The fast-changing Malaysian landscape

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Is traditional print media losing its appeal?  Is traditional print media losing its appeal?  Is traditional print media losing its appeal?

By Zhen M

With the rise of digital media and its increasing popularity, it may seem that traditional media is being replaced by the nebulous ideal of “new media” driven by audience interaction and “crowd sourced” content.

Generation Y, aged 18-32, are very attached to their gadgets. Generation Z, the first generation truly born into the digital era, are even more so. With a growing population made up of young digital savvy citizens, and the older generation also embracing the new technology and media, is traditional media losing relevance?

With the increasing usage of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, consumers are now able to instantly connect to the internet and be constantly updated on the latest news and gossip. Information is in real-time, unlike having to wait for the next day for the physical newspaper. Indeed, so many tales, good or bad, have gone viral online over a short period of time – sometimes way ahead of proper news channels, which would probably not report the bulk of these juicy “shares” anyway.

The newspapers in the country have done admirably expanding online and are among the most accessed Malaysian sites. Chinese daily Sin Chew even went a step further to have an English portal, too.

But the perception is that traditional media is losing ground to alternative new portals as the latter are deemed less pro-government. The situation became more serious following the recently concluded General Elections (GE13), with various quarters calling for boycott of one media or another for alleged unfair reporting. If Facebook “tales” were to be trusted, some publications have already suffered losses in subscriptions and readership post-GE13.

Such allegations are unfortunately inevitable, considering that RTM is government-owned and all the other large media entities are linked to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and its component parties. The Utusan Group is Umno-owned and is now widely regarded as more of a propaganda tool than a news provider. Malaysia’s largest media group Media Prima is controlled by Umno proxies. Leading English daily the Star and group is owned by MCA. MIC politicians or their families own the three national Tamil newspapers.  The nation’s Chinese publication industry is monopolised by Chinese Media International Ltd, controlled by BN-friendly Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King.

“The reputation of our politically-linked media has been battered, collectively and individually. More than ever before, they will have to put in extra effort to win back the trust of the people,” one observer said.

That aside, traditional media still remains relevant for the foreseeable future. For instance, many people have grown up reading the newspaper as a daily routine, without which the day would feel somehow incomplete. On the lighter side, the physical paper itself has a variety of nifty uses – e.g. it does a remarkable job absorbing odours, cleaning/polishing glass and mirrors without leaving streaks, and keeping frozen stuff wrapped in it frozen longer!

Watching the TV would also definitely still remain a popular pastime for a while yet, what with increasingly bigger screens with high-definition (HD) to bring the best viewing pleasure.

The old/traditional media is still relevant and strong, maintains Andreas Vogiatzakis, CEO of the award-winning OMD & PHD media agencies in Malaysia. “The world we live in is fluid.  And it is about evolution, not replacement.  TV will stay relevant due to its qualities and what it brings to the table –sight sound, emotion… but it is evolving.  See for example how viewing is migrating online or unto mobile devices.  However, the experience of the living room will not vanish overnight.  People now watch TV and multitask.”

“Traditional media must evolve.  They must harness new technology and use it to their favour.  I believe that newspaper, for example, will exist in the future, perhaps in different formats.  Grapheme is a substance that will revolutionize screens.  Newspapers might look the same, but will not be on paper, but on thin grapheme material screens that you can fold and put in your pocket,” opines Vogiatzakis.

While digital platforms are growing at astonishing rates among youths in Malaysia, traditional media still dominates the reach, OMD and PHD had found. Despite the presence of mobile devices, internet and social media, Gen Y remains heavily engaged with traditional media in terms of time spent. Contrary to popular belief, Gen Y’s consumption of traditional media such as newspapers and television does not differ much from the general population. (See tables).

As for media’s relation with advertising, Vogiatzakis says: “ADEX will shift, but once media owners diversify, they will stay healthy overall.”

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Photo Credit: Mohd Yusof Abdul Ghani

 

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