Pixel Media is the advertising sales representative for the desktop version of House News, while Snap Mobile (Pixel Media’s mobile specialist unit) handles the site's mobile versions on smartphones and tablets.
Launched in July 2012, House News is an independent news site acting as a voice for Hong Kongers and has become one of the most authoritative platforms for citizen journalism, especially in the wake of last month's seemingly arbitrary refusal of a free-to-air license for Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV). That event drove House News' average page views of 5.8 million per month to spike by a third since then, according to data from Google Analytics and Social Bakers.
Tony Tsoi, Lau Sai Leung, Greg Sung and Leung Man To, are the site's founders, which features prominent writers such as Tsoi himself, who is the CEO of Vatronix, a former radio host and already known as a pro-democracy activist in the city.
Allan Au Ka Lun (independent journalist), Vincent Tsui (marketing director of Mentholatum), Chang Tieh-Zhi (editor-in-chief of City Magazine), and Tanya Chan (ex-legislative council member) are some of the influential opinion leaders in the local blogosphere writing about politics, arts, culture, and even LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered-questioning) issues—for free.
Since launching 16 months ago, Tsoi told Campaign Asia-Pacific he felt the site has gained a strong enough following of readers, many of whom are scholars and professionals, to start monetisation via advertising and branded content. Its Facebook page, one of its distribution channels, now has close to 92,110 fans.
House News’ preference for "breaking views" instead of "breaking news" offers a perspective-based news curation cum aggregation model, said Tsoi. It may share a lot of similarities with US internet newspaper Huffington Post, but within Hong Kong it has a reputation as more of a pioneer.
"Breaking news is no longer sufficient for the readers of the information-overload age," said Tsoi. "What we must do now is to comment on breaking news". Though bloggers' analyses play a key role in the content, House News still seems to offer more credibility than blogs like The Real Hong Kong News.
It is easy to see the webpage design of Huffington Post inspired that of House News.
There is a headline story on the top depicted with a big heading and picture. Below are three columns: selected blog posts on the left, news stories in the middle and advertisements on the right.
The four founders hope to reproduce Huffington Post's success in Hong Kong, which made its founding editor Arianna Huffington very rich when AOL acquired it in 2011.
The news site is still looking for ways to translate click-rate into ad revenue. To-date, advertisers that have launched simple campaigns on House News include AS Watsons, Fairwood Restaurants, PCCW, HTC, Sony, Samsung, Allianz, DBS, Prime Credit, American Express, DirectAsia.com, Standard Chartered Bank and Dell.
Options range from display ads, rich media ads, sponsorships and branded content, which seems to be going the same direction as the ad specifications for Huffington Post.
The recent 'big data' content supplement was produced with funding from IBM. Interestingly, the Huffington Post was one of the first publications to launch its native advertising services three years ago with also IBM as its first sponsor.
"This new effort at branded content is aimed at providing a source of revenue for us to invest in more quality news curation," said Tsoi. In addition, data visualisation through creative graphical means to present abstract or complicated concepts to readers also needs investment. "We will ensure that all branded content will be highlighted or labelled as such to reflect the terms of the sponsorships instead of confusing it with editorial views," he said.