The Rise of the Fifth Estate: The Pattern of Online Media in Malaysian Society By Su’ad Nabila Binti. Mohd Sharfuddin Abstract Media in Malaysia started as early as 1806 when the first newspaper, Prince of Wales Island Gazette (PWIG) was published in Penang. The development of media industry continued until the New Economic Policy (NEP) that was embarked in 1970 and privatization policy which took place in 1980s. Since then, Malaysia media industry started to grow quantitatively from newspaper, radio, television then internet.
The internet age in Malaysia begin in 1992 when the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic System (MIMOS) launched JARING (Joint Advanced Research Integrated Networking) and online media started in 1995 by The Star launched the first online version of the newspaper which Malaysian use as the alternative medium for them to source for updated news and information besides the mainstream media. With the advancement of technology in today’s world, delivering and receiving news via online media can be done anytime anywhere within a second.
Online media do provides more freedom to the media in terms of reporting and delivering news to the public. However, with the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) being create as a guideline, it somehow limit the freedom that can be practice in online media journalism. Online media is growing in a very fast pace that could take over the main role of mainstream media in the future. This journal explores the pattern of the online media development, current scenario and its future trends in Malaysia. Introduction The rise of the fifth estate in Malaysia has caused the development of online media as the new medium in communication.
The rapid growth of online media in Malaysia has proof that internet medium is being utilized extensively by Malaysian media as well as the public to share information and communicate with the world without boundaries. This scenario also attracts the foreign investment in Malaysian information technology via the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) that guaranteed of no censorship of the internet. Although it stated that internet is a medium that would give freedom to the media, with the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) being on board, it somehow limit the freedom that media supposed to have. The Act stated that: the Communications and Multimedia Act for the broadcasting industry and the Internet, which invariably empower the ministers concerned to determine who can or cannot own and run the mainstream press and broadcasting stations (Dr K Anuar, Mustafa 2007). There are few website that being banned from viewership in Malaysia even though MSC clearly stated that there should not be any censorship on the Internet under its Multimedia Bill of Guarantees 1997. Websites that has been banned from the Malaysian viewership is including Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay is a web downloader host that allows downloading pirated files including movies, music and others.
With the banned of the website, there were thousands of people protests the action by the Multimedia Commission. “The protest could be seen on Facebook as well, with over 6,500 people posting messages against the decision” (CBR 2011). The beginning of online media in Malaysia The readership of print newspaper has consistently decline from year to year with the growth of online media. This situation has urged the publishers to venture in the online arena. They would not only concentrate on the print medium, but online newspaper would also be the focus to published news and story.
With online media, publishers not only compete among other local online media, the competition is also expanding worldwide. This is due to the Internet access from all over the world. As mention in the Malaysian Journal of Media Studies: The Internet offers many publishing capabilities which include delivering up-to-date information, offering interactivity features and reaching more readers. As such, many newspaper companies in Malaysia have taken a step ahead in publishing their news on the Internet to healthily compete with not only local competitors but foreign newspaper (Mohd Yahya M. A & Noor Ismawati J. 2009) Many established organizations started to expand their media platform into online media. Online media also help them to attract more interest and widen the choices of advertising platform as well as the coverage and reach to the public – more people would read their news. In June 1995, The Star was the first newspaper to have an online edition; thereafter, Sin Chew Daily, Utusan Melayu, and others offered similar options, In 1999, Malaysiakini became the country’s first online newspaper (Keat Gin, Ooi, 2009). Since then, there are many other entity joined the online media world such as PAS and Aliran.
Editor, John D. H. Downing (2011) identifies stand-alone website in Malaysia including Malaysian Insider (www. themalaysianinsider. com), the Malay-language Agenda Daily (www. agendadaily. com), the Chinese-language Merdeka (Independence) Review (www. merdekareview. com), and The Nut Graph (www. thenutgraph. com). The revival of Anwar Ibrahim and the Reformasi was considered as the beginning of online media in Malaysia. Malaysiakini started with the first online newspaper as the alternative news resource by the public. Malaysiakini was started by two Malaysian, Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran.
Gan have worked in several media in few countries including Malaysia and Bangkok, while Chandran further to graduate studies and work as a researcher in Malaysian Trades Union Congress writing on economics, development and labor issues. Both Gan and Chandran were unsatisfied and not happy of how the press in Malaysia is being controlled by the government. In Cherian George (2006) book of Contentious Journalism and the Internet, he quote Chandran’s status quo by saying: The Malaysian print and broadcast media has long failed to meet the international media standards.
Self-censorship and biased reporting is wide-spread, stemming from ownership biases, annual renewal of licenses, government support for so-called “development journalism,” editorial structures and other journalistic practices. This mediocrity occurs in all forms of mass media, although the degree of independence and slant varies. The public, while often in support of a more independent media, have generally come to accept the local characteristics, and develop their own talents to “read between the lines. ” (Cherian George, 2006)
Malaysiakini was launched at the right timing in 1999 nearer to the general election. This is when the public would look for alternative news which is via online. Alternative media become the ……….. Local current scenario of online media From time to time, more media start to realize that the Internet provides a good platform to reach to the audience in spreading the news, information and entertainment. Within a short time of period, online media started to develop in its number with the born of other online newspaper, to name the few, Malaysian Digest, Malaysia Today, New Straits Time and many others.
With the rise of Internet prospects, the Audit Bureau Circulation (ABC) started to provide figures on number of page impression and viewership of the popular online media in Malaysia. The figure would help the media owner to compete with each other in terms of generating revenue. Advertisers now have an extensive platform to advertise their product as part of their marketing strategy. The more page view and impression a particular website has, the higher demand they get from advertisers. Advertisers see online media as a cost effective medium to advertise.
Readers or viewers do not have to spend money for subscription as they need to pick up hard copy of newspaper every day. However, for the media owner, they would lose revenue in terms of subscription figure. Mohd Yahya M. A & Noor Ismawati J. (2009) in their journal mentioned that: Although the Internet can help online publishers save the cost of printing and delivering the hardcopy newspaper, online newspaper have yet to generate sizeable revenues by charging their readers. Will subscription charges work on the Internet, given its culture of free information?
The filtering of worthwhile information is an important function to be fulfilled by the newspaper (Mohd Yahya M. A & Noor Ismawati J. , 2009) The Star being the first media owner to come up with online version called Star Online, did their own research on the comparison of highest readership and viewership of their online newspaper and the closest competitors – New Straits Times & Malaysia Insider. Graph showing based on the year 2012 figure as to date Sept 2012. | |Unique Browsers | | |Jan-12 |
The Star Online |30,543,046 |30,392,570 |32,925,892 |28,945,968 |31,242,755 |27,768,429 |30,317,809 |29,634,103 |26,920,268 | |NST Online |2,127,272 |1,938,294 |2,153,698 |1,790,822 |2,306,382 |2,057,578 |2,354,215 |2,389,024 |2,296,088 | |Malaysian Insider |13,957,208 |12,403,047 |12,946,674 |13,360,658 |13,905,116 |11,982,145 |12,114,531 |11,574,959 |11,033,920 | |*Source: Effective Measure 2012 Table 1: Unique Browsers & Pageviews From the chart above, we can say that The Star Online is proving the success of online media or newspaper in Malaysia. They reached over 30,000 pageviews YTD 2012.
Star Online literally become the second revenue generator Star Publications (M) Sdn Bhd above their main core product which is the newspaper. Below are the graph showing the declining and increasing in the figure stated in the table above: [pic] Chart 1: Unique Browsers [pic] Chart 2: Pageviews Blog Website is not the only platform that is used in online media. Blogs are also another type of platform online that currently being used widely for the same purpose. Blogs is simple and easy to operate and is preferred among individuals. News, videos and pictures can be easily shared with the world via blogs.
According to Yang May Ooi (2007), “there are 170 million blog creators and 340 million blog readers worldwide, mainly in emerging Internet markets in Asia”. Blogging is a new trendy form of communication to express our feeling, thoughts and opinion. Globally, almost 60 percent of respondents agree that blogging is a positive form of expression, 34 percent agree that they can trust bloggers’ opinions, and 33 percent believe that corporate blogs have a positive impact on their perception of the company (Yang-May, Ooi 2007) The existence of blog now had made it possible for anyone to write and practice journalism.
Some people even make blogging as their part time and even a fulltime job. Blogging is very flexible and the network that it has is very wide, where one blogger can share link from another blogger. This flexibility mark that the news or information can be spread very fast. Through a blog, you can engage with other bloggers who may blog about you or your business and link to your blog. Links drive new readers to your site and can help raise your blog in the search rankings. Other bloggers may alos be happy to help you spread the word about an event, say, by writing it up on their blog.
The key here is to fully engage with the blogging community as one individual to another – this means reciprocating by linking to other blogs, being generous with space on your blog to publicise other bloggers’ events and doing all the things you’d like them to do for your blog (Yang-May Ooi, 2007) Online media future trends The current media trends would see the growth in the number of online media in the market. Based on the Impact of New Media on Traditional Mainstream Mass Media journal the author had quote Straits Times (October 22 ,2008) article by saying:
The expansion of the new media in Malaysia has been so extensive that, in a recent comment, the then – Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar stated: “The Internet news media cannot be called an “alternative media” any more as it is a more popular medium than the traditional mainstream media in Malaysia…I think we have to call the alternative media the mainstream media (Ali Salman, Faridah Ibrahim, Mohd Yusof Hj. Abdullah, Normah Mustaffa, Maizatul Haizan Mahbob, 2011) The growth of online media would be expected to grow in this few years. In future, newspaper – the traditional media would not be the first and only choice for reading and news source.
People would opt for online media as it more convenient with the lifestyle that we endure in today’s life. Furthermore, with the advancement of technology, gadget such as smartphone, tablet and netbook that allow people to go online with the wireless network offered by most of the telecommunication party would make people or users only choose to pick up and read newspaper as when they are free to do so. The convenience that the technology provides is worried to make the future generation forget of existence of newspaper and other print media including magazines.
The print media now realize that they would need to take part and reengineer the method of delivering news that would suit the needs of current and future generation. Conclusion Online media has a big contribution and will continue to do so in terms of delivering news and information to the public. This new media should be seen as the advantage and opportunity for us to compete with other country worldwide in terms of developing the technology, economy and social perspective.