Next Media's Lai Plans YouTube Site as Tiger Woods Hit Attracts Millions

Next Media Ltd., publisher of Apple Daily newspapers, will start a site on Google Inc.’s YouTube to add revenue by distributing news cartoons after its dramatization of Tiger Woods’ car crash drew millions of hits.

“YouTube itself is the greatest marketing tool,” Chairman Jimmy Lai said in an interview in Hong Kong today. Lai, whose Apple Daily is the largest newspaper in Taiwan, also started an online news channel, while Taiwan authorities have yet to approve his application for a TV broadcast license.

Next Media has drawn more than 100 million viewers to its cartoon versions of news events, Lai said. The YouTube site, set to start this year, may help widen the audience for news cartoons beyond viewers of clips re-creating incidents in the private lives of celebrities, including Woods and actress Lindsay Lohan.

Taiwan’s National Communications Commission is still reviewing Next Media’s application to offer a television news channel, Lai said. The regulator has approved the company’s application to start two channels for sports and films, he said.

Lai, 62, whose Apple Daily is known for graphic depictions of violent crimes and celebrity gossip, has said the cartoons also appeal to viewers seeking general news, such as reports illustrating the devastation caused by the Haiti earthquake that killed 200,000 people in January.

The Taipei city government fined Next Media NT$1 million ($31,300) last year for publishing inappropriate content, according to the city government’s website.

Overseas Market

“Overseas will be our major market,” said Lai, who called Next Media’s animation business the first of its type globally. The company has invested more than $20 million in the division and hired more than 200 engineers in Taiwan.

The company intends to continue supplying the cartoons to partners, including Thomson Reuters Corp., Associated Press and the British Broadcasting Corp. The animation unit is already generating “positive cashflow,” Lai said, without disclosing more specific financial information.

Next Media fell 0.9 percent to close at HK$1.08 in Hong Kong trading. The stock has gained 3.9 percent this year, compared with a 3.5 percent drop in the Hang Seng Index.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Lee in Hong Kong at wlee37@bloomberg.net

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