Merging of Mainstream and Social Media?

July 29th, 2008   •   8 comments   


I moderated and chaired two sessions on new media yesterday at the Civil Service College. Held as part of their Senior Executive Development Programme together with the National Institute of Public Administration (Malaysia), it featured public service attendees from both sides of the causeway. Joining me for the second session were Arun Mahizhnan of the Institute of Policy Studies and Chua Mui Hoong of the Straits Times.

Several interesting points were raised during the discussion, and they include the following:

Growth and Influence of Social Media

Number of Internet users in China will leapfrog that of the US by 2009. There are currently about 2.4 million internet users in Singapore, and another 13.5 million internet users in Malaysia.
Amongst Singaporean users, at least 63% write a blog or contribute to other people’s blogs or social networking sites (source Synovate). Approximately 350,000 or so Singaporeans are on Facebook, and the number is growing exponentially.

From a simple show of hands in the room of mostly late 30 somethings to 50 somethings, I could gather that Facebook is definitely the most pervasive social media platform for the…err…. “young at heart”. This is probably due to its lower barrier to entry due to a highly intuitive and user friendly interface.

Reporters are Now Blogging

Both SPH and MediaCorp are encouraging their younger journos and reporters to set up their own blogs and to speak in their own voices. This will depend on the inclinations of individuals. However, they are limited to their perspectives and observations of the news stories which they cover. Naturally as journalists, they are encouraged to ensure that some levels of accuracy, veracity and authenticity are arrived at.

Young People ARE Reading Newspapers – Online That Is

This was an interesting revelation to me. Contrary to popular belief, many young folks do get their news from mainstream media players in Singapore. They cite news sources from freely available online news platforms like, Straits Times Online, Today Online, New York Times, CNN and others which are produced by newspaper and broadcast companies. What they do in their blogs are to cite these sources of news and add an opinion or view to them.

Media Landscape in Malaysia and Singapore Vastly Different

One of the most interesting points raised was the Penetration/Participation Paradox highlighted by Arun (which was previously referred to by Dr Cherian George of NTU). While Singapore has a higher internet and broadband penetration rate (close to 80% of households) and far greater proportion of internet users and bloggers, it doesn’t have as many professionally run alternative news sites as Malaysia does.

Almost all the news here are generated by the two major players, while independent sites like Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today have provided alternative news sources to our neighbours up North. This does present certain challenges and issues in managing the media which are unique to both countries. Of course, the political landscapes of both countries are fairly different too.

The Lines Are Blurring

With the march of the mainstream media guys towards social media platforms (check STOMP,,’s blog awards, Channel News Asia’s Blogs, BlogTV, and others), the lines between the two are fast becoming indistinct. The rise in Internet Protocol Television or IPTV, as well as alternative channels like Joost, lead to the world wide web becoming a one-stop source for news in any format you desire.

In the same way, some of our social media stars have appeared in mainstream media platforms either in the past or present. They include Wendy Cheng (or Xiaxue), who made several appearances in Girl About Town, as well as others like Dawn Yang, Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi, and others.

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  1. Benjamin Koe
    posted on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:40 AM

    Fantastic post Walter. Does the lack of alt news sources in Singapore also mean less impact and influence? I think you’ve drawn a good picture of the content out there, but it’ll be great to find out the sentiment of the public towards the “new” media.

  2. posted on Jul 30, 2008 at 4:44 AM

    Thanks for this post, Walter. So ST is also encouraging their journalists to blog. Interesting. Though I feel it’s the senior journalists who should also be blogging. Singapore seems to lack that sort of “professional gravitas” in the blogs, compared to the US. I see it as the lack of professional blogs (i.e. those who identify their occupations and/ or employers).

  3. Anonymous
    posted on Jul 30, 2008 at 6:37 AM

    Great post Walter

    Fantastic. I am glad to hear ST has finally relented to the logic. This proposition was once advanced by Darkness very strongly. The people who seem to write very wordy essays. The article is floating around somewhere in the net. However, the gist of it is, he believes instead of the MSM fighting blogosphere. It makes more sense if they pursue a strategy of “constructive engagement.” He went on to cite the example, this was what the music industry failed to do when the internet first started to rip music. There is also a very bizarre comparison with tanks and why he believe quantity is superior to quality. He seems to be saying that is there is a critical flaw in the MSM, they believe quality is king, but they seem to discount quantity is a form of quantity. There are complex math models, I do not understand, but a friend of mine who is a mathematician claimed they contain serious flaws, as they are not complete.

    His comaprison with the music industry. I found very revealing,m he said the failure of the music industry to contructive engage the internet not only ended up with loss of market share but eventually the whole music industry hollowed out. The said article is quite cheem and verbose. It also contains alot of theories which are quite dubious as they seem homespun, but if one has the patience to read it to the end. The recommendations are profound and the case compelling. As the author claims to have successfully used it to change what he called the mental demographics of certain gaming forums. It ends with a bang by claim not only will it bring added direction and a competitive scope to our Singapore blogo community, but it will also infuse it with added diversity and vibrancy.

    As an academic who is very much interested in this area. I also welcome this. Thanks for writing this article, it was very educational.

    Tan Zee Lin

  4. Anonymous
    posted on Jul 30, 2008 at 8:26 AM

    For some strange reason so much of what this fellow writes is lost.

    Are you talking abt this? Or is it another work posted somewhere else that can never be discovered.

  5. Jules Viernes
    posted on Jul 30, 2008 at 11:09 PM


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  6. posted on Aug 02, 2008 at 9:49 AM


    Thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, I think the lack of truly credible alternative sources have affected the voices of citizen “journalists” here. While we do have some almost full-time bloggers, their role is more in entertaining people with their lives as opposed to reporting on the latest updates and developments.

  7. posted on Aug 02, 2008 at 9:50 AM


    Agree with you on the lack of professional bloggers here. You are probably one of the few who belong to that category, and of course Siva, Kevin, Ben, and Daryl Tay.

  8. posted on Aug 02, 2008 at 9:53 AM

    Zee Lin,

    Thanks for your views and insights. It only makes sense for them to go that way. In fact, a sub-editor friend of mine just asked me which blogging software to use.

    It is beginning to get brighter in the media universe, both social media and mainstream.

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