Print Isn't Dead: New York Times Debuts Publication for Chinese Travelers

It's a City Guide to New York, and the Pilot Issue Sold Out Its Ad Space

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The Times' new Chinese-language city guide.
The Times' new Chinese-language city guide.
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The New York Times has launched a new print publication, a free city guide targeting Chinese travelers to New York. The pilot issue sold out its ad space, mainly to luxury brands that want to reach China's big spenders in a city they consider a shopping mecca.

The Chinese-language guide, called "City Guide/New York," has a global distribution of 210,000. The first issue came out in December, with 36 pages, 15 of them ads for brands including Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bloomingdale's, Mont Blanc, The Peninsula hotel and One Riverside Park, a luxury tower being built in Manhattan. This year's three issues are slated for April 1, Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, with each release timed ahead of a major period for Chinese travel, said Craig S. Smith, the Times' managing director for China.

The new publication was conceived amid a tough reality: The Times has faced big setbacks with its Chinese-language online ventures, and now it's trying print.

China's Great Firewall has largely sealed off access to readers in the mainland for two-and-a-half years. The government clamped down on both the paper's English- and Chinese-language sites following a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the wealth of the family of then-Premier Wen Jiabao. (Some people circumvent the internet restrictions, and Mr. Smith said readership for the Chinese sites is now back to where it was at the time the blockage started. Advertising "certainly took a dip but is coming back," he said.)

Despite those troubles, the China-facing site maintains a staff of about 30 for the Chinese-language web presence, which is mostly articles translated from the Times.

"We have all this content and we want to generate revenue with it, so we started looking at other kinds of products we can use the content for," Mr. Smith said. "While everyone says print is dead, we discovered that in fact there's still a lot of advertiser interest in Chinese-language print publications of the quality and standard of The New York Times."

The newspaper also just stimulated advertisers' appetites with another print product: the redesigned New York Times Magazine. The Chinese-language guide targets Chinese consumers in a favorite shopping locale. Western luxury goods are expensive in China because of taxes and tariffs, and shoppers prefer to buy abroad. A 2014 study from Bain and Co. said that Chinese consumers "are the top and fastest-growing nationality for luxury, spending abroad more than three times what they spend locally."

The city guide is being distributed to travel agencies, hotels and airport lounges in Asia that are a departure point for Chinese tourists heading to the U.S., as well as to New York hotels with many Chinese guests, the Times said. The guide will also be inserted into the New York edition of The World Journal, the Chinese-language daily.

The first issue featured listings, as well as a piece by restaurant critic Pete Wells and another by Ruth La Ferla about a collaboration between H&M and artist Jeff Koons. "It's an editorial project, not an advertorial project, with independent content from The New York Times about New York," Mr. Smith said.

The guide is available online at cn.nytguide.com, so people can access listings, maps and other features through mobile devices while touring New York. As of Wednesday, the site was accessible within mainland China as well.