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Magazine digest -- 4-Way Voice keeps S.E. Asians in Taiwan informed

2011/08/05 13:40:13

A Vietnamese student's desire to be able to read Chinese newspapers has led to the publication of 4-Way Voice, now Taiwan's biggest newspaper published in several Southeast Asian languages.

With monthly advertising revenue that surpassed NT$800,000 (US$27,509.21) at one point, 4-Way Voice began turning a profit three years ago and is popular among Taiwan's nearly 600,000 foreign workers and immigrants from Southeast Asia.

First published in Vietnamese in 2006, the newspaper has seen its circulation grow five times from its initial print run of 4,000 copies per month. The publication has also been available every two months in Thai since 2008, and in Tagalog -- spoken in the Philippines -- Cambodian and Bahasa Indonesia since May this year.

"Honestly, the idea to start the paper came from a simple sense of justice," said Chang Cheng, the 40-year-old founder and editor-in-chief of 4-Way Voice.

Chang said he was inspired by one of the Vietnamese workers in his Chinese classes at a church in Taoyuan County in 2005. Later that year, Chang went to Ho Chi Minh City, where he spent four months studying Vietnamese.

After sharing his vision with Lucie Cheng, the late chairwoman of the Taiwan Lihpao newspaper, she agreed to provide NT$500,000 per year to publish Chang's newspaper.

Even though Chang nearly spent the annual funding in just three months to boost the newspaper's circulation, the publication's influence among the Vietnamese community in Taiwan attracted the business of global money transfer service Western Union Co.

While 4-Way Voice survived the early days with advertising from Western Union, its growing business also helped entice a deal with Next Media Interactive, Taiwan's largest newspaper publisher by circulation.

One unique section popular among the immigrant readers of 4-Way Voice is answering medical questions in Vietnamese, since readers often do not understand what local doctors tell them.

Out of the many medical questions submitted by readers, the newspaper still has over 100 yet to be answered, with the medical opinions provided by the Taiwan International Medical Alliance.

Prior to 4-Way Voice, Chang said, he received only three or four letters from readers in his decade working as a reporter -- mostly interviewees complaining about his mistakes.

These days, Chang went on, each of the more-than 15,000 letters he has fielded from readers of 4-Way Voice over the past five years continue to convince him that he is doing the right thing. (Business Weekly 1234)(translated by Kay Liu)