After reports that The Edge Media Group wanted to sell off its online political news portal The Malaysian Insider, the online-only publication's editor Jahabar Sadiq finally bade goodbye and thanked all its readers in a post shortly before noon on 14th March. In Malay they would say it "tutup kedai" (closed shop), whilst in Thai they would say it "cheng" (went bust), like several others before it.
Goodbye from The Malaysian Insider
BY JAHABAR SADIQ, EDITOR
Published: 14 March 2016 11:58 AM
Goodbye readers from near and far, and those reading us in Malaysia despite the government block.
The Edge Media Group has decided to shut down The Malaysian Insider from midnight today, for commercial reasons. Perhaps it is fitting that we go offline at the start of the Ides of March.
I hope we have served you well since our first day of going live on February 25, 2008. And I hope others will continue to serve you in our absence.
We worked as impartial journalists to inform Malaysians and other readers so that they make informed decisions. We worked to make all voices heard in this marketplace of ideas.
But our work in The Malaysian Insider has now come to an end in a Malaysia that more than ever requires more clarity, transparency and information.
All said and done, I want to thank everyone of you in Malaysia, around the world, and those who have been with The Malaysian Insider from day one until now for your support, well wishes and criticism during these fantastic eight years and 18 days of The Malaysian Insider.
I won’t put down my pen, I won’t lay down my camera, I won’t shut up and I won’t be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same.
And I shall always be the biggest fan of this news portal called The Malaysian Insider.
* Jahabar Sadiq runs The Malaysian Insider until tonight.
This is unfortunate for its 59 writers and staff who will be out of work from midnight, including my former colleague who was editor of Mobile World Magazine during the few years she was with us. Hopefully, they will be absorbed into other subsidiaries of The Edge Media Group, which publishes the respected The Edge financial and business newspaper, whilst hopefully others will find work with whatever remaining media organisations still standing in Malaysia or perhaps with foreign publications.
Better still, look for work in other areas of media, such as in public relations, advertising, corporate communications, graphics design, video production or television, since based upon the experience in developed countries in North America and Europe, the golden age of news media are over and it's heading that way in Malaysia too.
It's not that it's a bed of roses in these other kinds of media but at least public relations and corporate communications still pay much better than journalism and several of my former journalist colleagues have made that transition and are earning much more and some even made that transition when the newspaper we were writing for paid well, paid us generous bonuses and ex-gratia plus generous medical and other benefits, especially when they got married and had to prepare to take on heavier expenses of buying a home and raising a family, since even all that income was not enough as they began their next phase in life and they were quite frank about it.
About 10 years ago, one of my friends who wrote for the gadgets magazine CHiP in Malaysia switched her career to being an industrial engineer with one of the semiconductor production plants in Malaysia and she has not looked back since. She's lucky that she graduated with a degree in electronics engineering, though there are other options for others in industries besides media.
According to Wikipedia:-
"The Malaysian Insider was established by Png Hong Kwang and Sreedhar Subramaniam in December 2007. Png is a journalist, and Subramaniam is the former Chief Operating Officer of the free-to-air Malaysian TV channel ntv7. A group of businessmen and journalists close to former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi started the news portal as a counter to Malaysiakini, which was deemed unfriendly to the Barisan Nasional (BN). When Abdullah resigned in 2009, BN stopped financing the news agency. After talking to several connections, the news portal top management re-secured funding with help from a 30-something Penang-born businessman with close ties to the current BN leadership."
"The organisation is then led by Chief Executive Officer and Editor Jahabar Sadiq, who has worked as a journalist in the region since 1988"
Despite that description on Wikipedia, that The Malaysian Insider was generally favourable to the ruling party, the slant of its articles gave some, including myself the impression, rightly or wrongly, that it was generally pro-opposition, which it sometimes criticised.
Well, when it was launched in February 2008, shortly before the 12th general elections, there was an increasingly intense internal faction fight between former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir and then sitting prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, both from the UMNO party, the leading party within the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the speculation was that the financial backers behind The Malaysian Insider were loyal to Tun Abdullah, which the Wikipedia account corroborates.
After Tun Abdullah stepped down as prime minister shortly after the 2008 general elections and was replaced by the current prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, The Malaysian Insider continued with its critical reporting and whilst at times it was also critical of the opposition, it was still regarded my many, especially in pro-establishment circles, to be generally pro-opposition.
The Edge Media group acquired The Malaysian Insider in June 2014.
However, the portal continued with its anti-establishment slant and more recently, generally took a position opposed to Najib over the current 1MDB soverign fund issue and the said RM2.6 billion donation which was transferred into a personal account of Najib, something which the prime minister has not denied.
Recently, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Malaysia's telecommunication services, postal services and online content regulator, blocked online access to The Malaysian Insider from within Malaysia, citing the reason being that one of The Malaysian Insider's articles had caused public confusion by quoting an unnamed source from a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panel. However, this block and that of other sites were not all that effective, since more tech-savvy readers were able to get around the block through proxy sites or by changing the Internet Protocol (IP) settings on their PC.
Meanwhile, The Malaysian Insider was loss-making and had bled The Edge Media Group to the tune of RM10 million in the 20 months since it was acquired. In his statement of 14th March 2016 with regards this closure, The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO, Ho Kay Tat said:-
"TEMG has incurred losses of around RM10 million in the 20 months since we acquired TMI in June, 2014 and we are no longer in a position to keep it going."
Ho ended his statement with:-
"The closure of TMI should serve as a reminder to those of us in the media industry as well as the public at large that good journalism cannot be sustained without commercial support. And when good journalism stops, society is the loser."
Ho is so right about good journalism not being sustainable without commercial support. Unfortunately, this is so true about other kinds of media too, including media dedicated to writing about the information and communications technology and its industry.
The Edge Media Group had approached three other media groups which had shown interest in taking over The Malaysian Insider and and there also was an offer of a management buy out but all those did not work out.
Meanwhile, writing from his exile in Manchester, England in his The Corridors of Power column on his blog, Malaysia Today, pro-Najib blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin provides an overview alleging that The Malaysian Insider had been set up and financed by wealthy individuals to serve as a media voice to serve their respective political agendas and now that they had not succeeded, thus The Malaysian Insider had outlived its usefulness and had become a financial liability to them.
The closing down of The Malaysian Insider and other matters
March 14, 2016
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
When The Edge Media Group (TEMG) bought The Malaysia Insider (TMI) in June 2014 (READ HERE), it was with a specific purpose in mind. And that specific purpose revealed itself soon after that when TMI spearheaded the attacks on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak later that same year.
No doubt, the usual hype is that TMI is an independent news portal that will not take sides and will report the truth without fear or favour and all that usual nonsense that news portals such as Malaysiakini (a.k.a. Suara Anwar Ibrahim), Malaysia Chronicle (a.k.a. Suara Tian Chua) and so on spew out.
The truth is TMI is as independent as Adolf Hitler was a Jew lover and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a democrat. TMI, at least after June 2014, existed for only one reason and for no other reason other than just that one reason — which was to serve the ANC (Anti-Najib Campaign) in its effort to bring down Najib.
It would have been very profitable for TMI had the ANC succeeded in ousting Najib in July 2015 like they had planned. By then TMI would have been a year in operation and the rewards for just a year’s work would have been very lucrative. And we would have seen that rich Chinaman behind TMI get even richer.
Of course, it did not happen in July 2015 as planned. Instead, Najib axed those who were trying to oust him. So they needed to shift the date to October and then to December. But still Najib did not fall and Malaysia entered the New Year with Najib still as Prime Minister. And that was when TMI realised that Najib was never going to be ousted as planned after all.
By then TMI had blown RM10 million, according to their own admission (READ HERE). That, of course, makes sense since they have been operating for about 20-21 months at a cost of RM500,000 a month. And Tong Kooi Ong, the one-time Anwar Ibrahim crony who became rich with Anwar’s help, did not see why he should continue with TMI and blow yet another RM15-20 million until 2018.
And what happens if Umno-Barisan Nasional wins the 2018 general election and Najib remains the Umno President cum Prime Minister after the 2018 Umno party election? Does TMI then close down after blowing a total of RM25-30 million or does it go on and blow another RM6 million for every year it stays in business post-2018?
So, yes, as Ho Kay Tat said, it is a business decision and a decision that is necessary since they can’t sell off TMI and recover the RM10 million they have lost so far.
To these Chinamen, at the end of the day, it is all about the money. RM10 million is nothing had Najib been ousted in July 2015. They can get back hundreds of millions in government favours and contracts on the RM10 million they had spent. But if that is not going to happen then why continue to spend more money?
Tong Kooi Ong wants to sell TMI for RM20 million so that he can recover his RM10 million plus make a profit of RM10 million on the deal. So he approached Umno to try to get Umno to buy it.
Umno, however, realised that what they would be buying would be an empty shell as all the staff would just resign and go set up another news portal called The Malaysian Outsider. So what is Umno buying for RM20 million?
And that was when they decided to close down TMI. But of course they are going to try to make it appear like they are closing down because of action by the Malaysian government that does not respect free speech and the independence of the media and so on. The truth is the Chinaman is not going to blow another RM10 million or RM20 million after already blowing RM10 million unless he can get something out of it.
You mean you really thought that Tong Kooi Ong blew RM10 million so far because of his love from Malaysia and to help the country? If you really believe that then you probably also believe that 8 is a lucky number while 4 is an unlucky number. And what else do you believe: that red ang paus on Chinese New Year is good luck while white ang paus is bad luck?
Hmm…Malaysians so easily believe whatever suits them. No wonder many believe that the 4th March 2016 launch of the Save Malaysia Campaign with the signing of the Citizens’ Declaration is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s way of seeking redemption and paying back for his sins to the country.
I remember about ten years ago during the PKR annual assembly or party convention in Penang when Azmin Ali lashed out at all those who supported or cooperated with Dr Mahathir in his bid to oust Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Azmin stood on stage and said, “Semua yang bersekongkong dengan Mahathir boleh blah.” This can translate to mean all those who collaborate with Mahathir can fxxx off. ‘Blah’ would be the Bahasa Malaysia equivalent of…well, you know what it translates to.
That was about ten years ago. And when Azmin shouted that, Anwar Ibrahim was sitting beside him and was smirking, just like the cat that had swallowed the canary. Anwar made it very clear that Azmin had his permission to scold us, or maybe he even told Azmin to do it.
Anyway, ten years hence and now Azmin and Anwar both bersekongkong dengan Mahathir. In fact, they even accept Mahathir as the new de facto opposition leader to replace Anwar. How times have changed.
Ten years ago we were told that if we collaborate with Mahathir then we are traitors. Today, Mat Sabu says all those who oppose Mahathir are cowards (READ HERE). Actually, Mat Sabu used the word pengecut. And pengecut means more than just coward. Pengecut comes from the word kecut or shrunk. So figure out what Mat Sabu is referring to when he says ‘shrunk’. Apa dia yang sudah kecut?
And, yes, this is the same Mat Sabu who called Mahathir Mahazalim and Anwar Al Juburi.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li) made a statement in reference to my interview in the NST recently. Basically, Ku Li denies that his chap had met me and had asked me to sign that Statutory Declaration in June 2008.
Anyway, I do not want to say too much on the matter because those who are in the know would know what really happened. I just want to publish this photograph of the person that most likely one million Malaysians know works for Ku Li and is Ku Li’s attack dog.
Beware the Ides of March, Nik Azmi a.k.a. Bul. You can twist and you can turn but you can never avoid the truth finally being revealed. And make sure that people don’t start calling you Nik Azmi a.k.a. Bul a.k.a. Bull…if you know what I mean.
Whilst I do not approve of his use of the derogatory term "Chinamen", still this should serve as a reminder to idealistic writers who see themselves and the media they write for as "fighting for justice, human rights, the interests of the people" and so forth, when in fact they could well be serving certain powerful wealthy interests against other powerful wealthy interests, instead of being a "Fourth Estate" observing and commenting from above the fray.
Meanwhile on 29 February 2016, The Star reported that another online news portal, The Rakyat Post (The People's Post) had shut down.
"KUALA LUMPUR: The Rakyat Post news portal closed shop today."
"The company, owned by Wespacom Sdn Bhd, told its staff of the decision to cease operations at a meeting with several representatives of its 60 employees at Menara MBSB here on Monday."
"It told its employees that they would have to lodge a complaint with the Labour Department or seek industrial action in order to get their two months’ unpaid salaries."
However, the following day, TV channel Astro Awani reported that the shutdown was only temporary.
"The Rakyat Post has been temporarily shut down following funding issues faced by the online news portal."
Then on 10 March 2016 Astro Awani reported that The Rakyat post had resurfaced again aftera brief hiatus.
"KUALA LUMPUR: After it was announced that The Rakyat Post would be shutting down their operations beginning March, the online news portal today resurfaced, much to the surprise of its ex-staff."
"The news portal's former editorial team claimed to be in the dark over this new development, as there had been no communication between them and the management since the shutdown announcement last Feb 29."
"In the announcement, the news portal's management had cited funding issues as the main reason for the shutdown."
A quick check on The Rakyat Post's website this 14th of March 2016 shows that its stories are up to date.
However, who it is who has revived and is financing it remains a mystery.
The Rakyat Post is said to lean more towards the establishment, though looking more closely at its content on 29 February 2016, I could see that it carried plenty of lifestyle, local and general interest articles, much like the lifestyle and city sections of most newspapers and perhaps would have been more successful had it been a print rather than and online publications, since I personally find the reading experience of these kinds of articles to be better in print, when one can read them whilst leaning back in a couch or whilst seated at a table sipping a cup of coffee.
Perhaps that's just my personal perception and whilst I hardly buy a print newspaper or magazine these days and read most of the news on my PC screen, still, on those rare occasions when I buy a print newspaper or read it in a cafe, I found the reading experience so much better, than on a PC or handheld device.
Whatever one may feel about it, these two recent online portal closures due to loss making operations only goes to debunk the claims made by new media advocates and self-styled new media CON-sultants that online and digital are the "future" of media, when in reality it has sounded the death knell of media.
Whilst indeed, the inexorable migration of readership from print to online and digital has undeniably adversely impacted the circulation and advertising revenues of print media, at the same time, the growth and quantum of online and digital advertising revenue for media organisations has not made up for their loss in print advertising revenue and unless online and digital advertising revenue for media catches up fast, there will be more tragic closures such as those of The Rakyat Post and The Malaysian Insider.
Right now, I strongly advise school leavers and mass communications students to avoid going into journalism, since they could well find themselves out of work in their mid-30s or mid-40s, unless online and digital media advertising revenue makes a dramatic leap soon.
Meanwhile, Mobile World Magazine which I wrote for from February 2006 till January 2011 published its last print edition of January/February 2014 and continued online-only but that too did not last and the latest article on its website is dated 29th of May 2015 this 15th of March 2016.
That's life folks. With a few exceptions such as business and financial media and journalism, for most, the glory days journalism are otherwise over or could take decades to return. So it's best to move on.
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end, but the sun is slowly setting on this industry and on journalism as a viable paying career, so better look elsewhere where the sun is still shining or is rising.
I am yours truly