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Traditional and online media challenges: The crisis in Thailand’s Fourth Estate

In a future without these mastheads, how would anyone in the outside world have a clue about what is going on in Thailand?

Olivier Languepin

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In the English-language realm, The Bangkok Post and The Nation have both been facing financial issues. In a future without these mastheads, how would anyone in the outside world have a clue about what is going on in Thailand?

“Journalism today is dying because no one has really figured out to support it in a winner-take-all capitalist system,” a columnist for The Guardian in London recently observed. His own newspaper has just reformatted as a tabloid to save money.

Last July, the Buenos Aires Herald, an English weekly with a remaining circulation of just 20,000, shuttered after 141 years in print.

These are stories are being repeated all over the world, but Thailand seems to still be slightly behind the curve when it comes to newspapers dying. Thai magazines, however, are already vanishing at an alarming rate, including glossies and literary titles that were once household names.

To stay profitable, online publishers are constantly challenged with making their advertisers happy – not only with traditional display ads, but also with creative sponsored content, byline articles and videos.

To further entice advertisers, online publishers find themselves digging deep into behavioural data to provide their clients with meaningful analytics to justify their advertising costs.

When  the Internet started in the print media business most Thai medias thought that investing in a TV channel was the solution. But actually we all made the same mistake and eventually released it was not. Most of them ended losing money because the advertising business on TV did not compensate the high costs of the broadcasting license.

said Pichai Chuensuksawadi, former Bangkok Post editor in chief, and current board member World Association of Newspapers, during a panel discussion held at the FCCT in February.

At the same time the current conditions under the strict censorship of the NCPO are also impacting the media revenue.

Would online products ever be able to fill the gap. Correspondents, something of an endangered species themselves, would certainly not be able to compensate; and international news agencies are also facing challenging times and simply don’t have the resources. The venerable Associated Press, for example, grew great on newspaper clients that today are going bust or already gone.

We have been shut down twice by the government censorship and the last time for one month and we lost 15 million baht in revenue

said Pinpaka Ngamsom, senior online editor, Voice TV

Social media has become the news boy on the corner – shouting out headlines and getting readers’ attention.

The media crisis is largely a self inflicted wound. We don’t make sense because too often we don’t deliver the truth. What is about to bring down the government ? It is not the Post, the Nation or Khaosod English, it is a Facebook page (CSI LA) edited from abroad.

said Todd Ruiz, editor at Khaosod English.

Many print publications simply went out of business or moved into an entirely digital format as they could no longer convince advertisers that they offered the same meaningful impressions that can be had online. But online advertising revenue aren’t making up for the losses incurred in the printing business.

At some point we may have to ask ourselves if there is really enough space and revenue in Thailand for two English daily newspapers, each one of them using its own printing facility.

said Pichai Chuensuksawadi, former Bangkok Post editor in chief

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