BusinessWeek magazine began publishing an Asian edition in August and Fortune is launching an Asian version in January. Meanwhile, Asia, Inc., a monthly business magazine published in Hong Kong since 1992, is going biweekly next year and has named Jim Rohwer, a former executive editor of The Economist, as editor and publisher. Only Forbes-which publishes the Japanese language Nihonban-has no plans to single out Asia with a separate English language edition.
But one close observer said the increased competition will lead to a shake-out. Already, English language business readers in Asia have several options, among them The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Far Eastern Economic Review and for TV viewers, Asia Business News and CNBC Asia.
Two years ago, Fortune withdrew its Asian correspondents and began parachuting in journalists to cover Asian news. Circulation slid in Asia to 61,029 for the first half of 1996, from 61,666 six months earlier, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation while LNA International reported that ad pages in Asia slipped from 912 in the last six months of 1995 to 544 pages for the first half of 1996.
With the Asian edition in its sights, Fortune has reopened its Hong Kong bureau and is starting a Singapore bureau and adding a third journalist in Tokyo. The Asian staff will produce up to eight extra pages of local business information each issue for the new edition. Covers are also being tailored for the Asian edition. For instance, last month Bill Gates made the Asian edition cover while Michael Milken starred in the worldwide Fortune.
A BOLD `BUSINESSWEEK'
Separately, Fortune is testing a Chinese-language edition starting this month. The publication will go to quarterly frequency next year. In a previous experience with local-language publishing, Fortune started and closed French and German-language editions several years ago.
Gearing up, Fortune is increasing its Asian ad sales staff, based in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, from five to eight, led by Singapore-based Andrew Butcher, publisher of Fortune's Asian edition. A one-time, four-color page in the Asian edition costs $9,200 but rates are expected to go up by 4%-6% for 1997, Mr. Butcher said.
At BusinessWeek, the new Asian edition devotes several more pages to Asian topics, including the cover, four to five lead pages and Asian-related stories on finance, marketing and corporate strategies, according to Robert Dowling, assistant managing editor in New York.
In January, BusinessWeek's Asian rate base will be upped to 56,000 from the current 45,000. BusinessWeek is charging $10,900 for a one-time, four-color ad page in 1997. Harold Berry, Singapore-based VP/managing director Asia, said that BusinessWeek is opening a two-person Singapore sales office in January 1997 and will add a second salesperson next year to the Hong Kong office opened in July.
In August, BusinessWeek began printing the Asian edition in Singapore, a move that allows for speedier delivery and easier customization of editorial pages for Asia, said Mr. Berry. Meanwhile, BusinessWeek continues a Chinese-language edition-which it has published for 10 years-for the mainland.
At Asia, Inc. in Hong Kong, Managing Editor William Mellor is bullish about prospects for the publication owned by Thai entrepreneur Sondhi Limthongkul. "We are the only business magazine in Asia written by Asians and Asian business specialists," said Mr. Mellor.
The Bangkok- and Hong Kong-based Manager Group, which last year began publishing the first Asian-owned regional daily newspaper, Asia Times, has restructured. In addition to Mr. Rohwer's hiring, Gary E. Knell, an executive VP at the Children's Television Workshop in New York, has been appointed executive VP and managing director of the Manager International Group. Former publisher Peter Kennedy has left the company.
Asia, Inc. has a primarily controlled circulation of 80,000 and charges a one-time rate of $11,500 for a full page, four color ad.
Separately, Western business publishers who want to expand in Asia are finding that India is still off limits, at least for local editions. The Indian government has reviewed a 1956 law prohibiting foreign print media from publishing in India-and decided to keep the ban. The decision scuppers the Financial Times' hopes of forming a joint-venture with Anand Patrika Bazar Group, a Calcutta-based magazine and newspaper pubisher, to launch the Financial Times in India.
Since the Indian ban only applies to foreign equity in print titles published in India, consumer titles have been able to enter the market with licensing agreements. Hearst Magazines International's Cosmopolitan launched in September under license to New Delhi-based Living Media (India) and Hachette Filipacchi's Elle is on the verge of a launch, by licensee Ogaan Publications, New Delhi.
Contributing: Mir Maqbool Alam Khan, Bombay.