At least 33 magazines and tabloids closed since December
If there’s any doubt that disruption is at hand in the communications industry just look at the sheer number of closures of Indonesian media. At least 33 newspapers and magazines have closed down since December last year.
This raises interesting questions on how corporations can still reach their customers and other audiences that matter. After all, the news outlets they’ve relied on as a medium of communicating with their consumers is failing than a line of dominoes.
July a tough month for Indonesian media
Thanks to some research from my colleague Wicaksono, aka Ndoro Kakung, we found that December 2016 was a bad month for the Kompas Gramedia Group as it closed four tabloids – Sinyal, Chip, Chip Foto & Video and Motor – and four magazines – Kawanku, What Hi Fi, Auto Expert, Car and Tuning Guide.
The industry quietened down but from May onwards more closures followed. First was lifestyle and fashion magazine Nylon, followed by another Kompas Gramedia Group casualty, the music magazine Hai.
July was a bad month as it was convulsed with 11 closures. The largest number of casualties came from the giant MNC group as it closed down its regional daily editions of Koran Sindo in north and south Sumatera; central, east and west Java as well as north Sulawesi. The group belonging to tycoon and politician Harry Tanoesoedibjo also closed down women’s tabloid Genie and parenting tabloid Mom and Kiddie.
The Kompas Gramedia Group took another casualty that month – the aviation magazine Angkasa and the MRA Group – known for holding the Harley Davidson franchise in Indonesia, its luxurious Bulgari Hotel in Bali and lately the problems its owner Soetikno Soedarjo is having with the KPK – also had to close their men’s magazine Maxim.
Even God couldn’t save the Hisbut Tahir publications
Even the religious publications could not find salvation in such a brutal climate of disruption. The Islamic supremacist Hisbut Tahir Indonesia publications Media Umat tabloid and Al-Wa’ie magazine went to meet their maker in August.
There is no doubt that there will be more closures in 2017 and beyond. This is hardly surprising since the younger generation now consume information from the internet and mainly on the mobiles.
So what should corporations do?
This state of affairs, however, has implications for corporations and brands that have traditionally relied on the Indonesian media to get their messages out to the public and customers. One alternative is to court online publications, but its an extremely crowded and noisy place. This makes it very difficult for any corporation or brand to differentiate themselves from the pack.
When it comes to issues management the online media often takes a publish-first-and-correct-later attitude. This makes corporations extra vulnerable to attacks by activists and competitors.
The online media is increasingly more likely to print any allegation, founded or not. By the time the corporations come round to responding, the news may have already gone viral and the damage done.
All the more reason why corporations need to start exploring, if they haven’t already, how they need to get their messages out. The direction seems to be that they should be publishers themselves, become generators of content that are relevant to their audiences.
In reality however, this is not so easily done. Many corporations do not have the kind of openness and culture that supports content generation and quick response. Many of them also do not have the know-how or the skills to produce a constant stream of content and then to get them out there through the various social media platforms.
Support for empathic media an alternative?
An alternative may be to consider supporting empathic online publications, as opposed to the present media that works more on a fault-findingmodel rather than an explanatory model. The commercial media make their money from advertising and to command higher advertising rates they have to attract lots of eyeballs. To do this they have to resort to sensationalism or clickbait.
Emphatic online publications, however, do not have to fall into that model if they receive the support of corporations. They can practice what is called constructive journalism, that focuses more on solutions and information dissemination rather than fault finding. Perhaps then they can get a better deal when it comes to getting their messages out.
The Indonesian media are closing because the present model is broken. It needs to be replaced by something new. Fortunately, the tools are available today to do that. If only corporations have the foresight and the courage to try something disruptive and new.
More bad news on the way
In the meantime the toll mounts: We have just learned that The Femina Group’s women magazines Cleo and Pesona will be printing their last edition in August and September this year.