Han Han, one of the most attention-grabbing Chinese young writers, and his team tried to do a print magazine in 2009 and finally managed to made it in 2010. But it ended up with only one issue published, thanks to some issues. Generally, anyone that wants to do a magazine in China has to get a serial number from an authorized organization, register with the state administration of press and publication, and publish content in accordance with whatever the serial number allows for — if the first two are time-consuming and hard, the last one is with a blurring bottom line that you have to be very cautious.

The team made a comeback with ONE, a web-based digital magazine first and iOS and Android apps later within this year. The mobile apps were self-developed while web-based version is partnering with QQ.com, Tencent’s news portal.

Apps are for free but carrying Nike ads, with a whole page featuring the Nike+Running app. There also placements for app exchange ads. More than a few advertisers reached out, Han Han pointed out (blog post in Chinese), but most were rejected for the sake of ad quality. The blog post, published at the end of November, mentioned the readership was about one million.

screenshots of ONE apps

The total spending on app development is 400 thousand yuan ($65 000) and estimated annual operation costs will be 2.5mn yuan ($400 000), with 40% going to invited contributors, according to Han Han.

Before Han Han there were a handful celebrities that launched personal mag apps, but the failure of the print one of his helped fuel the hype. When the supervisors were changed to Apple and Google, doing a magazine seemingly became easier. However, Han Han still made it clear that they’d not write about politics —  at least not explicitly, somewhat he is well-known for, for there’s an impression in his mind that “there needs only one call that ours would be taken off the shelf; which means, bye bye, nobody would mention yours any more two days later.” Anyway, the team still plan to publish print editions whenever possible.

Self-publishing personal magazines

For the ordinary people who want to do digital magazines and cannot afford to, or have no idea how to, develop applications, there are accesses such as General Communication Media. Founded by Liu Xinyu, former vice editor-in-chief of China Newsweek and CEO of its new media division, General Communication Media helps individuals to self-publish mobile magazines, offering end-to-end services including designing and developing apps, tech support, and marketing.

It has built 26 iPad-based magazines, covering all kinds of topics. So far all are for free to download and read. It’s unknown how they’d monetize the content and share revenues with contributors.


Have app stores become a roundabout for self-publishing? Too early to say so. It seems state authorities have also realized the change there. The most recent reports say that the Chinese ministry of industry and information technology is trying to formulate regulations for third-party app stores, having every app there registered with the state administration.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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