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   When new media meets old

By Julian Matthews
October 8, 1999

About 550 years since Gutenberg first began work on that tome known as the Bible, the printing press is under its worst threat since television. The good news is it's never been a better time to be a newspaper publisher. The bad news is you need to adapt or die.

New media encroaches on all old media territory. Suddenly--before you can say "Yahoo!"--newspapers find themselves competing with the CNNs and Matt Drudges of the world. All that's fit to print is now all that's free to hyperlink.

In Malaysia, The Star was the first out the gate when it launched a Web edition in June 1995. Since then, firmly entrenched print players such as the Utusan Group, the New Straits Times Group and smaller Chinese newspapers have jumped onto the online bandwagon.

But in the four years since, progress can only be described as excruciatingly slow. Most newspapers still cannibalize their print stories to turn into byte chunks with little, if any, exclusive content for the Net reader. Advertisers aren't biting onto e-commerce tie-ups either. And editors and journalists have yet to figure out their new globalized roles.

As an example, the New Straits Times (NST) recently launched a monthly Business Computing pullout, to complement its twice-weekly technology pullout, Computimes, neither of which, ironically, is available online.

The NST plans to roll out another pullout called Travel Times soon, suggesting that publishers and advertisers still prefer proven print circulation instead of muddling through page views and click-through rates.

But there are rumblings on the horizon. Yahoo!, ZDNet and Lycos are flexing their muscles in Asia. With brand name recognition and guaranteed eyeballs, they have the means to carve out a significant slice of the ad pie. The alarm bells ringing for local newspapers is to quickly shake hands, stand aside, or burnish their online offerings.

Of the present lot, the Utusan Group seems to have the most aggressive Internet strategy. The newspaper via its subsidiaries Utusan Multimedia and Netspace Learning has built up parallel ventures in Internet access reselling, Web hosting, interactive learning systems and CD-ROM production.

Its flagship site Utusan Online uploads at 1am, long before the print edition hits the newsstands, and often carries pictures, which possibly explains why it claims 15 to 18 million hits and four million page views monthly.

"We wanted to be the first. It helps promote the print edition and indeed our circulation has gone up rather than the other way around," says online editor Faridah Hitam.


Julian Matthews is the Malaysian correspondent for CNET Malaysia. Email us your comments.


New media vs old

Large roll of print

Free press

The jury is still out

List Of Newspapers Online In Malaysia

Berita Harian Online
Utusan Malaysia Online

The Star Online
Utusan Express
New Straits Times Interactive Site
Sabah: Daily Express
Sarawak Tribune

Guang Ming Daily
Kwong Wah Yit Poh
Nanyang Siang Pau Online
Sin Chew Jit Poh

Nichima Press


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