This week saw two significant changes to Taiwan’s English-language newspapers. The first was the announcement by the Taiwan News on Tuesday that it would cease publishing a print edition and only be available online.
The paper, established in 1949 as the China News, changed its name to Taiwan News after it was purchased by the I-Mei Corporation in 1999. In January 2008 it changed from a broadsheet to a tabloid format. The final issue was published today. Here’s a quote from the Taiwan News’ own report:
During a press conference yesterday, Taiwan News President Jack Wong announced that the 62-year old newspaper is going digital.
“The unthinkable is finally upon us,” said Wong. “On Tuesday, Sept. 28, Taiwan News will launch the previously impossible integration of text, color images, and sound in a digital multimedia format. It will be the world’s first and log-on is for free.”
In response to the recent global trend toward digital publishing, Taiwan News has switched to an all-online format. “The whole world will witness an electronic newspaper that leaves all others behind in its digital technology and multi-media capabilities,” added Wong.
Unfortunately what I have seen of the Taiwan News multimedia format so far has left me unimpressed. The url www.etaiwannews.com currently leads to a Flash page complete with pictures of women inviting you to “Touch Me Please!” After watching a painful animation of the woman dancing you can finally reach the online version of the newspaper. It is all in Flash complete with background music.
That is just the start of the problems. The Flash website doesn’t allow you to link to specific articles. New articles aren’t being indexed by Google News. A search for taiwan source:etaiwan_news on Google News shows articles dated up to 26 September. However clicking through to those articles redirects to a Flash page. (A clumsy work around if you really need to see the article is to change the www.etaiwannews.com in the url to www.taiwannews.com.tw.) Updated news content now seems to be available on the conventional style website at www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/index_en.php.
I contacted Taiwan News by e-mail and they responded saying that they were working on fixing some of the problems. At the time of writing this article many of the problems don’t seem to have been resolved. In becoming an online only publication it has made its content less accessible and difficult to find via search engines. The Taiwan News publishes some excellent editorials. It would be a shame for them to come to an end.
Another of Taiwan’s English-language newspapers has also made some changes. The Taipei Times has finally updated the design of its website, which had undergone only minor changes since it was launched way back in 1999. The new website has a simple, uncluttered format and is fast to load. It is definitely an improvement on the older version.
Last year in a post on the Taipei Times tenth anniversary I noted the failure of the Taipei Times and Taiwan’s English-language media more generally to embrace social media. The Taipei Times features section now has Facebook and Twitter accounts, but its engagement in the social media sphere is still very limited. While at least the Taipei Times now has a website that loads quickly it still merely duplicates the content of the newspaper that is published once every 24 hours.