In this ever-changing digital landscape, the global trend of online media consumption has continued to increase with the help of rapid digital and technology developments coupled with the attractive prices of smart devices. As Thai consumers become more tech-savvy and are embracing the ease and benefits of scrolling through their news feeds, print media is rapidly declining.
The Thai newspaper industry’s advertising revenues have been continuously declining since 2013. According to The Nielsen Co., a leading global data measurement company, the industry’s advertising revenues fell from 15.4 billion baht in 2006 to 12.3 billion baht in 2015. In addition to these industry wide figures, local newspapers have corresponding results. The Matichon Group of newspapers which includes Khaosod English registered a loss of 86 million baht towards the end of 2016 while Post Publishing Co., the publisher of leading newspapers Bangkok Post, Post Today and M2F generated a small profit of 450,000 baht after being in loss of 42.1 million baht in 2015. In addition to this a 45-year-old daily newspaper Baan-Muang ceased production at the end of 2016.
With advertising revenues plummeting, newspaper publishers have turned to stringent cost cutting strategies including downsizing, printing in smaller papers, and freezing salaries and new hires. All of these are clear signs towards the near end of print media and publishing.
The reality is that consumers have changed. News and information can be easily accessed online and most importantly for free! Social media and networking platforms has also amplified the power of word of mouth and latest news and updates are being shared in just a matter of clicks. The Nielson Co., revealed that the total online advertising spending grew by 63.4 percent between January and November 2016 to 1.59 billion baht – confirming the heavy use of digital technology and online consumption of Thai consumers.
Adapt and Transition
Print publications have to adapt and move online and the ugly truth is if they haven’t so already, they’re chances of going out of business is substantially higher. Creating an app, having social media accounts and a website are common ways publishers have transitioned online – however millennials are always on the look-out for free content and are reluctant to pay for news which they will probably end up finding on their social media channels. Online publishers cannot survive solely relying on advertisements, content remains king.
The challenge that publishers face today is creating content that is worth paying for in a large ocean of online publishers. Leading publishers like the New York Times have moved behind a paywall where only paid subscribers can read and engage with stories. This is something that leading publishers who wish to survive should strive on doing – they need to aim to position themselves as high end, creating unique content that isn’t found anywhere else on the web.
The issue with online media and news is that the truth can be skewed and fake news can easily be shared and distributed. In comparison to this, print media is known for its credibility as editors are able to selectively plan and decide which news are published in the newspaper. They decide what you ‘need’ to know rather what you ‘want’ to know.
The truth is, with the ease of sending messages, updating statuses online and with the ability to live stream videos through your smartphone – anyone can be a news reporter. Even-though this may sound like a great and revolutionary thing, it can be very dangerous. Fake news has recently been a hot topic. It played a major role in the recent presidential election and triggered a false Facebook alert in Thailand – to name a few. What publishers need ensure is that their sources are legitimate and even more so that their content is authentic and unique in order to strive in this highly competitive digital environment.
We all know the repercussions of fake news and poor credibility. It can be damaging. Several organizations including Facebook have started to tackle this issue. In January, Facebook unveiled the ‘Journalism Project’ to strengthen media ties and promote news literacy. The project’s key objectives include to work with journalists to build storytelling tools and monetization options and to work with third parties to promote news literacy on and off the social network. More recently Facebook has announced that it will be ‘flagging’ fake news. Bogus posts from disreputable sites will still show up on your Facebook timeline however they will be accompanied by a small warning banner.
The issue with this system is that there is a lengthy process involved in vetting articles and issuing the warning banner on the ‘fake news’. First is the fake post either has to be flagged by a particular number of users of the company’s automated software. After this, the post is then sent to a fact-checking website like Politifact where it is scrutinized. If two or more fact-checkers flag it again, Facebook will apply the banner. Therefore, it is safe to say that by the time this so-called fake news is flagged down by Facebook, it would have already been widely spread, considering the speed of word of mouth and social sharing activates. Nonetheless we understand this is just a first step in tackling a really complex problem and support Facebook in their role in devising a solution.
Facebook has taken initiative to come up with policies to reduce the financial incentives of publishing false stories and this is something that should be taken seriously and considered industry wide. In order to build credibility and reduce fake news industry wide, large fines and consequences should be implemented to those who publish hoax and fake news stories.
There are several consequences that will rise with the end of print media – from credibility to the important news that we will oversee due to our tendency to find news that we ‘want’ to see rather than what we ‘need’ to see. We need to ensure that we do not become ignorant and become media literate in order to identify the difference between what news is fake and what is real. These are the key challenges that we as consumers will face as media consumption shifts from offline to online – however as publishers, developing unique and engaging content coupled with devising strategies that do not heavily rely on advertising income is crucial for survival.