Publish Asia 2012
Spurring to grow
dynamically with multi-pillar strengths

Those simplistic explanations about why Asian newspapers continue to grow went right out the window when Asian newspaper leaders gathered in Bali, Indonesia during April 10-12. Some say Asian newspapers continue to gain circulation simply because they have large populations, and incomes and education are growing. But that is only half of the picture. The other half is the work Asian publishers are doing to protect print revenues while pursuing digital expansion, and there are lessons here for publishers in markets where print circulations are declining.

Attended by more than 700 newspaper executives from across the region, the 12th annual WAN-IFRA Publish Asia Conference and Expo concluded featuring many brilliant presentations about a wide range of issues, with focus on publishing strategies, new media and technology, expanding advertising markets, establishing effective distribution systems, improving research, increasing revenues, etc. The premier Asian publishing conference, actually comprising four conferences running simultaneously - a CEO Summit, Newsroom Summit, Advertising Summit and Printing Summit - provided an opportunity to the participants be better equipped to meet the challenges of publishing in their markets.

The conference and expo opened with a reminder from the WAN-IFRA president and the vice president of Indonesia about the vast size and dynamism of the Asian newspaper industry and its importance to democratic society. “We do things big in Asia,” said WAN-IFRA president Jacob Mathew, the executive editor and publisher of the Malayala Manorama Group of Publications, based in Kerala, India. “Our large populations are a factor, but population is only part of the equation – the region is producing innovation and economic growth well beyond its numbers, and this is particularly true of our dynamic industry,” he said during the conference opening ceremony.

“Three-quarters of the world’s top 100 largest newspapers are published in Asia,” he continued. “Print circulations are growing in many countries, a fact that is not easily explained away by those who insist on predicting the death of newspapers. Millions of Asians turn to their daily paper as their primary trusted source of news and informations.”

Indonesia vice president Boediono opened the conference by focusing on the role of media in democratic society. “The largest consequence of increasing democracy is the increasing role of media, with the responsibility of being the purveyor of news and information,” he said. “The media industry has a much greater social value, well beyond its economic one. You have a great deal of influence in charting the course of nation states. The role of media is to enlighten, serve truth, promote justice and nurture democracy.”

“The print needs to be protected because that’s where the money is, while the digital needs to be developed,” says Chua Wee Phong, executive vice president of circulation for Singapore Press Holdings, speaking at Publish Asia. “It’s a question of slowing down the rate of decline, milk as much money as you can out of it, and give the company sufficient opportunity to venture into the digital world,” he said.

One of the chief advantages that newspapers have over other media is they can use the profits generated by print, which continue to dwarf those of digital, to fund online, mobile and tablet growth. And no region does this better than Asia. “The money is still there. There is print market share and advertising growth,” said Agung Adiprasetyo, chief executive officer of Kompas Gramedia, one of Indonesia’s largest media houses.

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