Going down…sales drop after the 2013 elections
A sales plunge of 72,000 copies a day has placed Harian Metro in danger of dropping out of the major league of Malaysian daily newspapers and suffering the same fate as other Umno-owned dailies which were long ago knocked off their perch as heavyweights.
The tabloid’s formula of sex, scandal, gossip and sensation took sales to a peak of almost 400,000 but its steady decline since then may leave it coming off second best to The Star and Sin Chew Daily, both of which have held steady. The Star hovers just below the 300,000 mark with average sales at June 2014 of 291,068. Sin Chew suffered a post-election decline to 363,659.
Harian Metro sales were only 22,600 more than the Star in the middle of last year: if the slide continues at the same rate since the elections, it might be selling less than the Star this time next year. This is the current situation:
The prospect of Harian Metro selling less than the Star will not be well received by Umno’s media committee at Menara Dato Onn (the party headquarters) or at the Prime Minister’s Office, from where emanate commands over coverage in the papers of New Straits Times Press and Media Prima television. It is an open secret in media circules that the party owns Media Prima and NSTP through proxies.
The rightwing of Umno which looks at everything from an Us v Them racial perspective, and will not be able to tolerate the idea of a Malay-owned Malay-language newspaper not being dominant, in line with the party’s political philosophy of Malay supremacy and dominance.
The Star and Sin Chew, both public-listed companies, are owned or controlled by Malaysian Chinese interests: the MCA political party controls the Star, and Sarawak timber tycoon Tiong Heng Kiew owns Sin Chew as well as three other Chinese-language newspapers in Malaysia. He also owns Chinese-language newspapers in Hong Kong and Canada, through his holding company Media Chinese International.
How did the other papers fare?
Former heavyweights fading out…
With sales like these, is it any wonder that Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi, appointed only in November to the board of directors of New Straits Times Press, has made a political attack on Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and Free Malaysia Today? The attack was more about their coverage of the recent ding-dong between Daim Zainuddin-Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim-Najib Razak, and Puad made a typical Umno response of asking for government intervention — mainly because Media Prime and NSTP have never known how to compete on professional grounds.
Will Puad do anything, other than be a bully?
Attacking online sites for alleged political bias will do them little harm, but will probably raise people’s respect for them a little bit more.
After all, newspaper readers have long seen through the sham of NSTP and Utusan Groups pretending to practice professional journalism when the political propaganda that they serve is so naked, unashamed and obvious. It is no wonder readers flock to online sites, which offer a diversity of views, some basic journalism and some hard-hitting commentaries.
Puad isn’t at NSTP to fix circulation problems, of course. He wouldn’t know a professional piece of journalism if it came and bit him on his fat arse. It’s a sinecure, given that Umno politicians only know about propaganda: that’s his basic role as apparatchik and party commissar.
Ask any of the scores of journalists who have departed Balai Berita, by choice or necessity, and found themselves able to breathe the fresh air of daily journalism, or at least a decent semblance, away from the miasmic fog of Jalan Riong.
Not a few of them are to be found in, yes, Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider, the Malay Mail and Malay Mail Online, the Rakyat Post, the Edge, the Malaysian Reserve — and of course at The Star, if theyhaven’t yet left the country in utter despair.
Not that professional journalism and standards ever mattered to the likes of Puad and other politicos, whether at the PM’s Department or at KDN, or Bukit Aman, which didn’t flinch from beating up journalists in 2012 on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Graphics by uppercaise. Data from Audit Bureau of Circulation Malaysia circulation reports.