and breaking news. Imports of Japanese drama, variety and entertainment programs carry a stronger appeal than Taiwanese and Korean productions.
While the bulk of domestically produced news programs are in Mandarin, SET operates an all-Holo channel; Hakka TV broadcasts in the Hakka language; and TITV serves Taiwan’s indigenous communities.
In July 2011, the NCC approved the application of Next TV Broadcasting, Ltd. 壹傳媒電視廣播股份有限公司 for a license to operate an all-news channel on cable-TV-like platforms. In a first, the firm is broadcasting the channel, called Next TV 壹電視, via the Internet by cooperating with local telecom operators. The channel has already become well-known for using animation in its news reports. In 2012, Next TV’s news channel, along with its movie channel, began appearing on cable television systems across Taiwan.
Live telecasts of local and foreign baseball and basketball league games, along with a wide selection of other sports programming, are available on ESPN Star Sports 衛視體育台, ESPN and Videoland Sports 緯來體育台. Widely carried foreign-origin children’s channels, meanwhile, include the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Network.
The NCC is requiring the cable TV industry to move toward full digitization and is allowing competition for subscribers over a greater number of service areas than before. An amendment to the Cable Radio and Television Act approved by the Executive Yuan and pending legislative approval would, in addition to revising provisions promoting cable television digitization, lift the previous limitation of cable system operators to their licensed franchise areas in order to spur competition in areas where market structures were previously monopolistic. The NCC is also reserving the power to set cable television subscription fees at the central government level, where in the past local authorities were able to set caps on analog subscription rates in their respective service areas.
Cable system operators have expressed support for the government’s call for full digitization by 2014. As of February 2012, 85 percent of cable headends and 89.8 percent of cable transmission networks had been replaced with digital systems. Yet despite these efforts, the digital TV subscription rate had remained low, reaching only 11.28 percent (570,727 households) of cable TV customers in December 2011.
An increasing variety of digital video programming is also available via the Internet. Chunghwa Telecom, for instance, operates an Internet Protocol television platform known as MOD (Multimedia on Demand). Pay-per-view movies and other programs are offered in addition to a basic channel package.