Published: 2007-11-08

In-house publications have evolved over the past decades from the stiff propoganda pamphlets of government danwei to the suave public relations tools of the Chinese private sector today. Now, companies are tapping socio-economic issues to build an image of corporate social responsibility. Lam Li traces the roots and incentives behind these in-house publications that are put out at significant cost-- for free.

The Evolution of In-house Publications

In a chaotic Beijing restaurant rocking with boisterous dining, Mi Jiu and his assistant are locked in a brain storming session. The intensity of their ideas for a magazine cover design and the stories underneath it keeps pace with the bustle of surrounding activity.

In between bites of dinner and gulps of beer, they debate over what content best suits the theme of the microscopic changes that have emerged in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This unconventional editorial board meeting is for a glossy, chicly designed, full-color quarterly magazine running over 100 pages in length. It is distributed free of charge.

"We call ourselves corporate media journalists," says Mi, editor-in-chief of Communication, an in-house publication of a property advertising agency, Flamingo Communication, in Beijing. His proper designation at the company is Corporate Culture Development Manager.

"Corporate media" refers to editorial teams set up to run internal publications meant for free distribution among staff as well as current and potential clients. It is estimated that there are more than 12,000 in-house titles published nationwide; a figure higher than what the 9,468 magazine titles on sale in the market in 2006, according to the General Administration of Press and Publication.

Browsing through past issues of Communication – which started three years ago – reveals that its content has evolved over time from a straightforward corporate mouth-piece pushing company events, speeches, and staffs' immature musings. Its content has now graduated to include broader, more nuanced perspectives covering cultural trends,creative ideas and social issues, while internal corporate news is minimal.

Another monthly in-house magazine of a property developer, Soho Mini Press (Soho小报), uses themed monthly issues to explore a myriad of social topics ranging from consumerism to faith. In one issue, themed "Go to Work", the opening piece dissects the imbalance in distribution of resources and opportunities in the employment market, and is written by a Tsinghua University social sciences professor. In the same issue, contributors include a fellow at the Demographic and Labor Economy Research Institution, a poet, a novelist, a musician, and a company manager to explore the theme from multiple angles.

 1  |  2  |  3  |  4