Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 14 News List

Magazines get a good read on foreigners

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

"We're set on making it a viable business opportunity," publisher Reese Richards said.

Taichung Voice, which celebrated its second anniversary last week, is topics-oriented and publishes 2,000 bilingual issues each month. Next month's theme will be animals. For submissions, send an e-mail to editor@thetaichungvoice.com.

"What we're ultimately trying to do is help the expats learn about the Taiwanese and Taiwanese culture, and shed some light on the expat culture to the Taiwanese," said publisher Lance Carroll.

Taiwan's English-language literary journal, Pressed, which also operates out of Taichung, is still accepting stories for its September issue. Pressed publishes 3,500 copies twice a year and relies on donations, not advertisements. For submissions, e-mail pressed@asia.com.

"The freedom that people have here is overwhelming, but the people who actually take advantage of it are few and far between," said publisher Joel McCaffrey. "We're trying to network those people."

Will these magazines become lasting insti-tutions? Publishers said they either plan on sticking it out or making their magazines viable after they've left, but similar operations have come and gone. Taipei-based That (那個) and Tainan-based Bunk both made a splash several years ago but subsequently ceased publication.

"This business has a very high turnover rate," said Courtney Donovan Smith, co-publisher of the Compass Group of Media Properties. "It's a very capital-intensive business with low margins, and it takes quite a while to build a good solid readership base."

Compass started in 1994 as a newsletter for Taichung's American Chamber of Commerce. The company separated in 1998 and now publishes monthly bilingual entertainment guides for the Taichung area (Compass), the south (FYI South) and Taipei (Taiwan Fun). Each issue has a print run of 30,000 to 50,000 copies and most readers are Taiwanese. The Web site, www.taiwanfun.com, generated around 1.5 million to 2 million page views last month.

Smith said that an expat magazine can survive indefinitely as long as it maintains a small print run, does not pay for content and if its publishers are willing to occasionally lose money. "When you keep your scale small, it's not such a big deal. But once you get to a certain stage then you need to worry about all the taxes and legal issues." Publishing in Chinese attracts the attention of the authorities, and Compass publishers think twice about publishing stories that mention alcohol, tobacco products or make anything that can be construed as a health claim.

It wasn't until 2000 that Compass grew large enough to enable the company to hire staff. They now employ a dozen, in addition to 30 to 50 freelance translators, writers and photographers.

How did they survive? "Probably because we're stupid. Basically we just stuck with it," Smith said.

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