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-------------------------------------------------------------- This story was printed from ZDNetAsia, located at http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/dailynews/story/0,2000010021,20164499,00.htm. --------------------------------------------------------------
AgendaMalaysia to shutter Web site by Dec 31
By Julian Matthews,
December 12, 2000
Pure content play headed by noted author Rehman Rashid bites the dust.
KUALA LUMPUR - Ezine AgendaMalaysia is closing down its Web site come year end citing a failure to attract fresh funds and poor market conditions as key factors.
Its managing editor Rehman Rashid described the eight-month-old new media play as "equivalent of a quickie in the gym - nasty, brutal and short but fun".
"We've run out of money about four months earlier than expected, which means both that it's been a lousy year for the Malaysian capital market, and that we weren't terribly good at foreseeing a year ago exactly how lousy a year it would be," stated Rehman, in a closing editorial.
Rehman, the author of "A Malaysian Journey" and formerly with New Straits Times and Asiaweek, agreed that Malaysian advertisers are still too print-focused and either wary or ignorant of the value of targeted Internet advertising or promotions.
"I don't believe this will change in the near-term," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail response.
When asked if pure-content plays are dead, Rehman responded: "Perhaps. The subscription-based model doesn't work well, either. I'm not sure what plays are alive."
Rehman qualified, however, that AgendaMalaysia's closure should not be seen "as a failure of the product we delivered".
"Our month-on-month rise in readership continued throughout the eight months of our existence, and we seemed generally well-regarded by our readers. I would be upset if our failure as a business is spun as a verdict against the brand of journalism we provided."
Rehman also pointed out that the closure had "nothing to do with any repression, suppression or oppression on the part of the Malaysian authorities."
AgendaMalaysia was owned by Maya Capital Sdn Bhd and covered government and politics, business and finance, science, technology and the environment, culture and society, and sports and recreation , with several contributing columnists.
Local media reported that the Web site was started with an estimated seed capital of RM1 million (US$263,160) and had a burn rate of about RM50,000 (US$13,160) a month.
One contributor said it relied mainly on freelance contributors who were paid between RM300-500 per article. "We were paid promptly but the closure was expected," he added.
Jaafar Ismail, who is named as chief executive on the Web site, when contacted by telephone today, declined to comment further on whether the site would be sold or any compensation or severance benefits will be offered to staff. "It is a matter for the shareholders," he said.
Rehman indicated that the company may repackage its archive of 740 articles into a print digest with the working title, "AgendaMalaysia 2000: The Book", which will be sold through traditional channels, but orders could be made via e-mail.
Rehman said he has personally not lost faith in Internet media, although in terms of ad spending, print media still wins out.
"The Internet hasn't been bad for Malaysia. We'll always be pleased that AgendaMalaysia was able to be a part of the broadening of the Malaysian media enabled by these advances in communications technology.
"This has been tremendous for the seeding of new talent; a veritable Golden Age for wannabe writers, journalists and media mavens. Writers have never been as well paid in this country, the local media consumer has never been so well supplied - and there really is no turning back. For better or worse - most probably for both - Pandora's Box is open," he said.
Rehman also believes the government will remain consistent in its claim that it will not censor the Internet, and is unlikely to change its stance with rising Internet penetration rates.
"I doubt it. What would likely happen instead is more stringent attention to the laws of sedition, defamation and libel on the part of the authorities, and a concomitant attention to ethics and professionalism on the part of journalists. Neither of which would be necessarily negative for the media consumer," he said.
Julian Matthews is ZDNet Asia's correspondent in Malaysia.1>