19 September 2008

Why Time Out Hong Kong?

The arrival of Time Out Hong Kong a few months ago was the first major post-hippie-capitalist event to hit Hong Kong since the coming of Virgin Atlantic and The Body Shop. So I was intrigued by a reader's letter in issue 11, thanking Time Out for 'finally' coming to Hong Kong, but then bemoaning the wine correspondent's lack of knowledge of wine and the city. I have no opinion on the second part of this. I mainly read the music section and I find that it is well-informed on the local music scene - much more so than it's free English-language counterparts. But I was interested in the idea that we have somehow been waiting all these years for Time Out to arrive.

The first time I came across TOHK (as it would like us to call it), I had a flashback to the days of punk 1978 when a bunch of us would meet up on a Friday night at the Marlborough Arms near London University Students Union. One of us would have a copy of Time Out (only one, mind you) and we'd look through the listings and end up at the Hope and Anchor watching X-Ray Spex, or maybe at The Vortex for Wayne County and the Electric Chairs. Then I moved away from London and forgot all about Time Out. I've been in Hong Kong since 1991. Have I really been waiting all this time?

Tony Elliott, who founded the magazine in 1968, had some interesting things to say about why we have been graced with the Time Out presence in an interview with the London Evening Standard. Basically, competition from freebies is cutting into circulation figures, so a diversification-globalization strategy is in order. This means that there are now 2o something Time Outs around the world. There is also a 'glocalization' strategy at work here - global format / local content. I think they are doing a good job on the local bit and I'll continue to read. But the reason we have a Time Out in the first place is not because we need it, but more because they need us.

Oh, and another thing I found out is that Tony Elliott says he was never a hippie, after all! Another illusion shattered...

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