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Op-Ed: Can print media play catch up with social media?

Photo Credit: aclu.org

SOCIAL media players have reaped millions — perhaps in the tens of millions and more — since the launch of their advertising campaigns on the internet in Malaysia.

By advertising campaigns, I mean the modules that would allow local companies to advertise their products on platforms like Google Adwords and Facebook.

Then came Linkedin and twitter adverts, but there are a wider variety of channels — through Authorised AdWords Agencies or non-google platforms.

But in the entire process, the local print media played a negative role towards the advertisers who began to use advertising platforms that are easy to learn and use. Advertisers simply need to type the campaign duration, amount to spend, and credit card or bank account numbers.

That was something the people with money to spend in Malaysia could not believe. And today, thanks to the diversion of advertising expenditure (Adex) into social media platforms, many Malaysian industries, sectors, and players snatched death from their credit cards and are in a new found land, where the grass is definitely greener than print media.

Print media woes

The fact that social media players (and they are foreign media companies), compared to print media actors, enjoyed total freedom to reap the benefit of the boon in Adex diversion, is a testament to the blunder made by the print media industry in Malaysia.

And it is virtually too late for either the authorities and the print media industry to play catch-up with Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Flicker, Twitter and the long list of platforms, where a single entry on a blog post could result in hundreds of dollars spent, earned and distributed.

It is the model that has changed. And I understand it very clearly when I speak to readers who tell me with an absolute frankness that they do not need print media to inform them of the news today.

They say that news now comes to them through their mobile devices, which has seen wider usage in Malaysia in the last two to three years, and which has also produced a boom to e-Commerce and digital trade in the country.

But, I would say that one of the true reasons why local portals and online newspapers have failed to garner the right number of Adex through their channels is mostly due to their lack of vision in their stratagem.

They probably thought they could bundle the advertising that comes in print with the online version. It did work for some, for a short time.

But that was not the right model with advertisers who were seeking more direct engagements with their “consumers” on the online portals of their clients — that is the newspapers and audio-visual entities.

The Adex money is also seeking better content, the ones that get the portals crashing due to the heavy load resulting from a massive number of clicks and entries in the comment boxes per minute.

Liberalisation of content

In my last week comment on the state of the print media and online portals in Malaysia in particular, I said one solution could be the liberalisation of content.

Look at the portals that belong to local newsprint companies. They have simply removed the comment sections, and some have also removed the emoticons that gave the readers a little chance to express their thoughts on the stories carried by both the print and online versions of these newspapers.

Readers are not allowed to comment on a roof collapse in Seremban, or on Datuk Zakaria Arshad resuming work as the president and chief executive officer of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, and on another newsprint’s portal — the readers can’t even comment on the fire at the MidValley Mall!

Try to comment on a business story on the portals of the two business new dailies in the country. Nyet. You can’t say anything about B40; civil servants are the likely winners in “feel good” Budget 2018; and as frustrating as it is, you will not be able to say a word on stories like The State of the Nation: An expansionary budget seen ahead of GE14.

As a matter of fact, the print media have shut down the comments to the detriment of their own revenue generating departments.

Thus, a liberalisation of content is a must for the survival of print media in particular, at least on their portals as the first step in their reconquest of the disappearing Adex.

What many failed to understand until today is that they should follow the golden Adex principle set out by Google and its peers on social media platforms: That is content is free, and that it is the free content — totally free content bordering on critical and “investigative”.

Kazi is the business editor for Malay Mail and can be reached at kazi@mmail.com.my

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