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Media and Advertising

Wait, what's the name of this magazine again?

Try your hand at identifying magazines

So you want to start a new magazine in China. By all accounts, a publication license, or kanhao (刊号), can be notoriously difficult to obtain, especially for subjects that would attract a decent reading audience. What do you do?

Option one is to do without a license, or publish under a fake number. You may last for a while, but sooner or later you'll be forced out of the market — especially if you prove popular. Option two is to somehow obtain a genuine publication license from someone who's not using theirs. Dealing in publication numbers is frowned upon, so you'll probably end up paying to rent the license and title for use as a wrapper around your own content. And you'll have to worry about branding issues when your urban lifestyle magazine is published as Gansu Geology Review.

A third option is to partner with an existing publication and bring out your new magazine under their license, as a sort of "sister publication" arrangement. However, the "one number, two publications" (一号二刊) system is also officially frowned upon, and it could create a nasty backlash if the original publication has a devoted following. In 2004, for example, the directors of Sanlian Bookstore thought it would be a good idea to bring out a new magazine — China Public Servant (中国公务员) — under the same registration as their Dushu (读书), one of the most respected literary journals in the country. The scandal that ensued is not something any publisher would welcome.

Yet when there are no other ways to publish legally, publishers will turn to these methods — they'll attempt to create an independent brand while doing their best to disguise their magazine's real identity. In an article for Prospect in which he recounts battles against the regulators to create the that's family of magazines, Mark Kitto writes:

The next partnership, with the official title of "China Light Industry" across the foot of our cover in almost invisible grey letters, lasted another three months. But we kept the name that's on the top.

Even something as simple as how a name appears on the cover can cause problems if the authorities are after your magazine — the premiere issue of the Chinese Rolling Stone (actually issue 240 of 音像世界), for example, was faulted for the prominence of the Rolling Stone name on the cover, among other things. The magazine lives on, minus the English-language branding. But it's not just foreign joint ventures and expat rags that perform the name charade — a wide variety of domestic magazines publish under similar arrangements.

Take a look at Danwei's gallery of newspaper and magazine covers: Who Was That Masked Magazine? Use and abuse of the kanhao system. These publications have disguised themselves — can you pick out their true names?

(Note: The layout of the gallery was tested in several popular browsers. Please let us know of any problems you may encounter — if you can, send a screenshot of the error to joel at danwei. Thanks.)

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There are currently 7 Comments for Wait, what's the name of this magazine again?.

Comments on Wait, what's the name of this magazine again?

What if someone was to make a magazine that would be given away for free, does one still require a kan hao?

Im thinking of creating a monthly magazine, for a paticular interest (not a city guide) and there seems to be little/no competition in this area. (as of yet)

As far as I know, yes.

The other way that I know of people can circumvent the magazine publishing numbe is to publish book series (以书代刊) instead. This has been seen especially among the semi-academic social science journals published by research institutes and ngos. Presumably, it is easier to purchase the book publishing licence number (书号) than the magazine number. As long as you'd like to pay the publisher for 20,000 yuan and the journals are not ostensibly anti the dear party, you may be able to obtain a book publishing licence and you could publish a quarterly journal or a four-serie book using one licence number. A known example is sannong zhongguo (三农中国).

Pine: you are quite right. That's going to be the next in the series - it doesn't strictly fall under the 刊号 issue, so I decided to treat it separately. It also presents a different problem for distribution.

I find it ironic. AV World Magazine is a music magazine that no one buy. They took material from foreign magazines such as Rolling Stone without paying for copyright. Since Rolling Stone cannot use the original name under AV World's kan hao, now they are published under AV World with some Rolling Stone material inside and claimed Rolling Stone lives on under AV World. Don't kid yourself! Now I assume AV World gets kan hao fee, keep their loser name, and can run Rolling Stone material legitimately! I also assume Rolling Stone in the US also gets license fee for give their material (since their name is of no use in China now) to a magazine that used to rip them off. So Who's actually paying for the kan hao screw up from Redgate Media and Media2U? The shareholders of One Media Group?

to Stanley:
my best (and almost certain) guess is YES, and above all their HK partner Ming Pao (probably screwed up in turn by Peter Brack, former Time Inc. Asia executive who initiated the whole Redgate Media2U thing, and who had been "hired" by Ming Pao to play the go between with Western publishers -it started with a few UK or US publishers for T3, Top Gear, Popular Science, already playing with fire with several titles in Beijing under the same ISSN nbr, titles which couldn't be seen anywhere anyway ...before signing up with Rolling Stone for Pop China; so the GAPP had them in their line of fire already).
Finally, when you think about it, if everythings works well, it is the advertisers who are screwed up...
The whole idea apparently here concerning the Ming Pao-Brack team and their look-alikes, because it was a trend 2-3 years ago in HK (I have several other very similar examples: Newsweek with an obscur IT company,etc. -SCMP with Maxim is also in the same league-), was to get listed in HK, even for obscur companies, or improve your stock, on the basis of some licensee contracts with well known foreign magazine brands for the PRC (even with almost no print media business or experience within the PRC). At the time, thanks to booming ad markets in Pop China (even during the world ad recession 2-3 years ago), an IPO with the magic words "media" and "(Pop) China" was sure to bring you HKD 50 million or more... I hope analysts have learned or will learn... not sure (note that the big brands, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, etc. didn't care at first because the license fee is usually quite high, let's say RMB 1 million or more every year... but big guys in London or NY may start realizing that in dealing with HK compradores messing up as usual in turn with the GAPP they are damaging their image) [I stop here, could write for hours about that...]

To Pine and Joel:
there are foreign publishers who tried to publish magazines with ISBN numbers (for books, instead of ISSNs for magazines), a few years ago in Pop China; they were the "partworks" (i.e. encyclopedias broken into monthly pieces, with gifts, an extraordinary market in Southern Europe today, expanding quickly up North); but they stopped; it was a bit of a costly nightmare to find ISBN numbers every month...
(and it is hard to make money in this business if you can't rely on a very efficient and global distribution system, which doesn't exist in Pop China) [I stop here, could write hours about that...]

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