A deal with China’s state organ The People’s Daily does not “compromise independence of coverage” of that region in the Mail Online, according to its chief executive.
Martin Clarke has said the “copy-swap” arrangement – about 40 stories a week both ways – had been going for the past year and that no money had changed hands.
Stories taken from the official newspaper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party are clearly marked in the masthead with the words: “This story was produced in partnership with The People’s Daily – people.cn”.
In an email, seen by Press Gazette, Clarke said: “As the most populous nation on earth and one of its most dynamic economies China is an increasing source of stories for outward-looking global publishers like Mail Online.
“We believe this relationship broadens our coverage there and also helps us better understand the country’s social and political structures.”
The stories from The People’s Daily are selected and translated by a Mandarin-speaking Mail Online staffer working on the website’s foreign desk.
ABC figures for May reported the MailOnline as having the highest number of average daily unique browsers at close to 14m.
Clarke said: “We are not limited to using The People’s Daily as a source for Chinese coverage nor does it compromise MOL’s (or our papers’) independence of coverage of that region or the world in general in any way…
“I should say that we have always found the People’s Daily staff to be extremely good partners and look forward to continuing this relationship in the longer term.”
He added: “In the context of the British (and every other Western) government’s official policy to foster closer cultural and trade ties with China this modest arrangement does not seem remotely odd, merely sensible.”
According to the BBC, the only Chinese publication to report on the content-sharing deal is the Chinese-language version of Financial Times with the article saying the Communist Party is seeking to “improve its image in the West”.