Good News for Print Media In Face of Online Onslaught

The Jakarta Globe

Abimata Putra Kurniawan, an employee at a private bank, always starts his day by perusing a national newspaper.

“My favorite section is the business section, especially the business analysis pieces,” says the 34-year-old Jakarta resident. “It helps me understand what’s happening in the field I work in.”

He adds that he prefers newspapers to television.

“I always watch the morning news on television as well to get the general news, and frankly television news reporting is easier to digest,” Abimata says. “But by the time they get to the business news, I’m already at the office.”

Abimata is one of a growing number of Indonesians who rely on the printed page for their news, even as other countries experience substantial drops in circulation as a result of people getting their news from online sources and television.

According to an ABG Nielsen Indonesia survey released in July, newspaper readership increased marginally from 13.4 percent at the start of the year to 13.7 percent by the middle of the year.

Agus Sudibyo, a member of the Press Council, says that although electronic and online media is increasingly popular, print media will never be wholly replaced in Indonesia.

“Every media has its own market and everybody has different needs in terms of how they get their news, whether through electronic media, online media or print media,” he says. “I’d say that the majority of society here sees television as an entertainment media, while online media is perceived more as presenting short, instantly updated news.”

Hence newspapers fill a crucial role in providing context on current issues through their comprehensive reports, Agus says, which makes print media an attractive venture for media companies.

“Take the MNC Group, for instance,” he says, referring to a holding company with three national television stations, a satellite TV network, an online news portal and several radio stations in its portfolio.

“Although involved in electronic media, it publishes the Seputar Indonesia daily newspaper. Why? Because society still wants to read print media, and they’re aware that electronic media will not replace print media because both have different markets.”

The Nielsen survey corroborates the perception that newspapers provide a more reliable take on current issues than television or online news, with 55.8 percent of readers citing newspapers’ trustworthiness as their main reason for reading them.

Ignatius Haryanto, a media industry watcher and former journalist, is also convinced that print media will never be fully replaced by electronic or online media in Indonesia.

But he says that newspapers cannot expect to be entirely insulated from the boom in new media use.

“They will have to adapt in terms of having their own news portals and Web sites,” Ignatius says. “At the same time, they will also have to improve the quality [of their reporting]. Take Kompas and Tempo magazine, for instance. These two publications have retained their audience by presenting exclusive and investigative reports, which sometimes can’t be done by new media.”

The Nielsen survey also showed that while readership growth was uniform across the cities included in the survey, the figures were lower in large metropolitan areas like Jakarta and Bandung than in heartland areas like Yogyakarta and Palembang.

Dina Listiorini, a communications lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences at Atma Jaya University in Yogyakarta, attributes this disparity to lifestyle differences between big cities and small towns.

“Many people who live and work in a big city like Jakarta have to deal with heavy traffic every day. Couple this with the fact that many of them have Internet-enabled gadgets, they can kill time during their commute by accessing the news through the Internet,” she says.

“In small towns like Yogyakarta, though, the daily routine is generally more relaxed and people have more time to read newspapers.”

She adds that even though many Indonesians have access to the Internet, they tend to use it “more as an entertainment and communication tool than as a source of information.”

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