2018 has been a tough year for print media in Malaysia.
Journalism, particularly print journalism, has been badly affected by what we call the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4). Print journalism isn’t handling the digitalisation of content very well. This year alone:
Malay Mail has ditched its print edition and have gone purely digital and will be letting go of employees.
Utusan Malaysia is also shedding employees.
And even if they’re not print media, my heart goes out to TV3 staff who are being retrenched.
The Malaysian media isn’t changing fast enough to keep up with the changes being brought about by IR4. Perhaps they can’t.
And while I intellectually understand why companies are retrenching journalists, I think it’s a flawed strategy. These are the experienced and passionate folks who are producing the content you need to survive in the first place. Why chop off your limbs to survive?
The IR4 and the Future of work is something every single company has to content with in the world. Print journalism needs to roll with the times - but can they do anything? Or should print media be allowed to die so that something else can rise from the ashes? Or will it be too late by then.
In September, I had the chance to talk to a Filipino journalist who told me that he works for a news agency. When I asked him where the office was he said that there wasn’t any - the agency did not have a physical office, which meant that they had no over head costs.
Staff are connected via mobile applications. They have meetings via Skype.
I wonder if Malaysian print companies can do the same?
Can we shed expensive buildings instead of staff?
Can we utilise web applications to make work easier?
Can we allow staff to work from home instead from a physical place that we need to maintain?
Can the media earn money besides through ads? Through real estate? Digital Marketing? Branded content?
Should its existence be paid by the Malaysian people via taxes?
Questions media around the world are wrestling with now. I hope that we’ll never end up having a journalism desert in Malaysia. Because journalism serves a very important function and we cannot afford to lose it in a fragile democracy like Malaysia’s.
Until now, I’m praying that the Malaysian media continue to be resilient. Perhaps digital only is the path we need to take - but until the powers-that-be behind traditional media make bold moves or until people are willing to support the media via ads or even subscriptions, things will continue its downward spiral.