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Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 18 News List

Taiwan says hello to tomorrow

With a range of projects in the pipeline, PC home Online has moved successfully from the cradle of its publishing parent into the brave new world of e-business

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jan Hung-tze, PC home Online publisher and chief executive says that the world first's online Chinese-language newspaper came about through sheer enthusiasm.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

When PC home Online and The Journalist Magazine teamed up to launch the world's first online Chinese language newspaper, The Tomorrow Times (明日報), people thought they were crazy.

They planned to build the entire Web site, hire 200 journalists from existing Taipei news services, and set up an office for the paper all in a short 5 months.

According to PC home Online's publisher and CEO, Jan Hung-tze (詹宏志), the project came together through sheer enthusiasm.

Reporters flocked to the Tomorrow Times, he said, because they wanted to join the Internet world. Although the new online paper had hoped to hire 50 experienced journalists and 150 rookies, Taipei journalists were so eager to join the online venture that Jan ended up with 200 veterans.

"The reporters came because they all believed Internet papers are the future, so they wanted to try it," said Jan.

This glut of experienced reporters has contributed much to the paper's success.

With updates every hour, the paper relies on these professionals to keep contact with sources and get the best news, fast.

Jan said Taiwan's presidential election gave his team its first chance to shine.

"The presidential election really propelled us [Tomorrow Times] into people's daily lives," says Jan. "They may have been reluctant to try an online paper before that, but once they saw hourly updates, they stayed." People throughout Taiwan went to the Tomorrow Times' Web site for the hourly updates. Page views shot up to 1.8 million per day during the election period, and they haven't come down since. Jan predicts that at its current pace, the Tomorrow Times will reach five million page views per day within the next six months.

"If we surpass five million or more, I think this paper will be very valuable," he says. Like most new Internet ventures, the Tomorrow Times is a money-losing operation.

According to Jan, advertising revenues will bring in NT$90 million for the online paper this year, but that falls far short of covering expenses. He's not worried. He expected the paper to lose money for its first three years. Jan believes that by February 2003, Taiwan and even Hong Kong and China will all be logging on to ttimes.com.tw

Publishing heritage

The success of Tomorrow Times is just one of many triumphs in the history of PC home Online, a company born from the more traditional publishing industry.

Originally, PC home Online grew out of PC home Publications, a magazine publishing company with a range of computer-related titles. Today, however `Publications' and `Online' are separate businesses, in much the same way as American Online (AOL) and Time Warner are moving to split their operations.

In a recent announcement AOL Time Warner outline plans to have Time Warner continue its work in developing content such as movies, TV shows and magazines, while AOL would take care of online development.

PC home Publications, like Time Warner, develops content through its magazine business, and PC home Online develops Internet Web sites and solutions such as software.

Under that division, `Online' has moved aggressively into the Net since it separated from its parent company in 1998.

Jan says `Online' operates as "one horizontal and several verticals." The portal site, todo.com.tw, being the horizontal and thus the focal point, serves to attract Web-surfers, with all sites referring back to it.

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