The Nanfang – an English-language digital news and commentary website for southern China – is closing after almost seven years, citing commercial challenges.

nanfang website
The Nanfang website over the years.

In a surprise announcement on the site on Friday morning, Chief Editor Cam MacMurchy said: “[W]ithout deep-pocketed investors or a side business to subsidize it, a general interest news website that produces high-quality content and earns enough via subscriptions or advertising is extremely rare. As newspapers have discovered, online ad revenue isn’t that great.”

MacMurchy told HKFP that the team would now be taking some time out: “The Nanfang was a labour of love for all of us who worked on it, and not having it anymore is going to be a huge adjustment. It’s a sad day. But we haven’t lost our desire to do something important with online journalism, and find a way to make it profitable.”

The website – launched in 2011 – specialised in English-language “breaking news, lively opinions, original writing, and valuable insight into modern China.” It relaunched last February with a greater focus on news, translations and commentary.

MacMurchy said that the fragmentation of the news business, dwindling ad revenue and the spectre of sponsored content led to difficulties in balancing quality and the need to pay the bills.

He said that Nanfang content will remain online for the time being.

The news came weeks after the South China Morning Post axed its English-language lifestyle and listings publication HK Magazine and deleted its website and social media feeds.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.