02 September 2006

The MSM Smiles Bravely

I had mentioned that the Straits Times recently interviewed me. They had wanted to do yet another story about MSM versus alternative media. The story appears in two articles today - on the Prime News and the Insight pages.

The articles were rather .... boring. No, I'm not being mean. Just expressing my opinion. Go read for yourself. If you don't have the ST, click here.

In a nutshell - global newspaper readership has been falling. The cause is often said to be alternative media. The two ST articles look at the international situation as well as the Singapore context. Conclusion - Singapore's MSM is going strong; it's trustworthy, professional and intelligent; it will thrive and live happily ever after.

Heheh. Well, we all gotta do our part to say the right things and keep the company's share price up.

Personally, I'm getting a bit jaded with all these newspaper articles about their own fates and futures. Every industry in the world has its own challenges - why does the media industry keep yakking about its own? All this self-absorbed, navel-gazing behaviour is what they used to accuse bloggers of.

On a separate point, time is precious and we all suffer from information overload. On any given day, newspapers carry a lot of news that we don't need to know.

As the world becomes more specialised, people increasingly want information relating to their own very specific concerns. And not merely information which a newspaper editor thinks is newsworthy.

The next thing is that people want information when they want it. Not when the MSM happens to provide it (and who knows when that might be?).

Also, people do not merely want information - they want expert information from authoritative sources. For instance, if you want to know more about the IMF/World Bank, why listen to what the Straits Times has to say? You can go straight to the IMF/World Bank websites yourself.

Technology enables companies, governments and organisations of all kinds to quickly put a lot of current information out on the Internet. Technology enables individuals who want that information to find it quickly.

Somewhere in that equation, the MSM got lost. In the international context, that's really their biggest problem. Not blogs.

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Cobalt Paladin said...

Yes, you are totally right. We want information the way we want it. Not just delivered to our doorsteps every morning. Once Singapore becomes fully connected by wifi, wi-max, wi-watever, the net will really be at our finger tips.

People are already watching tv programmes when they want it, not the time the stations dictate. The net-connected are already listening to Internet radio. Many are no longer confining their choices to what is available locally only.

Now with iTunes providing episodes download of US serials, soon, even local TV stations will become irrelevant if they don't reinvent themselves and provide better and unique content.

The blogosphere is not the local MSM's only competition. The media who are faster and bolder will posed a challenge to the local MSM too.

The reasons why the local MSM is being challenged is mainly due to their content and quality (or lack thereof).

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

The total lack of journalistic integrity and objectivity especially when it comes to reporting on local politics surely ain't gonna help either. We want news, not propaganda, much less propaganda which requires payment.

hugewhaleshark said...

Good God, the article was so boring! Liddat how to compete with Mr Wang and Alex Au?

Anonymous said...

You're just telling it like it is...the articles were so uninteresting I couldn't bring myself to read them all the way through. I never read ST anyway.

Anonymous said...

I read it and really forgot everything it said. Their standard is really getting from bad to worse.

Anonymous said...

Remember what Loong said on NDR speech 2006: whatever you hear, read or watch on the MSM, you KNOW it is true.

Anonymous said...

I like it when Han Fook Kwang claims "... a 2004 survey in which 90 per cent of readers aged 15 to 29 found ST 'intelligent' and 80 per cent 'trustworthy'."
Let's have an independent survey (i.e. non-SPH sponsored type) show him that in 2006, the "trustworthy" component is more like 10%, especially in the light of reporting accuracy about mee siam and cockles.

Anonymous said...

erh....i didn't finish the article. i just skimmed through it...
and i thought the arguments sounded vaguely familiar-- The Economist just ran a whole special feature on "Who Killed the Newspapers" (last week's issue)

if you're interested in who really killed the newspapers, you can go read last week's issue of the Economist. It's more interesting too.

on a side note, sometimes it's not just "their content and quality" (in context of the world, not sg)that they face challenges. there's no reason why msm companies shouldn't run for profit too.

Anonymous said...

Fuck SPH and Mediacorp. They cannot take competition and if PAP stop spoonfeeding them, they will die.

Anonymous said...

The Economist actually ran a special earlier (six months ago?) that dealt with the struggles that mainstream newspapers were facing. Falling subscriptions and circulation because more people were catching news blurbs on TV on the go and seeking their in-depth news analysis on-line. The magazine reported that Rupert Murdoch has a task force seeking to find a footprint, and profit, for his organization in the New Media. No surprise that this team has considerable friction with the heads of the various divions of traditional media, as they are in fact cannabalizing their businesses. The old man is however reported to be firmly behind the effort. After all, if a new idea is to render your old business obsolete, it might as well be your own.

I thought at the time that STI's new online policies were a little... misguided... at least in global trends of promoting readership.

Well, consider this. With current STI policy, a general news site can't link a reader to an STI story for compare/contrast with another news source. Not unless the reader has a subscription, of course. Even with a subscription, you have maximum 7days of archival access. Fantastic. If I wanted to, I could access, for example, Time magazine's WW2 era archives. It's not like storage capacity and bandwidth cost that much.

Not having archival access makes history so easy to rewrite. The infallible media did not in fact report "Mai Hiam", you peons. And an old man anxiously waving an old yellowing (hardcopy) newspaper clipping is quietly taken away...

Whispers from the heart said...

I did not finish the ST thing, though I really want to.

It's just like a report of facts and figures. So boring ... might as well play with my pet.

That's the problem with MSM. When I read Mr Wang's articles, he comes through 'live' to me. Very Wang, no pretences, no apologies.

But the ST feels like a report written by a group of reporters or it could well be just one. No life. Yawnzz

Anonymous said...

I'm a news junkie. I used (that is, as recent as 5 years ago) to devour the Straits Times from cover to cover.

Let me illustrate how my reading habits have now changed. I start the day reading foreign news sources like Yahoo news or New York Times on-line. I browse through the Straits Times but no longer read every article. By the time a news article makes it to the Straits Times, normally its already featured in the other news sources.

And its not just the Straits Times. I also do not bother subscribing to news magazines like Newsweek or Time. They're readily available on-line. And they're updated everyday. I usually head straight for analysis sections, not just news per se.

When it comes to local news analysis, I now depend primarily on blogs. I sample between 10-15 blogs daily and from the cacophony of opinions out there, form my own opinion about the news.

I rarely watch TV - I spend much more time on the Web. Of all the MSM, I most detest Mediaworks (whether its TV or radio), especially news reporting and most especially, interviews or live coverages. It seems the main criteria for hiring "journalist" is ability to look cute on camera. There's hardly any value added or in-depth reporting. When it comes to interviews, the very fact that an interview is conducted seems to already be a major accomplishment. The so-called journalist merely ask questions from a pre-set list of questions. There's hardly any active interaction with the subject.

I download podcasts, especially from NPR (National Public Radio) in the USA and BBC. Fortunately, cars nowadays come with MP3 player so I burn these podcasts onto CDs and listen to them when I drive. They're great and punchy.

In narrating my experience, I'm not conveying any value judgement. I'm just sharing what works for me. If someone had told me as recently as 5 years ago about how my lifestyle and habits will change, I'd not have believed him or her. But it just goes to show how the new media has affected me personally. And I believe, I'm richer for it.

le radical galoisien said...

Cars now come with mp3 players? I guess my family's gas-guzzling 2002 SUV is unfortunate. But it looks bright.

It also depends on how one defines newspaper. Schools and youth associations sometimes have their own press ... of course lately some have been adopting blogs instead. In many secondary schools or even primary schools, many classes have their own blogs, a valuable medium of extracurricular teacher-student interaction, or for people to scan their exam papers and revise together with the convenience of the internet.

I think it's the idea of decline of the mass media being controlled by a dozen corporations, rather than thousands of citizen publishers.

The Straits Times in order to survive will probably not do it by remaining ostensibly objective - if rather the government stops the facade and publishes articles which declare "this is our stance, this is our views", they will seem much more genuine, kind of like the blog of the Indonesian minister. Also, since it might be a daily "official" publication of the government (municipal or national), it would be a natural talking point in which other media sources would take up on.

Newspapers would then be rather like portals, or perhaps the establishment version of the Intelligent Singaporean.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Virginia, cars do come with MP3 players. Mine supports Divx and DVD too, which means you can burn 20 movies in a DVD-R in mpeg4 format for the kids to watch. You need a long drive though, and we don't mean Tuas to Changi. So today's technology can acutally pack Lee Kuan Yew in a thumb drive, and save the country $2 million a year. But you get him to admit it.