SEOUL (June 23, 2012) — How news operations have adapted to the digital environment was the focus at a luncheon panel on the second day of the East-West Center’s 2012 International Media Conference. Providing analysis and anecdotes from their respective countries and news organizations were: Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor in chief of The Philippine Star; Eric Owles, chief online producer at The New York Times; Kang Bing, Deputy Editor of the China Daily; and Felix Soh, digital media editor for several Malay and English newspapers owned by Singapore Press Holdings. Randall Smith from the Missouri School of Journalism moderated.
Pamintuan said that it is important for news media today to be on as many platforms as possible, even if the financial return is not as great as expected, and that journalists must be digitally savvy and willing to learn new skills for reporting and disseminating news. The Star shares its content across many digital platforms for local and international audiences, she said, offering customizable news apps, digital replicas of the printed edition and broadcasts available at train stations. When its new mobile app launches, she said, the newspaper will also be offering its archives dating back to its first edition in 1986.
Kang said that in the age of the wired news consumer, reputation was key to a strong publication. China Daily mainly targets an overseas foreign audience, he said, and such a focus carries special challenges.
The newspaper has doubled its circulation in the past few years, and ad revenue has grown, Kang said. In addition to European, American and Asian editions, the newspaper is launching an African edition.
“Are readers are willing to pay for online journalism? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes,” said Owles of The New York Times, which in 2011 introduced a “paywall” subscription fee for frequent readers of its online content. He discounted the notion that only businesspeople with expense accounts are willing to pay for online content and said that that innovative journalism is the remedy for attracting users who are hesitant to pay. The Times is now exploring efforts to reach more mobile readers, he said.
Connectedness is key as newspapers explore ways to find their footing in the digital realm, said Soh of Singapore Press Holdings, a news organization he said comprises 18 newspapers in four languages, as well as many magazines. Soh said his company has invested nearly 300 million Singapore dollars ($234.8 million) in digital enterprises. Since it has had a paywall in place, the company has experienced financial growth, he said, and models such as offering free digital subscriptions to print subscribers haves contributed to the growth.
Soh said the company’s digital strategy is to “be everywhere.” “Digital media allows us to engage the audience in a way print cannot,” he said. “Sharing content online can only be good for us.”
Online and mobile technologies have increased the speed at which information is disseminated, the panelists said, and that has put further pressure on content creators and editors to report speedily and publish even quicker. Owles said that the quality of copyediting has suffered because of the hectic pace of news dissemination, mostly because fewer editors see the story before publication. Pamintuan said that this “sloppiness” was a problem, and that libel suits in the Philippines have resulted from inaccuracies that appeared in the finished product. She said she didn’t know how the problem could be remedied with such a hectic production schedule.
Pamintuan stressed that writing shorter articles is key for communicating quickly to an audience that has less time than ever to read. Consequently, The Philippine Star requires reporters to acclimate to a 24-hour news cycle and be ready to report from 6 a.m. to midnight, she said. At The New York Times, Owles said, the traditional formula of two reporters and a photographer for each in-depth story is now supplemented with multiple graphics editors and a videographer. The content produced is intended to be embedded within a single web page and not drive the user away from the content by presenting new windows. The New York Times also launched an integrated content editor that allows journalists to post and edit content from anywhere in the world. Additionally, a program allows reporters to create their own graphics without having to have complex web coding knowledge, Owles said.
— Reporting by David Cawthon, Missouri School of Journalism