SCMP Head Departs to Run Artifact Labs Blockchain Startup

After leading the newspaper company for six years, South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu is stepping down to lead the paper’s new NFT business Artifact Labs. Artifact Labs made almost $126,000 in its primary NFT sales earlier this month. South China Morning Post is one of Hong Kong’s oldest newspapers and media outlets.


According to, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has set off on the biggest venture of its time, hoping to turn their original newspapers, photos and articles from its century-old archives into collectible NFTs. “Artifact Labs”, the prospective blockchain startup, will be led by SCMP’s very own CEO, Gary Liu.

Liu has been the CEO of SCMP since January 2017.  He previously worked at large and noteworthy companies such as AOL, Google, and Spotify. Liu was born in the United States, but was raised in Taiwan and New Zealand. He later returned to the Northeast and spent the next 20 years living there.

Liu will fully commit to his new role after SCMP finds another CEO to take his place. In the meantime, Liu will continue fulfilling his duties as CEO until he finds a worthy successor. From there on, it will be full steam ahead for the new company venture.

The new project follows Monday’s successful sale of the “1997 Premium Series”, a collection of NFTs containing chronicled content in 1,300 “surprise-package” style purchases. The content dates back to 1997, when ownership of Hong Kong was passed back to mainland China. The primary collection sold out in a mere two hours, giving SCMP and Artifact Labs the momentum to deliver a second set of collectibles in April.


The decision to create a new NFT company will “accelerate SCMP’s revenue and enterprise value growth while allowing the publishing group to remain on its core mission of delivering fact-based journalism … to millions of readers around the world,” members of SCMP explained.

The founding of Artifact Labs “is a transformational step for our 118-year-old organization,” said Joe Tsai, SCMP chairman and co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding, “With his experience running a news organization and extensive expertise in technology, Gary is the perfect person to lead our new effort in Web3 and explore future growth opportunities for SCMP”, as reported by

The founders of Artificial Labs believe blockchain holds extraordinary potential for media-centric businesses, and the launch of Artifact Labs shows SCMP’s determination to capitalize on digital innovation.

As an independent part of the company, Artifact Labs can turn the physical property and resources of things like historical centers and schools into NFT collectibles, as long as there are mutual agreements.

“We expect millions of people to own (artifacts) issued by media, historical and cultural organizations around the world, and that historical NFTs will be the gateway for users into Web3,” Liu said.


Artifact Labs’ founders were very particular about which pieces of SCMP historical articles they would launch as an NFT collection. For their initial collection theme, they chose front page newspaper pieces from 1997. It was during this year that the British colonial rule of Hong Kong ended and the city regained its Chinese sovereignty.

Not only that, but 1997 was also the year of the Asian Financial crisis, the bird flu outbreak, the death of China’s leader Deng Xiaoping, and even the death of Diana, the princess of Wales. All of these important events will being published on the blockchain.

The collection was bought up quickly by supporters of the new company venture. Each digital “surprise-package” sold for 97 FUSD, a USD-backed coin on the Flow network. The whole collection sold for a total of $126,000 (HK$986,000). The Flow network is the same blockchain used by Dapper Labs, known for their NBA Top Shot NFT collection.


Many physical printing companies have been forced to diversify and find other methods of revenue to stay afloat. In the case of SCMP, selling NFTs can help the business open up whole new worlds, while keeping true to their own values.

These physical pieces of history would no longer sit in a closet or warehouse to be preserved or placed in a museum or library where only a few can access them. They have been given new lives and immortalized on the blockchain, where anyone in the world can see them.

After all, as the old saying goes, “if history is forgotten, it is doomed to repeat itself”. With important pieces of history now on the blockchain, history will be open to all who wish to see it (as long as they have the internet).

With the blockchain enabling “decentralized finance”, it could also be a tool to create an age of “decentralized history”, where history can be displayed in its purest form, without fear of governing entities disapproving it.

After the initial success of SCMP’s NFT campaign, other physical media companies might choose to follow this model of revitalizing their assets using the blockchain. In that case, Artificial Labs would be setting a future trend for bringing historic texts to the NFT space.

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