Just a day after it confirmed the purchase of Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, e-commerce giant Alibaba has guaranteed the editorial independence of the title, outlined its ambition to grow the title's global readership, and promised to remove its paywall in an open letter to readers.
In a letter that comes with the strapline: "Marrying Heritage and New Technology: a Vision for the Digital Age", Joeph C. Tsai, executive vice chairman of the Alibaba Group, moved to reassure those that had voiced concerns that China-based Alibaba was "unfit" to take stewardship of the title, which dates back over 100 years.
Tsai expressly reassured readers that it would actively promote plurality - addressing concerns that the takeover would curb South China Morning Post's editorial independence.
The letter also outlines Alibaba's vision of bolstering the title's readership around the English-speaking world free of charge for those "who care to better understand the world's second largest economy", beginning with the removal of its online paywall.
His letter reads: "In reporting the news, the SCMP will be objective, accurate and fair. This means having the courage to go against conventional wisdom, and taking care to verify stories, check sources and seek all viewpoints. These day-to-day editorial decisions will be driven by editors in the newsroom, not in the corporate boardroom."
Alibaba has confirmed it has entered an agreement to acquire the South China Morning Post, although the financial details of the deal were not openly disclosed they also confirmed that the the agreement includes the acquisition of the magazine, recruitment, outdoor media, events & conferences, education and digital media businesses of the group.
The takeover of South China Morning Post by Alibaba, a China-based e-commerce juggernaut, reflects Amazon's takeover of The Washington Post, which has moved to introduce synergies between the two such as making the digital edition of the pay-walled title free for six months to Amazon Prime members earlier this year.