IN-DEPTH analyses, commentaries, articles from beat specialists, more live news streaming – these are among the steps taken by the Star Media Group content team to stand out in a crowded field.
Chief content officer Esther Ng says news reporting has changed radically, making it more challenging as an exclusive story will only last briefly before other news outlets catches up, sometimes with an even better angle.
“News items have shelf life issues but in-depth analyses and commentaries are what opinion shapers want. They want to know the reasons behind a certain event or decisions. The Star is proud to have such premium readers and we want to see to their needs,” she says.
Ng believes that under a “New Malaysia”, the media environment has changed, paving the way for a fresher and balanced media.
The Star, she says, will have more writers from the outside to provide different perspectives, besides having its own writers.
“R.AGE, which has garnered global recognition, will play a bigger role in seeking the voices of young readers and the millennials,” she notes.
The main thrust of the group’s transformation strategy is having beat specialists and focusing on quality content across platforms.
With shortening attention spans and the ever-evolving new media scape, it’s a huge challenge to stay relevant, and leverage on the opportunities digitalisation brings along.
However, Ng, who is behind the group’s content transformation strategy, is undaunted, confident that the move into uncharted waters will be successful.
Going digital isn’t just about technology – it’s as much about professionalism, ethics, and values. Digitalisation has given the group many exciting platforms to get its stories out fast so the room for growth is limitless, she says.
“It’s only been three months since I’ve taken on this role but I’m confident that our streamlining efforts will see the group emerge as a more agile, and omnipresent media organisation.”
The beat/topics system for the content team, she says, is the cornerstone of the group’s transformation efforts, to give its customers data-rich products.
“We’ve developed a unique beat system that’s grounded in digitalisation. This will allow us to deliver breaking news and accurate content faster. Our beat specialists will focus on key topics that are going to drive our digital content. At a time when ‘fake news’ is rampant, we take pride in putting out reliable, quality content,” she says.
A native of Petaling Jaya, Ng is a journalism graduate of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
She joined The Star in 1992 as a news reporter. She was made news editor in 2010, and appointed Sunday Star editor five years later. From 2017 until June this year, she took on the role of executive editor before succeeding editor-in-chief Datuk Leanne Goh as the Star Media Group’s first CCO.
The word “editorial” is very limiting, she explains.
“Many times, we have been the first to do something, to venture into new landscapes, to be the pioneer. And this is something we are very proud of. We’re the first news company in Malaysia to adopt the CCO title. The push is for a mindset change and that means having to be clear about what we do.
“At the end of the day, we are content providers. And, we do it across all platforms,” she says.
Pointing out that The Star was among the first in the region to get its stories online in 1995, Ng says the drive now is social media.
“Again, we were among the first to set up a specialised social media unit. But when more digital platforms pop up, which is inevitable, we’ll continue doing what we do best – providing trustworthy, quality content. That’s why the editorial department is now our content department.”
Ng says today’s content is carried across various platforms, meaning online, video and print. Previously, print, online and TV news were viewed separately, but these days, content is content, and it can be accessed in one site.
The content generated in the news room is also shared with the group’s two radio stations.
“So, the role of the traditional chief editor has changed radically. Having a CCO means more than just a change in title. My role has also changed and I believe, will constantly change,” she adds.
Even the role of a journalist has changed much as he or she has to work on different media platforms, and that’s the new norm.
“The Star has a strong brand as a print product but The Star Online (pic) has nine million readers, and that’s a very huge base. We went digital more than 20 years ago before digital even became a buzzword.”
As consumers are increasingly bombarded by fake news each day, The Star is being used as a reference point, being seen as among the top “most trusted” Malaysian source of news, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018.
The digitalisation of the media industry, Ng says, has also created a two-way street.
The rise of new media means that everyone can be a content provider. But with information overload, disinformation, mal-information and misinformation, verified content is a valuable commodity.
And, that’s the foundation of the group’s transformation strategy.
“Engaging with the community is one of the main pillars of the transformation.
“It’s one of the reasons we set up our social media unit. Tell us what you want. Share your stories with us. Tell us what you think.”