The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of great transition for both the content and distribution sides of the media industry, and they have faced the challenges well and emerged even stronger, said experts at a forum.
The panel discussion, held on Dec 14, focused on the topic “New Normal, New Media”, which closely relates to how the media sector adapted to fit the new environment and shifted its business models for the coming new year.
The forum was part of the webinar, Asia: Economic and Business “New Normal” 2022,co-hosted by China Daily Leadership Roundtable and Asian News Network.
Experts said that, just as the commercial sectors have been heavily affected by the pandemic, with companies in various industries battling to regain their footing, the media industry has also seen vast and drastic changes on numerous aspects.
Sonia Awale, executive editor, Nepali Times, who works as an environmental correspondent in Nepal, covers topics such as air pollution, climate change, development, political and economic injury cases. Many reporters like her have been at the frontlines of the pandemic as covering various stories constantly exposes them to the danger of infections, she said.
However, to tackle the situation, back in March 2020 they were among the first groups to receive the right for vaccination in her country.
Apart from the trend of having employees work from home, media companies too had to make the transition from print to digital, Awale noted.
“The Nepali Times (used to be) a weekly paper,” she mentioned. “But today, we work or we have more or less been trained to work as a web service, given the flow of information we have, especially when we were forced to shut down our print (edition) for nearly a month.”
Awale said that their online readers are at least 10 times more than their print readers. "So today, our rivals are not other newspapers but YouTube, TikTok and content generation".
D.J. Clark, the multimedia director of China Daily Asia Pacific, talked about the challenges facing his team who work on video content and the changes they madeduring the pandemic.
He said that the pandemic in some ways has been beneficial for video content as it leads to more consumption online because of the lockdowns across the world.
However, Clark noted the biggest problem has been on the production side as they did half of their content outside Hong Kong, but the travel restrictions means that they cannot easily travel abroad, so they have to produce more content locally. They also had to secure the help of a network of freelancers.
“That has been a learning process in terms of creating new workflows with people outside or sending our producers out for long periods,” he said.
Pana Janviroj, editor, Asia News Network, highlighted the issue of social media attracting all the advertising money from the legacy media as people are increasingly getting news from digital portals.
He said 20-25 percent of news events and conversations occur on social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
But he thinks that the legacy media, which breaks and follows authentic news, are able to innovate and capture the key news items.
“You cannot beat free content,”he said, but noted that free content remains inconsistent as it lacks adequate resources.
"Our main job is not to follow fake news (on new media). Our job is to do real news and to do things that (are) better for society or whatever," said Janviroj.
Janviroj said he hoped innovations taking place in the industry can help journalists to be social influencers and help to empower the newsroom.
Rupak Kumar Sen, general manager - international business, Indian Express said, “Like those who say that data is the new oil, I think they are very much right.”
He gives the example of the Indian Express newspaper that incorporates big data in its marketing strategy. Even during the pandemic, the newspaper tied up with various financial institutions like banks, which have millions of customers, and offered its web version to their consumers.
“That has literally helped us to reach out to as many readers as possible,” said Sen.
The pandemic has forced the traditional print media to think differently and to use technology, he said.
Muhammad Zubair Ahmed, Diplomatic Correspondent, Pakistan Observer said digitalization is the key word during the pandemic era. Many young journalists possess newer skillsets, newer strategies and fresh ideas, he said.
“At the same time, we are also seeing (young journalists) practicing good journalism, ethical journalism,” he said.
He said that it may be surprising that in Pakistan, during the emergence of COVID-19 almost every other journalist createdtheir own YouTube channel.
China Daily Leadership Roundtable and Asian News Network, an alliance of 23 national media organizations in 20 Asian countries,brought together leading Asian business executives to look at the prospects for 2022 and beyond. The panel on media was hosted by Azam Khan, Anchor, Multimedia Program, China Daily Hong Kong.