Learning lessons from the end of a media era
Published: Dec 26, 2013 06:18 PM

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Shanghai Evening Post will cease publication from January 1, 2014, just two months after the Shanghai government's announcement of the merger of the city's two leading print news groups.

The closure of the Post has been seen as the first cut in the newly established Shanghai United Media Group (SUMG), due to overcapacity in the city's media industry. It's a pity to see a newspaper die at the young age of 14.

It's a heavy blow to the industry and journalists nationwide. From reports and opinions published on both traditional media and social networking platforms, we learned that the Post isn't as competitive as its previous rival and now stablemate, the 84-year-old Xinmin Evening News. Because of the sharp decline in advertising revenue, the Post barely managed to make ends meet in 2013. It has over 300 staff, of which 130 are editorial and 110 management.

The closure is an adjustment to the industry structure, which is part of the grand reform plan for SUMG, according to the editor in chief of the Post.

It strikes an alarming chime for the traditional media industry. How to be competitive and avoid being knocked out is something that people have to keep in mind at all times. I have to say that it's natural for the Post to lose to the Xinmin Evening News after looking into their history a bit more.

The Xinmin Evening News used to be the country's most profitable newspaper, with a daily circulation of more than 2 million in the 1990s when there were not so many other newspapers in the city. There were several columns readers appreciated a lot. It was once a common sight to see Shanghainese people wait in line before newsstands at about 3 pm for the newly printed newspaper to be delivered. We can only imagine how hard the paper's staff worked to win this kind of popularity with both readers and advertisers.

The Post was established in 1999, when the whole country was experiencing a period of fast development in many areas. Many industries were willing to burn money to promote their services or products. Thus it wasn't hard for the traditional media to attract advertisers. The Post was born at a good time and earned some easy money taking advantage of the city's fast-track development. The Evening News was definitely challenged by the Post. But it strived to maintain its daily circulation at above 1 million, which it does even to this day. The Xinmin Evening News has very loyal readers who still like to read the newspaper even if they have access to the Internet and satellite TV. The Post lacked such a loyal readership.

I would say that the closure of the Shanghai Evening Post is in fact a simple case of the survival of the fittest. This is seen not only in the traditional media industry, but also the new media industry and all other fields.

Ancient Chinese wisdom teaches us to be mindful of potential danger and stay prepared against adversities in times of peace. People should always be aware of the situation around and make active adjustments accordingly. The situation includes the grand background of the industry, and of the company you are serving and also the advantage and disadvantage to you.

No official information regarding the fate of the Post's staff has been issued yet, although rumors from so-called insiders are flying. Those who have done a good job needn't worry. It's never hard for an excellent person to find a good job. But those whose performance has been mediocre will face a tough time. They have to face losing the iron rice bowl that once fed them.

I have to say as a responsible individual, one can't always be passive by letting your life be arranged by others. You are the person more responsible for your fate than anybody else. Journalists can say that it's not their fault to have the newspaper close its door. But it's your fault that you lack the foresight and awareness to judge the situation.

It's necessary to take precautions before it's too late.

At the beginning of a new year, it's common for people to seriously consider where they are in their career.

The market economy works with a supply and demand balance in a two-way choice system. Every responsible individual should evaluate himself or herself and their company and industry at the year-end. Research and analysis is necessary to help you decide whether to stay in your current position or find a new way.

Even if you choose to stay, you have a reason to convince yourself to enjoy the current job instead of just killing time in the office. If your application to another longed-for position in another company is denied, then find the problem with yourself and try to solve it and improve yourself so as to be more competitive next time. Otherwise, if one day, your company has to stop business, how can you survive?

This also applies to company executives, who should always be mindful about not letting their companies get knocked out by competitors. There will be the inevitable first cut, second, and third cut in the reform tide, but still there will be successful wave riders. We can be the current leaders.

The author is the managing editor of Global Times Metro Shanghai.