HKFP Editorials Hong Kong

Hong Kong Free Press 2016 Fundraising: Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently asked questions about Hong Kong Free Press. Have another question about HKFP or our fundraising? Email [email protected]

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Who are you target readers?
We pretty much know exactly who our readers are from Google Analytics. In a sense, our readers choose us – we can then react to what they’re looking at and who they are.

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There may be some pressure to narrow our focus, but English is already a niche in itself in Hong Kong and our mission is to fill the void in local news. At the moment, we leave things quite open, general and flexible so that our reporters may pick up anything of interest which may be underplayed in other English titles.

We’re trying to slowly shift towards more original reporting and avoid what is being covered by others. We admit we are still in our embryonic period but – with more money, reporters and resources – we believe we can branch out more.

Why don’t get you get investors?
We are a non-profit so there are no shareholders or opportunities for investors to get a return – any money we make goes straight back into the company. This is the best situation for maintaining our press freedom and independence – HKFP is not answerable to any umbrella company, shareholders, business magnates or a media baron with interests in the mainland.
Why not become a charity?
As media, we are not allowed to become a tax-exempt charity, so we remain a in middle zone as a non-profit company, “limited by guarantee”.
Have you applied for grants?
We have researched and applied for grants that we are eligible for. Unfortunately, many do not apply to us as media outlets are not allowed to become charities in Hong Kong. Also, we are often exempt as Hong Kong is not considered an oppressive regime.
Why can I only comment using Facebook?
We use Facebook for the comments system as this adds an extra barrier of entry for trolls and “wumao”. Also, Hong Kong has the widest penetration of Facebook (and smartphones) in the world, so it is the most obvious commenting platform to go with.

Eventually Facebook plans to interlink the comments on its website and ours. However, we are considering joining Reuters, Mic and CNN in phasing website comments out completely, as the conversation has very much moved to social media.

Many big media names are now embracing the platform through “instant articles” and we’re not in a good place to resist. Like any news outlets, the majority of our traffic is coming from this one social network.

And for the vast majority of readers, this is how they are accessing news nowadays – our website would be dead within a week if we disengaged from Facebook.

When will the mobile apps be ready?
Thanks to a kind volunteer, our Android and iOS apps will be ready by the end of this year. We are currently fixing an issue related to push notifications.
Why do I sometimes get a “502 Gateway” error when accessing HKFP?
For the past few weeks, a minority of readers may have seen this error for short periods. If you see this, please follow these instructions, screenshot the page and send it to us. This will help us to solve an issue with our server protection tools.
Can you make money through advertising?
We already are, but it is not yet a reliable income stream. We need to focus on building our traffic and content for a little longer – by the last quarter of 2016, we should be more self-sustaining through online ads, sponsorship and perhaps advertorials.

In the new year, if we reach our crowdfunding goal, we would hope to hire an experienced digital marketing expert with contacts in the advertising world. It is certainly a full-time job and not one which our reporters can do. We would like to be able to afford to hire someone on commission and a base rate to promote our rate card to companies who would like to reach our sizeable audience and support a free press.

Will you be crowdfunding again in the future?
It is likely we will always have an ongoing crowdfunding campaign quietly running with a big funding drive at least once a year. Other income streams such as advertising, events and merchandise will be slowly brought online. However, crowdfunding represents direct support from our readers and is, by far, the best way for us to maintain our independence and press freedom. If we become too reliant on one kind of revenue – such as advertising – than our content may be affected and we could become vulnerable. For example, HSBC and Standard Chartered withdrew advertising from the liberal Apple Daily newspaper.
Are you spending money on advertising and marketing?
No – we only spend donation money on the essentials – salaries, mostly. A friend of HKFP kindly donates “sponsored” Facebook ads and “boosts” readers may have seen.
What are your running costs and what do you spend donation money on?
We are lucky in that digital Cantonese broadcaster D100 donated office space to us and so we do not pay rent. We use digital tools which are free or cheap to use (like Trello and Google Apps) and our costs are kept down through the kindness of volunteers who have helped with server maintenance, accountancy, fundraising and design.

Donation money practically all goes towards salaries for staff. Occasionally, we have interns who are paid a travel stipend, but – otherwise – everyone is paid properly from day one. The average journalist pay cheque is HK$10,000 per month in Hong Kong. HKFP pays a bit more – in-line with other English titles in Hong Kong. Also, for the time being, everyone who works at HKFP is paid the same amount. We’re a very nimble operation and our only luxury are office snacks! Our long-suffering reporters run on Pocky, seaweed and Ovaltine biscuits.

Currently, we have four full-time staff members, two editorial volunteers and two part-time staff. Website costs are covered by revenue from ad networks which pay a couple of thousand HK dollars a month.

Will you ever produce video or podcasts? Or an email mailshot?
Yes, we’d like to experiment with all of these things, though they involve an investment of time, money, expertise and resources. Therefore, we’d like to focus on perfecting our news writing first and then venture into other areas once we know we can deliver them consistently and at a decent quality.
Would you consider a print edition?
Unless the money falls in our lap, even a limited print run would be prohibitively expensive for HKFP.
Who works for HKFP?
Currently, we have four full-time staff members, two editorial volunteers and two part-time staff. During the summer, we had two interns and two temporary members of staff. We are also grateful to countless volunteers, some of whom are listed here on our “Thank you” page.
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Why doesn’t HKFP have more original content?
In fact, we have original content every day though it may not always be obvious. It depends on what one considers “original”. A lot of our articles start off as “pick-ups” or “re-writes” from the Chinese press, but – in about half of these cases – our reporters will have added reactions, updates, quotes or new angles. We also have news wire pieces, viral stories (HKFP Buzz), photo galleries (HKFP Lens), commentary and analysis, as well as contributions from readers (HKFP Voices).

We have published almost 2,000 stories in four months, and dozens of these were completely original. Our reporters led coverage in English on topics such as the HKU pro-vice chancellor debacle and the lawyer crackdown in China. We live-blogged the Chief Executive’s quarterly LegCo Q&A, the Tianjin blasts, the Beijing WWII parade and the one-year Occupy protests anniversary. We interviewed a host of important local figures such as Alex Chow, Anson Chan, Allan Zeman, Nathan Law, Christopher Doyle and others. We have broken hundreds of news stories first in English and often carry exclusives – from government misspending to security issues at the airport to leaked tapes involving the LegCo president.

Would you ever publish in Chinese?
In principle, probably not – we are here to fill a gap in English and it allows us to tell the Hong Kong story beyond the city’s borders. There is a shortage of independent news outlets on the English side, but many to choose from in Chinese such as Stand News, Post852, InMedia, Initium and the upcoming Factwire and HongKong01.
Why does your website have a mix of British and American English?
Our daily news pieces use British style whilst some of our comment and contributor pieces are written in American English. We realise this inconsistency may be annoying to some, but we are very limited in terms of editorial infrastructure. We decided early on that it would be a poor use of our limited editorial resources to “convert” contributor pieces to British English – instead, editors focus on accuracy, content and correcting errors.
Why do you do viral stories?
Our HKFP Buzz stories are important for getting readers “through the door” and traffic flowing, so – like many media outlets – we will do a couple a day. Viral stories are quick and easy to produce – so they don’t cost us much. As much as journalists may lament it, they attract many more eyeballs than stories about constitutional reform or political intrigue. Of course, we’ll always still do those important stories, but we also can’t ignore the need to build traffic if we are to ever become self-sustaining.

If we only listened to our traffic stats, then we’d probably only ever do cat stories. We try our best to err on the side of caution and resist temptation with clickbait and tabloid sensationalism. Important investigations which may have taken weeks to prepare will sometimes receive very few “likes”, “shares” and “comments” and readers are drawn to lighter stories, but we try to keep a good mix.

Why use the word “allegedly” when in stories where it seems unnecessary?
Some readers may wonder why we have to use terms such as “alleged”, “supposed” and “seemingly” when referring to certain stories. For instance, the TVB video which shows Civic Party activist Ken Tsang being beaten in a corner at Tamar Park during the pro-democracy protests last year would seem self-evident to many viewers – it would seem obvious that the police are at fault.

However, like any media outlet, HKFP has to fall in line with the law on libel, defamation and contempt of court. Suspects are innocent until proven guilty and, not only could HKFP itself get into legal hot water, but publicly suggesting guilt can also ruin a court case when a victim is seeking justice. A judge could argue that the media have biased a case.

Why are you crowdfunding again?
HKFP is proudly free-of-charge, not-for-profit and completely independent – we want to keep it this way. In the run-up to 2016, we are fundraising to a new target in order to:

*Invest in original reporting: Though our exclusive features attract readers, our resources and capacity are limited by our modest funds. To fulfil HKFP’s mission, we would like to invest more in original reporting.

*Sustain our talented team: We now have a small but very productive team of four bilingual reporters and we want to keep them. As our office space is being donated to us free-of-charge by D100 Radio, almost all donation money goes directly towards sustaining our brilliant journalists.

*Expand our operations with freelancers and ease our reliance on volunteers: Having perfected our work flow and systems with the assistance of volunteers, we need to find permanent solutions and reward those who contribute to our success. In January, we are looking to hire a full-time news editor.

*Hire a digital marketing expert: As our audience expands, we hope to lessen our reliance on crowdfunding and bring other funding channels online. We are seeking to hire a sales expert to help monetise our growing traffic.

I don’t have a credit card – how can I donate?
FringeBacker accepts bank transfer, PayPal and cheques. We also accept direct transfers and cheques, as well as Bitcoin.

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I can’t afford to donate – are there other ways I can help?
Yes!

  • You can become a HKFP Patron and help fundraise on our behalf by clicking ‘start my fundraiser’ on FringeBacker.
  • You can share our FringeBacker page or simply share, like and comment upon our own stories on social media. Inviting friends to ‘like’ our pages also helps a great deal.
  • Several of our reporters do not have laptop computers and HKFP is not yet able to afford cameras and other electronic gear essential to a newsroom. We welcome donations of new or used computer or audio-visual equipment.
  • We welcome advertisers and have a range of options – please contact us to see our rate card.

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Thank you!

Hong Kong Free Press 2016 Fundraising: Frequently Asked Questions