New Media and Market Competition: A Niche Analysis of Television News, Electronic News, and Newspaper News in Taiwan

Article excerpt

The news media in Taiwan have been under heavy regulation for the past several decades, with television news under particularly tight government control. People in Taiwan have complained frequently that news from the three television networks was not neutral, but rather, favored the government. Recently, however, with the lifting of martial law as well as legalization of cable television, the situation has undergone a great transformation. Martial law in Taiwan was lifted in 1988, and this allowed the news media much more freedom in reporting than it ever had before. The driving force behind the prosperous development of news media in Taiwan did not, however, come from the lifting of martial law alone, but also from the legalization of cable television. Taiwan has had cable television for more than twenty years, but it was not legalized until 1993. With the legalization of cable television came fierce competition in Taiwan's television market because the many satellite television signals in the Asia-Pacific area could enter homes directly via cable television. Because of the long dissatisfication with the news produced by the three television networks, satellite news channels are now particularly popular on the island (Li, 1995; Li, 1996; Li & Chiang, 1998).

More than five Chinese news channels began operations in Taiwan following the legalization of cable television. All of these news channels provide 24-hour news with intensive analyses of important issues. In the past, due to limited time for detailed news information, the three major networks complemented rather than competed against newspapers. Now, with 24-hour news channels available, television news in Taiwan has become a strong competitor for newspapers.

In addition to the satellite news channels, the Internet also exerts an important influence on Taiwan's news market. With improved Internet technology, more people in Taiwan are using the World Wide Web for various purposes. According to a survey by the government's Management Information Commission (Lai & Liang, 1998), by early 1998, more than two million people were Internet users in Taiwan, and their purposes for Internet use were: looking for information (89.6%), learning (53%), entertainment/chatting (47.8%), communicating (40.4%), and shopping (10.6%). As information searches are the most important purpose for Internet use, electronic newspapers are becoming prevalent in Taiwan. The first electronic newspaper (www.chinatimes.com.tw) was established in September, 1995, and is operated by one of the two largest daily newspapers, The China Times. By early 1998, there were twenty-two professional electronic newspapers in Taiwan (Tsai, 1998). All of the electronic newspapers in Taiwan were launched either by traditional newspapers and television stations, or by computer companies. Although Internet users in Taiwan account for only about 15% of the total population (Tsai, 1998), some studies predict that electronic newspapers will become an important news medium in the very near future (Lai & Liang, 1998; Yang, 1996).

Market Competition and Niche Theory

For media economists, market competition consists of direct and conscious actions taken by companies competing against one another (Adams, 1993; Burnett, 1992; Davis & Walker, 1990; Rogers & Woodbury, 1996). However, organizational ecologists define market competition by the use of resources, so when two organizations are utilizing the same resources, they are competing against each other. According to organizational ecology, the impact of environments is much greater than that of internal organization operations; thus, the factor that determines organizational survival is not the efficiency of its operation, but rather, how well-suited an organization is to its environment. The key to understanding the fitness of an organization to its environment is niche theory. Niche theory describes organizational resource utilization patterns. …