Figures for each paper in the table at the foot of the page
By Gobind Rudra
The racy Sunday tabloids are continuing to streak far ahead as the senior Malay-language titles continue to suffer falling circulation sales.The Audit Bureau of Circulation’s half-yearly report shows Metro Ahad well in front and closing in on the half-million mark once held by former market leader Mingguan Malaysia.
Surprisingly, the Mingguan has held steady in the half year, after crashing into sharp decline after 2008, and is not likely to see any major slippage in the full year figures. That will infuriate opposition politicians whose anger at the Mingguan’s strident editorial tone may be heightened that by the knowledge that its stridency does not seem to have hurt its sales and may in fact have stemmed the bleeding.
Berita Minggu, on the other hand, continues to lose market share in its parallel fall since 2008 and has the Utusan tabloid Kosmo breathing down its neck; the full ABC report is likely to show the tabloid ahead over the year.
Pundits have been gleefully pointing to poor or skewed editorial content in Mingguan and Berita Minggu, especially their near-hysterical reactions after the Barisan Nasional’s disastrous showing at the elections, as the reason for the sales slump. A more convincing reason might be the difference in cover price between the tabloids and the seniors (the two tabloids sell for 80 sen less at RM1.20 each), and especially the racier content of the tabloids in attracting readers from among the burgeoning young middle-class.
Angst in the cultural heartland
In October last year: media professionals Zam, Chamil and Adi Satria cooled the academic fever
The sales slump of the major papers over the past two years caused much angst among Malay-language nationalists, leading to a major Utusan-sponsored forum at UiTM bemoaning cultural loss: it was left to media heavyweights such as Zainuddin Maidin and Chamil Wariya on the panel to pooh-pooh these fears and to point to the worldwide phenomena of down-market breezy tabloids generally heading sales charts. » On the survival of Malay newspapers and » Day of the Malay Newspaper Is Over.
While the angst may have dissipated somewhat, there remains the problem of editorial credibility in winning over crucial election votes. But that’s another story.
Redberry going for the low-hanging fruit?
On the two English-language front, no such angst is being felt at the Sunday Star’s gentle slide over the past two years, and continued bleeding at the New Sunday Times whose figures, as with the daily, are propped up by reliance on bulk sales. Given the current market conditions, the Malay Mail’s announced relaunch as a paid urban market centre morning newspaper might seem to be foolhardy in bucking the trend.
It might be that Phillip Karuppiah and Terence Fernandez discern a gap that others have missed. Or on the other hand it could also be a bold gamble by Redberry boss Siew Ka Wah to bolster his standing with his political patron Najib Tun Razak. If so, he would be throwing his millions to add another editorial vehicle to the Barisan Nasional’s armoury in its desperate need to recover lost ground in the urban heartland: Penang, Ipoh, the Klang Valley and Johor.
The Sunday sales table
The Edge, although not a Sunday paper, is lumped in with the rest as ABC regards the group as weekly papers.
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