Wednesday, 13 November 2013

More than just business

Brave New World (The Star)
13 November 2013

At the end of the day, whether in print or online, credibility is crucial to real success.


I LIKE newspapers. I like books and magazines.
I don’t like reading things on a computer screen, tablet or electronic book.
Even in my work, if I’m sent something lengthy to read by e-mail, I will usually print it out first. I guess I’m old fashioned that way.
There is something oddly unsatisfactory in reading a computer screen. Maybe it’s the loss of the tactile element of being able to touch something and (in the case of new books) to sniff it.
Also, I just find it so much easier to have an entire document in my hand, something I can flick through with ease if I wanted to.
It is quite natural, therefore, for me to feel a little twinge of distress every time I read or hear some report declaring that the time for newspapers is almost up.
The electronic world is going to end news reading as we know it. No more crackling crisp sheets of virgin paper. No more ink stains on fingers; just the cold tap-tapping of a tablet screen or the mechanical clicking of a mouse.
Maybe this is all inevitable, but I hope that it is a long way off because really, one of life’s little pleasures is sitting in the dingy confines of a kopitiam going through the daily cartoons and sports with a hot cup of black coffee in the early morning cool.
Be that as it may, newspapers must adjust if they are to survive.
It is the way of any business endeavour. In the face of change: adapt or die.
And many newspapers are indeed struggling. Readership is down and with fewer eyes scanning one’s pages, businesses are less willing to pay to advertise.
What can be done? I am not so sure, being a non-business type person. A greater online presence will help, seeing as most young people now find their news that way.
But at the end of the day, a newspaper, whether in print or electronically disseminated, must be credible.
Without that credibility, if the reader cannot trust what you say, then it doesn’t matter how great your business plan is, you will fail.
An untrustworthy newspaper is about as attractive as, I don’t know, one of my interminably dull lectures on the enforcement of foreign judgments, I suppose.
What a newspaper should not do is to expect government help to direct GLCs to advertise with them.
This merely serves to diminish credibility further by making it clear to all and sundry that your paper is beholden to the powers that be (for how, pray tell, are you going to report objectively when you are beholden).
It is also patently unfair and a waste of money on the part of the GLCs who are being asked to do something which they, with all their business sense, had good reason not to do in the first place.
Furthermore, it perpetuates a culture of dependence and entitlement. If your business is not doing well, instead of going around with cap in hand demanding help, isn’t it better to try to root out the cause of your troubles and solve it (for example, the issue of credibility)?
And we are not talking about some fledgling publication here. The papers in question have been around for decades.
If a business can’t survive on its own steam with scores of years of experience and existence under its belt, then perhaps it doesn’t deserve to survive at all.

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