A Look at Asian Newspapers on the Web

By: Steve Outing

Margaret Thomas, deputy editor of The Business Times in Singapore, suggested to me recently that I take a look at what Asian print media are doing on the Internet. “It would be good to see the column wander away now and then from the very — and I suppose inevitably — American slant,” she wrote.

I do try to look outside the USA whenever possible, but still the majority of Internet publishing by newspapers takes place in the USA — and since I’m a USA-based consultant, I hear from and meet American online publishers more than others. Today, with Thomas’ help, let’s do a run-down of some of the best online publishing efforts in Asia:

There are still only a small number of Asian newspapers publishing online, but those that are “offer an interesting array of languages, including their own script,” says Thomas. “There are several Japanese papers, some of which offer limited English versions; a couple of Korean papers, both in the Korean script (which is similar but not identical to Japanese); 2 Malaysian papers in Malay or Bahasa Malaysia, and one Indonesian paper in Bahasa Indonesian (‘Bahasa’ means ‘language’ in the Malay and Indonesian languages, which are very similar). There is also the Chinese-language Lianhe Zaobao newspaper in Singapore.”

Thomas reports:

“Utusan Malaysia Online offers a news summary and full news version in the Malay language, plus news summaries in English, French and German, with Spanish to follow soon.

“Asahi Shimbun has an interesting online club called Asahi Net whose members participate in a range of online activities related to material in the paper. There are, for example, online ‘haiku’ gatherings which are led by a well-known haiku (strictly formatted short poems) writer.

“Americans might be surprised, if they glance through the Web pages of Kompas, a leading Indonesian newspaper that offers in its online version translations of some stories into English, to find in the sports section headlines referring to ‘Chicago Bulls’ and so on.” (Note: The Kompas server did not appear to be working when I tried it yesterday.)

“The China Daily, an English-language daily in China, would offer Americans who have not been to China an interesting glimpse of life in that vast country that’s now rushing to catch up with the rest of the world. Among the political and economic news, you will find the occasional headline you’d expect to find in the National Enquirer rather than a state-run national publication. One recent example: ‘Brain cell implant improves IQ.'”

One of the most ambitious online publishing efforts by an Asian company is Thomas’ own. The Business Times of Singapore has been on the World Wide Web since June 1995 as part of AsiaOne, the Web home base of Singapore Press Holdings. BT Online has been “getting very encouraging response not just from Singaporeans and Asians abroad but also from businesspeople, researchers and so on in the USA and Europe who greatly appreciate being able to get timely and reliable news and information (and in English) about Asia,” she says. The site has mostly been comprised of articles ported over from the print edition, but Thomas says more editing and repackaging is now being done — adding original graphics and links to other sources.

BT Online also has added online services such as BT StockWatch, which provides realtime prices and other data from the Singapore Stock Exchange, and soon from the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (in Malaysia). A BT Business Directory lists Singapore companies and businesses and offers foreign companies a bulletin board where they can post messages about their services and products.

“We have several other services and additions in the works, and for the forseeable future most if not all of these will be available free, as we’re looking to — and getting good response from — advertisers/sponsors for revenue,” Thomas says.

Today just happens to mark the official Web launch of Singapore Press Holdings’ flagship newspaper, The Strait Times, on the AsiaOne site. The service is called Strait Times Interactive.

A final word from Thomas: “Many Americans have very limited knowledge of and interest in what’s happening in Asia, and with media patterns and habits being what they are, the odds of Asian news (other than the occasional hyped-up report about American teenagers being caned in Singapore, or human rights abuses in Chinese toy factories and the like) getting any greater prominence are low. The Internet, however, offers an instant and low-cost window on news around the world and it would be a pity if Americans don’t now and then peek through this window.”

You can contact Margaret Thomas at [email protected]

Listing of Asian newspapers online

You can easily view all the Asian newspapers on the Web on the Editor & Publisher Interactive Online Newspaper Services Resource Directory. Click on Asia Internet services for a directory of newspaper online services by country.

Infoseek ranks top online newspaper services

Infoseek, an Internet search tool and Web directory service, has named its 5 cool online newspaper sites. They are:

* Mercury Center (San Jose Mercury News, California, USA)
* TimesFax (8-page digest of the New York Times, now on the Web)
* USA Today Online
* Electronic Telegraph (The Telegraph, London)
* The Business Times (Singapore)

Infoseek also named the top online magazine services: Pathfinder (Time Inc.), The Atlantic Monthly, Word, and Village Voice/L.A. Weekly.

Top electronic news services: The Electronic Newsstand, NandO.net, and CNN Interactive.

Movin’ On

Cox Enterprises Inc. has named former Times Mirror Co. executive R. Scott Whiteside to be its director of strategy and technology for new media. Whiteside forerly was T-M’s director of strategic development, involved in the company’s acquisitions of Internet and online services companies and strategic new media alliances.

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at [email protected]

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