Hong Kong political news site House News closes down amid ‘fear’ and weak ad sales

Tony Tsoi's farewell post on House News

Tony Tsoi’s farewell post on House News

House News, a two year-old pro-democracy news website in Hong Kong, has abruptly closed down.

Founder Tony Tsoi said via a farewell memo on the website that he was pulling the plug because of weak advertising support, and “fear” of the repercussions of publishing anti-Beijing news and comment.

He and his family had been affected by what he described as “white terror” in Hong Kong society as pro-democracy supporters have been followed and had their pasts investigated. Tsoi is a high-profile supporter of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central pro-democracy movement.

Since he posted the note on House News’ Facebook page yesterday, it has been shared more than 10,300 times.

Many brands had shied away from the site because of its critical stance towards the government and Beijing, he wrote. Clients included PCCW-HKT, Audi, Sony Mobile, CLP, HKTDC and IBM – but advertising support proved too little too late.

Since it launched in 2012, the site never managed to break even, despite impressive traffic figures.

He said: “From a business point of view, I really can’t see the dawn of House News … Not only have the core values of Hong Kong been twisted, the market is twisted as well,” he said.

In a post on Facebook, Kevin Huang, boss of ad sales network Pixel Media, which handled House News’ advertising, said the closure marked a “sad day for Hong Kong’s media scene”, and that he had thought the news was a hoax when he first heard it.

The site’s page views, unique users and Facebook fans have increased by 108 per cent, 277 per cent and 258 per cent, respectively, over the past 12 months, according to figures from Pixel. Unique users averaged at around 300,000 a month.

Huang told Mumbrella that advertising sales had “increased steadily” in the 12 months that ads had been running on the site.


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