Monday, 20 November 2017


Following on from my earlier post, Move up the Value Chain and be Less Employable this The Malaysian Insight article provides deeper insights into a major aspect of the problems contributing to graduate unemployment.

At least in my earlier commentary on this issue referred to, there were some Malaysian graduates, including engineering graduates who to their credit were willing to take up cleaning jobs normally done by foreign workers (indentured wage slaves), which few Malaysians today are willing to do. Several years back I covered the online employment agency Jobstreet's media conference about the state of employment and  learned that some information technology (IT) graduates who were on Jobstreet were very choosy and refused to take jobs opportunities for which they were suited simply because it was not their "ideal" job.

So whilst these graduates waited for their 'ideal' job to come along, their indulgent parents were willing to support them and as a result, some of them had been unemployed for over a year.

I can relate to what Skim Latihan 1Malaysia organiser Norashikin Ismail who calls the current stock of young graduates the ‘strawberry generation’, who will up and quit when they are told off for doing their jobs badly.
Some will show up for three days, and then run off. If they get told off by their bosses, they will run off," she told The Malaysian Insight.

My friend and neighbour has a small company which packs and markets medical examination gloves under his own brand name and needed some additional workers to pack gloves.

Another neighbour, a taxi driver living nearby his workplace had asked him to employ his two boys, both unemployed school leavers, so he offered them jobs but they just did not turn up for work.

He managed to get a worker, a school leaver who had completed his SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) from a welfare home for teenage boys and this person worked for about three or so days and did not turn up for work after that.

From what I was told, this young man was frequently taking and receiving calls on his phone during working hours and when he was told not to use his phone during working hours, except during breaks, he started to visit the toilet very frequently during working hours, presumably to use his phone.

So it appears that unable to use his phone during working hours, he stopped turning up for work.

If this is the attitude of a young man from a welfare home, then what more the attitude of those young people with rich parents who let him stay at home for free, indulge them with the latest and 'greatest' smartphone every six months, give them all the pocket money to spend on expensive lattes whilst hanging out with friends in hip, hype, happening and cool chain cafes, who throw in a car as well and have a bevy of maids to do everything for them, including wipe and  wash their bums for them after they defaecate.

I've also heard complaints by public relations companies about the entitlement mentality amongst Gen Y and Millennial staff who have such a high opinion of themselves and their capabilities, even before they have proven themselves in their work.

Well, this is Malaysia's pampered and spoiled generation - the much touted "Generation Y" and "Millennials" generation - the Internet Generation - most of whom go around with faces buried in their and tablet devices, who know social media backwards but do not know how to write a proper job application.

Welcome to that much touted "Knowledge-based, Information and Services Society" and to the "Internet Generation" who are Malaysia's "future".

Remember. The Roman Empire declined and fell after the Roman elite grew too dependent on their slaves to do everything for them, whilst they (the Roman elite) indulged in several days long feasts where they ate and drank till they were full, induced themselves to vomit out the food and drink they had consumed right where they sat and had their slave crawl under the table wiping up the mess on the floor below them.

"That's not to say the Romans were unfamiliar with throwing up, or that they never did so on purpose. On the contrary, in ancient times vomiting seems to have been a standard part of the fine-dining experience. In his Moral Epistles the Roman philosopher Seneca writes, Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum [toro] subditus colligit, "When we recline at a banquet, one [slave] wipes up the spittle; another, situated beneath [the table], collects the leavings of the drunks." OK, it doesn't literally say puke, but come on. The orator Cicero, in Pro Rege Deiotaro, says matter-of-factly that Julius Caesar "expressed a desire to vomit after dinner"(vomere post cenam te velle dixisses), and elsewhere suggests that the dictator took emetics for this purpose."

Whilst many Malaysians do gluttonously gorge, we aren't quite as decadent as the ancient Roman elite - well at least not yet.

The Malaysian Insight article follows below.

Yours Trully



Bad attitude, not lack of skill, is jobless graduates’ biggest hurdle

The Malaysian Insight

Yasmin Ramlan Updated 7 hours ago · Published on 20 Nov 2017 7:00AM ·

Bad attitude, not lack of skill, is jobless graduates’ biggest hurdle Skim Latihan 1Malaysia organiser Norashikin Ismail calls the current stock of young graduates the ‘strawberry generation’, who will up and quit when they are told off for doing their jobs badly. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Seth Akmal, November 20, 2017. FOR many out-of-work graduates, a spoilt attitude and unrealistic expectations are the main impediments to them getting employed, a training and job placement programme organiser said.

A high dropout rate of graduates who signed up for Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) showed the problem with most of the jobless youth was not a lack of skill, but bad work ethics and attitudes, said programme organiser Norashikin Ismail.

“Some will show up for three days, and then run off. If they get told off by their bosses, they will run off," she told The Malaysian Insight.

“They are all from the ‘strawberry generation’... when they don’t do their jobs well and their bosses tell them off, they take offence. 

"They are very proud to be graduates, but they don’t want to do the work,” she said.

SL1M is a programme launched by the government in 2011. It aims to help unemployed graduates, especially those with a low-income background or who are from rural areas, by placing them in companies where they are learn new skills and know-how so that they have a better chance of securing a job.

Private companies that are awarded government contracts are required to contribute 1% of the sum they earn from the contracts to fund the programme.

Set up under the Economic Planning Unit within the Prime Minister’s Department, the programme is run by 16 volunteers.

Graduates are placed as trainees for six months to a year in selected government-linked companies and private corporations, which treat the programme as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative.

The graduates receive an allowance of RM1,500 during the training.

Norashikin said many of the graduates expected to be employed afterwards by the companies where they underwent training, but most of them failed to meet even the most minimum of expectations.

“If you don’t show initiative, and don’t add value to the organisation, why would they give you a job?” she said, to explain why many graduates failed to be absorbed into the companies upon completion of their training.

Lack of skill 'easier' problem to fix  

Norashikin said while some of the jobless graduates clearly exhibited a lack of training and skill set, the bulk of the graduates were simply too lazy and demanding.

“To change their attitudes and thinking is a challenge for us, because that’s really up to them,” she said, adding that some trainees would even demand a higher allowance during training.

She said graduates who lacked skill, training and confidence were “easier” problems to fix.

“There are those who are poor, unattractive, unable to speak English. But if they have a positive mindset, it is easy to polish them up.”

As of October, 138,398 graduates have enrolled in the programme and have been placed have in companies nationwide.

The data on the number of trainees dropping out mid-programme was unavailable, said Norashikin.

Former SL1M trainee Wan Nurhusna Auni Sulaiman said many of her peers, who were jobless, thought she was foolish to sign up for the programme when she already had a job.

But the 25-year-old said she was keen to enhance her resume and wanted the opportunity to work in a larger corporation or GLC.

“I was willing to leave my industry. I was working in a small company as a programmer, but after two months, I realised the company was not stable.

“So I quit and joined the SL1M programme because I wanted to learn and get a better opportunity.”

Many of her friends, who remain unemployed, were not interested in joining her as they said there was no guarantee of a job after training.

Dealing with quitters

Armed Forces Fund Board assistant human resources manager Illya Salehudin Jaafar recounted his experience with an SL1M trainee.

“On the first day (of training), he looked happy and positive. He said it was great to be able to join SL1M. By the third day, he had disappeared.

“But because we have a social responsibility here, we called him and kept calling until we managed to get him because we were afraid something had happened to him.

“He refused to answer the calls at first and we were very worried. But he finally answered the phone and he apologised profusely, confessing that he was not a morning person and could not wake up in time for work.

“We were speechless. We couldn’t say anything to a reason like that.”

Illya said employees had the option of starting work at 8.15am or 8.30am.

“It’s not like you have to start work at 7am. We were shocked. And it’s not like there was work pressure because he had worked only two days. We hadn’t even given him any assignment," she said.

Other graduates would submit their letters of withdrawal from the programme after a few days, stating they did not own a vehicle and therefore could not go to work.

“We are dealing with a new generation that will try out a job and if they don’t think it’s suitable, they will just quit,” said Illya. – November 20, 2017.

Saturday, 18 November 2017


Some may say "What does Assistant Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Sairin Karno know about information and communications technology", whilst others may denigrate him as a "Luddite".

As one who has installed, services and maintained computers, including minicomputers, super microcomputers and PCs as well as data communications equipment, including modems and telex interface units for a major part of my early career and who later wrote about information and communications technology from September 1994 until now, I agree wholeheartedly with Assistant Minister Datuk Sairin Karno on this key point:-

“This generation no longer give priority to more important and beneficial activities. The future of youths will be affected if the trend is not monitored. The people will become complacent, until failing to realise that the trend is a new form of colonisation.” 

The term "neocolonialism" refers to a new, less obvious form of colonialism where the colonial master does not occupy and rule over colonies directly but through local proxies - a.k.a. puppets mostly drawn from amongst the local colonial elite who exploit their own land, resources, labour and capital for the benefit of the neo colonial master.

The growth of mass public availability of Internet access began in the early 1990s, around the time the World Trade Organisation was established at a GATT (General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade) conference in 1994 and since then, the drumbeat of globalisation, open borders, deregulation, free markets and so forth thundered through the expanding Internet, management consultants, through economists and the prostitute media, and that was the primary article of faith amongst the elite milieu I was unfortunate to have had to be immersed in until the economic crash of 2008 from which the world has not recovered, has resulted in many people waking up and seeing the light of the globalists' latter day imperialist agenda and how it has come up against its own internal contradictions.

Social media sites such as Google, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and services such as WhatsApp are based in the imperialist heartlands and have global reach into the minds of many people, especially impressionable young people who are led to think that they are "so tech savvy" and "so well informed" but in reality are sorely lacking in the basic use of computers for productive and beneficial work.

From my more recent personal experience of helping people, including friends and small business people with their their basic computer use - i.e. checking e-mail, sending e-mail, replying to e-mail, writing letters, quotations and so forth using a word processor, scanning documents, organising documents into appropriately named folders on hard disk, searching the Web for information, keying in GST reports and so forth, I realise that whilst most of them, including their maids, staff and even three year old child are adept at accessing social media on their smartphones and tablets, but they have a lot of difficulty or don't have a clue about using a PC to perform such basic office administration and office automation and tasks on their PC.

In one instance a friend had over 100 documents scanned by a third party, probably a photo copy shop, and the operator stored the scanned documents in a USB drive and when I opened the US drive, I was horrified to see that the scanned documents were named "scan0001", "scan0002", "scan0003", ......... "scan0130", which told me nothing about what each of the so named documents were about and I had to open each of them in turn to find out what they were about. So much wasted time in unproductive donkey work.

The person who scanned the documents obviously knew the technicalities of using a scanner but did not bother about the difficulties which such a thoughtless naming convention would impose upon the customer or end user.

Basically, the person who scanned those documents either either had no common sense, no experience of office computer use, was not trained properly, was downright lazy or a combination of two or more of the reasons stated.

I once used to joke about smartschools creating a generation of idiots by the year 2020 but it now looks like social media sites are doing a better job at creating a dysfunctional generation.

Also, most of you may already have read about the subscriber data of 46.2 million cellular phone numbers leaked online which were sold to scammers who have been making cold calls to unsuspecting people, several of whom have been conned into parting with their hard earned money.

The data leaked contains details of mobile subscribers' Identity Card (MyKAD), mobile number and even right down to details of their phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identification) number, SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) number (a.k.a. an Integrated Circuit Card Identifier number) and their IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) number and given the depth of detail related to each of the subcribers' accounts which were leaked; this suggests that these could only have been leaked by insiders within the cellular telecommunications operators.   

Welcome to the knowledge-base, information and services economy where people abuse their trust and knowledge to do evil.

If you get such cold calls, do not entertain them but check with your relevant bank, credit card company, the police or other party mentioned by the caller, preferably IN PERSON and if they mention a bank or credit card company which you do have an account with, check IN PERSON with that bank, credit card company or whatever irrespective, to ensure that your MyKAD number was not abused to create an account in your name in that bank, credit card company or whatever.

So much for the knowledge-based, information and services economy. It's all a load of IT scheiss.

Article in Malaysian Digest  follow below.

Yours trully.


Uncontrolled Cyber Progress A Destructive Neocolonialism

18 Nov 2017 10:50

Details - Published on Saturday, 18 November 2017 09:23

KENINGAU: The world of cyber technology is a new form of colonialism that can destroy the future generation if left uncontrolled, said Assistant Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Sairin Karno.

He said communicating via the social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Friendster and WhatsApp, among others, was the current teenage craze which created an inattentive generation.

“This generation no longer give priority to more important and beneficial activities.

“The future of youths will be affected if the trend is not monitored. The people will become complacent, until failing to realise that the trend is a new form of colonialisation,” he told Bernama after launching  Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Gaulan Excellence Award ceremony here today.

Sairin, who is also Liawan assemblyman, said the change in lifestyle to one that was based on technology and information advancement had left a deep impact on society, becoming an obstacle in shaping cultural values, mindset and lifestyle that is based on traditional customs,  Eastern ethics and religion.

“People today spend more time using gadgets rather than building ties and showing respect to one another...this is a daunting scenario. Something has to be urgently done,” he said, stressing that parents played a crucial role in controlling the use of gadgets among their children. 


Monday, 13 November 2017


In all my years of writing about the computing and information technology services industry, I have heard no end about Malaysian workers having to 'reskill themselves and move up the value chain' to remain relevant (i.e. employable) in the knowledge-based information and services economy - a 'sunrise' industry, as 'sunset' industries such as manufacturing and assembly leave Malaysia's shores to our neighbouring lower wage countries, bringing along with them a sun rise.

So more students have gone to the burgeoning number of public and private universities, including many which I dub as graduate factories, in order to get that much coveted degree, so as to 'move up the value chain'.

However, the interesting thing about this Free Malaysia Today article about what the Chief Economist at Malaysian Rating Corp said about employers' actual requirements of graduates they are looking for is proficiency in the English language, rather than straight As only.

Also:  "It said in terms of employability, those with tertiary education made up the highest percentage of unemployed youths at 15.3%"

So it looks like the higher up the value chain one goes, the more unemployable one becomes in the much touted knowledge-based, information and services economy, well at least within Malaysia.

I landed my first job as a Process Engineer with the now defunct National Semiconductor integrated circuit assembly plant in Senawang, Negeri Sembilan in March 1980 or about 37 years ago and within three months of my return to Malaysia from the U.K. with an electronics engineering degree.

Most of the line supervisors and technicians had a Higher School Certificate (A Levels or "STPM" in Malay), whilst most of the production operators, most of whom were young women, had a Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) which is equivalent to O Levels and some even had Lower Certificate of Education (SRP).

Many of the production operators were not very proficient in English but that did not matter, since we all could communicate with them in Malay and we all got the work done.

On the 7th of November 2017, I covered the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's In Style Hong Kong symposium and exposition in Kuala Lumpur and had a bit of a hard time understanding the Hong Kong and China English spoken by the speakers at the event, many of whom are architects, advertising professionals, public relations professionals, engineers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, corporate chiefs, top civil servants and so forth, which raises questions as to whether the ability to speak the Queen's English is all that important to one's employability and success in business.

Like one of the speakers from LAAB Architects in Hong Kong had the imagination, creativity and ability to think outside the box to optimise the space in a 309 sq ft (28.7 sq metres) but their English isn't all that great.

Another speaker, a storyteller who also is a creative lead at Sun Mobile Communications Ltd spoke about transmedia and how they created an animated video with a catchy tune which was posted on You Tube and other platforms to remind viewers about the deadly dangers they should avoid. This project was commissioned by a metro train operator in Australia which wanted to cut down on train accidents and it worked.

These professionals have bachelors or masters degrees, though their English was not all that great but understandable enough for me to write an article about the event.

So why is being proficient in English such a big deal amongst Malaysian employers, unless the jobs available are relatively low-skilled information and services jobs.

Or are we churning out too many degree holders that a bachelors degree today is worth an SPM (Senior Cambridge, O Levels, MCE) back in the 1970s, a masters degree today is worth an STPM (A Levels, HSC, high school diploma) back then and a PhD today is worth a bachelors degree back then.

Heck!  In their desperation, even engineering degree holders have taken up jobs for which they are way over qualified for, though one has to admire their willingness to do so until they can find work more suited to their qualifications.

"As unemployment grows, so does the number of qualified people who are resorting to doing any job that pays."
"One such person is Siti Nursyazalina Zailani, who graduated as a materials engineer but now works as a domestic cleaner."

Engineering graduates like Siti Nursyazalina would have easily got a job at executive level in one of the semiconductor plants back in the 1980s.

I guess there are not that many jobs for engineers today, as we move towards becoming a 'high-income, knowledge-based, information and services economy'.

Or should fresh graduates go further and pursue an MBA (Masters of Nothing Better) in order to be employable.
The problem is that there are not all that many jobs higher up the value chain.

Also, the sun rises where 'sunset' industries move into, whilst the sun sets where "sunset" industries move away from, leaving more and more 'sunrise' industries.

Anyway, the sun never sets on planet earth.

Free Malaysia Today article referred to follows.

Yours truly


Economist: Poor English, lack of experience costing grads jobs

FMT Reporters

Chief economist at Malaysian Rating Corp Nor Zahidi Alias says employers are not looking for graduates with straight As only.


PETALING JAYA: Low proficiency in English and lack of exposure to real-world situations are two main factors hindering Malaysian graduates from finding employment, an economist says.

Nor Zahidi Alias, who is chief economist at Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd, said the number of unemployed graduates in the country had risen over the years despite labour market fundamentals remaining respectable.

In a column carried by The Edge, he said part of the issue could be chalked up to the inability of graduates to communicate fluently in English.

“All along the supply chain, proficiency in the language is a highly desirable skill, as attested to by the majority of employers,” he said.

“In fact, in my experience, employers normally take no more than five minutes to judge the communication skills of interviewees before deciding whether or not to employ them. The better they speak, the more attractive they are to potential employers.”

Nor Zahidi regretted that many Malaysian graduates could not adequately express themselves at job interviews, adding that their struggles with language also had a negative impact on their confidence level.

“These clearly present issues for those seeking employment in the services sector, where effective communication is a key skill.”

Similarly, graduates’ lack of real-world experience was a problem as many companies wanted employees who had work experience prior to their graduation, he said.

“Unfortunately, in Malaysia, students do not seem to focus on getting real-world experience. Instead, they concentrate on scoring good grades.

“It is not really graduates with straight As that employers are looking for.”

Nor Zahidi’s comments followed concerns over the rate of youth unemployment in Malaysia, which hit 10.7% in 2015 – more than three times the national unemployment rate of 3.1%.

The numbers, which were revealed in Bank Negara’s 2016 annual report, showed a rise of 1.2% from the previous rate of 9.5%.

In terms of employability, those with tertiary education made up the highest percentage of unemployed youths at 15.3%.

About 16% of youths aged 15 to 24 were reported to have tertiary education, while the remaining 84% had secondary schooling.

A labour force survey by the government meanwhile showed that job growth had slowed while unemployment had risen.

In 2016, it said, the unemployment rate was 3.4%, a 0.3% increase from 3.1% in 2015. In 2014, the unemployment rate was only 2.9%.

Although there was a decrease in the number of unemployed youths, those aged 20 to 29 still made up more than half of those unemployed last year, at 60.4% compared to 62.5% in 2015.

Bank Negara had attributed the rise in youth unemployment to a lack of experience, higher information asymmetry in the labour market and poor communication skills.

It said in terms of employability, those with tertiary education made up the highest percentage of unemployed youths at 15.3%.

Nor Zahidi said things had changed over the years, with education institutions putting more emphasis on involvement in extra-curricular activities when it came to college or university applications.

Internship programmes also allowed university students to gain valuable real-world experience, he added.

However, he warned that there were no shortcuts to solving these problems.

Although internship programmes helped, he said it was not easy for students to find placements.

“Not many Malaysian companies like to take on undergraduates for two or three months.

“Even if they do, they usually do not have structured training programmes in place for interns. As a result, only the cream of the crop and those with good connections are selected by business organisations for internship,” he said.

He added that the government’s efforts to improve the language skills of English teachers was a good start, but that more must be done to upgrade graduates’ level of English proficiency.

“Encouraging students to watch appropriate English programmes on television could help as well,” he said.

He also suggested that a central body be established to help university students find placements in internship programmes at relevant organisations.

Friday, 10 November 2017


When I look around at how people go around faces glued to their phone screens engaged in social media chatting with someone, somewhere but not those around them, I  can only see a bleak future for a generation and a society which has succumbed to the psychological manipulation of advertisers, telephone companies and device manufacturers who are all contributing to the dumbing down of society for their financial gain.

Now we have Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, expressing his concerns over what he and his partners hath wrought.

I terminated my Facebook and Twitter accounts several years back and now rarely access WhatsApp, except to check up on messages from my remisier.

Axios article follows below.

IT.Scheiss =========================

Sean Parker unloads on Facebook "exploiting" human psychology
Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider's look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains.

Be smart: Parker's I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. He's worried enough that he's sounding the alarm.

Parker, 38, now founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, spoke yesterday at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, about accelerating cancer innovation. In the green room, Parker mentioned that he has become "something of a conscientious objector" on social media.

By the time he left the stage, he jokingly said Mark Zuckerberg will probably block his account after reading this:

  • "When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, ... 'We'll get you eventually.'"
  • "I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and ... it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
  • "The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, ... was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'"
  • "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments."
  • "It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
  • "The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

P.S. Parker, on life science allowing us to "live much longer, more productive lives": "Because I'm a billionaire, I'm going to have access to better health care so ... I'm going to be like 160 and I'm going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords. [Laughter] Because, you know the [Warren Buffett] expression about compound interest. ... [G]ive us billionaires an extra hundred years and you'll know what ... wealth disparity looks like."

Tuesday, 31 October 2017


In my mail shot yesterday, I had referred to Free Malaysia Today's article "Why job cuts at Singapore media giant are a good sign"

In its article, Free Malaysia Today had referred to an the publication ASEAN Today as one of its sources, so I took a look at ASEAN Today which I found to provide very much more comprehensive information with graphs and charts as to why Singapore Press Holdings is retrenching its journalists despite recording 'surging' profits.

Basically, its media unit is the only unit to experience declining revenue, whilst revenue of its property unit increased.

ASEAN Today posed a rather ironic question for the future of media in its sub-heading - "SPH – Singapore Press Holdings or Singapore Property Holdings?"

On 14 September 2014, ASEAN Today wrote:-

(Please enable view images if you cannot see the embedded graphs below)

Singapore Press Holdings losing its shine

With the onslaught of new media, Singapore Press Holdings is losing its relevance, and it may be time for them to consider privatisation.

By Joelyn Chan

Along with other media companies, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) struggles to stay relevant and maintain its profitability.

Alan Chan, CEO of SPH, said: “We have done a comprehensive business review to strengthen our position in a tough economic and media environment. Market conditions will remain difficult with the continuing disruption of the media industry.”

“We will continue to innovate and invest in our media products to stay ahead and relevant. At the same time, we will grow our business adjacencies to diversify revenue streams and maximise stakeholder value,” he added.

SPH’s lacklustre performance

Compared to 2015, SPH’s operating revenue shrank by 4.5% to SG$1,124.3 million. In the last four years, the media business’ contribution to total revenue has fallen by 8%. The fall in revenue can be explained by a 7.6% decline in the media business. Revenue from property increased by 4.6%. The declining composition of its core media business is likely to persist, and SPH is falling back on real estate to sustain their shrinking business operations. This trend also reflects on the sustainability of the traditional media industry in Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Competition is now global and digital.

SPH’s lacklustre performance has warranted cost reduction measures and improvements in operational efficiency amidst continuing uncertainty. In 2001, SPH AsiaOne had downsized, retrenched 23 employees, and restructured its businesses to focus on online news, careers and database services. SPH’s broadcasting arm, SPH MediaWorks trimmed away 19% of workforce and announced an across-the-board salary cut of 12.7%. In 2003, SPH once again retrenched about 3% of its total headcount.

Since 2014, its biggest expense – staff cost, has achieved the desired year on year decrease. However, mere cost reduction of SG$12 million over two years cannot save SPH, which needs greater revenue and profits.

SPH’s service offerings lack competitiveness

The Straits Times(ST) may have held its position as the best-read publication in Singapore, with a total readership of 1.26 million. But SPH’s newspaper readership remains on an accelerating downtrend, faring worse today than ten years ago.

Lower readership has a knock-on effect on advertising rates. Outshining SPH, Google and Facebook are forerunners in the emerging digital advertising industry with an estimated 65% share in 2015’s revenue. For instance, Facebook Audience Network allows media buyers to publicise external website and applications on its advertising network.

This year, SPH has erected metered-paywalls for its content. Paywalls will work for Business Times’s specialised content, but not for generic news where sources are ample.

Free news sites like South China Morning Post (SCMP) and Channel News Asia dilutes ST’s effort to generate subscription revenue. Again, competition is international and digital. Barriers to entry to reporting are lowering. Millennials go to social media for quick news breaks. Assuming they want deeper insights, young adults know how to use techniques such as Chrome’s incognito and applications such as Newsify to bypass paywalls.

In the Radio and Television entertainment sector, SPH’s three radio stations are losing popularity to Spotify while SPH is divesting its 20% stake in Mediacorp TV. Spotify has two billion playlists available across 60 countries, allowing its 100 million users to select from a wide variety of music anytime. The hay days of radio are over. Radio’s commercial value will diminish, albeit it will remain a core information transmission service for public service purposes.

To revive its fate, SPH has entered into a joint venture with Mediacorp to launch a new digital advertising marketplace. Dubbed Singapore Media Exchange, it may be a remedy to SPH’s woes in 2018. SPH has also incorporated Fastco Pte Ltd for development of interactive digital media software. Should these plans succeed, SPH’s financial report may see a U-turn in performance.

SPH – Singapore Press Holdings or Singapore Property Holdings?

Ironically, the Property segment is SPH’s key driver of growth. Its retail properties enjoy 100% tenancy and generate pre-tax profit margins that are double of the Media business. Future plans include a proposed condo project and retail mall in the highly coveted Bidadari Estate. But smarter shareholders may question whether SPH’s property segment is part of its core business. Could they not simply divest SPH and invest in other REITs or property stocks?

“Having a substantial part of our assets in the form of property does provide a buffer from the declining fortunes in the media business…In fact, SPH plans to make more strategic property investments and will continue to focus on the retail sector,” Chairman Lee Boon Yang replied in response to a shareholder’s musing on how SPH is morphing into a property investment company.

The future of SPH

SPH’s highest share price of SG$4.15 in 2016 fell below 2011’s share price of SG$4.26. After the announcement of its divestment in Medicorp entities, SPH’s share price closed at SG$2.76. SPH struggles to attract capital from investors with its blurry outlook and business proposition. Will the smart money buy into SPH’s strategy – using real estate to prop up its diminishing business?

SPH’s current circumstances bear similarities to pre-privatisation SMRT Corporation – weak profitability, sustaining on rental income, and high investment outflows. SMRT Corporation has since been delisted by Temasek Holdings to focus entirely on serving the public. The same fate is unlikely for SPH as its current top shareholders are Citibank and DBS nominees.

Apart from restructuring further, SPH can still hope for an acquisition like SCMP and The Washington Post (WP).

In 2016, Alibaba Investment Limited bought over Hong Kong’s leading English paper, SCMP, along with the Armada Holdings Limited’s other media business. Following the US$266 million sales, SCMP removed its paywall. SCMP editor, Tammy Tan, said: “ SCMP’s website doubled its number of unique users in the first year after the pay wall lift. Last month [August 2017], the site received nearly seven million unique view.” The current readership has achieved a significant improvement from its initial count of 350,000.

Similarly, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought WP for US$250 million in 2013 and fueled a 58.1 million increase in unique US Digital visitors within three years. The fresh injection of funds and new leadership helped the two over-100-year-old media giants to reinvent their offerings in the dynamic media landscape.

Traditional press has no future. Be it restructuring, privatisation or acquisition, SPH needs to try harder to outshine the new media disruptors. It may want to rethink its strategy to build resilience for core media business by diversifying into education, healthcare or property. By spreading itself too thin, it risks losing focus on its consumers’ needs.

Now moving on to the ASEAN Today article referred to by Free Malaysia Today.

The kicker here comes at the last sub heading at the bottom - "AI is now sufficiently advanced to write articles"

"The decision from SPH to cut back on journalists is a leap towards the new era of journalism. It demonstrates a company pro-actively responding to consumer needs and modernising to catapult itself to the head of the pack. In the hyper-competitive world of news reporting, a failure to innovate is a death sentence. The SPH message is clear, it wants to keep Singapore at the forefront of modern journalism, and that means reducing jobs and embracing technology."

The second  ASEAN Today article basically says that in order for Singapore Press Holdings to "leap towards the new era of journalism", it will have to retrench its human journalists and increase its reliance on computers information technology.

This is a clear message to any school leaver intending to pursue a career in journalism that they can find themselves obsolete and out of a job perhaps earlier than their 40s and also that journalism will no longer be a viable paying career upon which one can rely upon for a decent living income.  

Job cuts at SPH reflect the changing face of journalism
6-7 minutes

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) announced substantial job cuts. However, these cuts are an indication of future success, not turmoil.

By Oliver Ward

Journalists at SPH fear for their jobs after the news corporation announced its intention to axe 230 staff members. The job cull will involve 130 redundancies, reducing staffs in the core media divisions by 15%.

SPH reported a surge in profits for 2017. The group recorded a net profit for the fiscal year of S$350.1 million (US$256.9 million). Rather than a signal of financial distress, the SPH cutbacks are an indication of modernisation and progression.

To stay relevant and profitable, SPH needs to keep up with consumer trends and create stimulating content for the new generation. To do this, it needs to embrace AI solutions.

The way we consume news is changing

News consumers have made the transition to online platforms. 85% of the population now use online news sources, and there is fierce competition to stand out in a saturated online news market.

Source: Reuters

With so many established players in the online news market, news outlets are hyper-targeting audiences with attractive clickbait titles. The changing shape of the media has allowed for the emergence of new AI technologies to specifically target audiences.

Lars Eidnes, a 29-year-old web developer, analysed more than two million online articles and made the website Click-O-Tron. Click-O-Tron uses a formula to create clickbait titles. While it is a joke site, with headlines like “John McCain Speaks in His Own Words” and “How the World’s Most Extreme Baby Moms Lost Weight”, it is an insight into the media of the future. Why use journalists to generate catchy headlines for their articles when a programme can offer a perfectly engineered algorithmic headline designed to target your audiences?

Long essay-type articles are a dying breed

Source: Reuters

The bulk of the population now consumes their news through smartphones. This platform does not lend itself to long essay-type articles.

The rise of the smartphone has changed the way we communicate. The new generation communicates with visuals. The number of images sent across social media per day rocketed from two billion in 2015 to 3.25 billion in 2016. Visual journalism is becoming the new norm.

SPH and other media outlets do not need as many journalists

This also means there is less need for actual journalists. AI can maximise output for visual content. Programmes like Wibbitz analyse a text and produce voice over accompanied videos and graphics. The graphic also analyses data and produces visual graphics in seconds. The use of software like these mean media outlets can reduce their staff numbers and create strong content in line with rising consumer trends.

SPH is taking steps towards producing more visual articles. In 2016, SPH invested S$ 6.8 million (US$ 5 million) in Brand New Media Singapore (BNMS). BNMS is a leading video content production company. Its past productions won at the Asian Television Awards.

Julian Tan, Head of the Digital Division at SPH said, “consumption of online videos has seen a steady rise in Singapore”, adding, “SPH’s strategic investment into BNMS comes at an opportune time as we strive to complement and enhance our video storytelling capabilities.”

Other companies are looking to transition to stay ahead of the industry and increase revenues. Media outlets are forging connections with television companies to produce more visual contents and allow for more crossovers. NBCUniversal has made investments in Vox and Buzzfeed as has Time Warner in Mashable.

These relationships have worked both ways, the news companies with a large online presence are offering marketing opportunities to younger audiences for the television networks.

There are other opportunities to incorporate technology to improve productivity

There are other technologies and platforms available to significantly boost journalists’ productivity and output. Grammarly, for example, is a plugin and desktop application that runs an accurate spelling, grammar and plagiarism checker anywhere you write online.

Full Fact also announced in June 2017 that it would launch two fact-checking platforms in 2018. The software will store a database of fact-checked claims and be able to monitor subtitles from politicians’ speeches in real-time and fact-check their claims. When released, the platform will significantly decrease the time editors spend fact-checking articles and help in the fight against the proliferation of fake news.

Even on the design front, there is software to facilitate artistic decisions. Analytical Visual Assessment (AVA) is a software platform that can select images to accompany an article that will resonate more with target audiences.

AI is now sufficiently advanced to write articles

The future of journalism is quickly advancing. Using natural language generation (NLG) technology, the technology behind Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, AI bots can produce concisely written articles. Human input will only be required to select relevant data sets. The bots can then analyse the data and write up the findings. The Associated Press is already using the software to generate stories about corporate financial quarterly earnings.

Kris Hammond, co-founder of Narrative Science estimated that computers would be responsible for 90% of news contents by the mid-2020s.

The decision from SPH to cut back on journalists is a leap towards the new era of journalism. It demonstrates a company pro-actively responding to consumer needs and modernising to catapult itself to the head of the pack. In the hyper-competitive world of news reporting, a failure to innovate is a death sentence. The SPH message is clear, it wants to keep Singapore at the forefront of modern journalism, and that means reducing jobs and embracing technology.

On 21 September 2017, Bloomberg Technology reported:-

Singapore Press Considering Job Cuts in Reorganization Plan
Keith Zhai
Abhishek Vishnoi 21 September 2017, 18:41 GMT+8 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., which started a review of its media business last year, is considering job cuts amid a reorganization, according to people familiar with the matter.

The city’s dominant newspaper publisher, like many of its peers in the industry, is grappling with digital disruption that has eroded readership and advertising revenue. While Singapore Press has diversified into property, telecommunications and nursing homes, that has failed to arrest a slide in earnings. Profits have fallen for six straight quarters, including a 45 percent decline in the three months through May from a year earlier.

Chin Soo Fang, a spokeswoman for the newspaper publisher, said she declined to comment on market rumors.

Singapore Press had 4,473 employees at the end of May, with a total wage bill of S$276 million ($204 million). Revenue in the third quarter slipped 11 percent to S$260 million. Its media business was the only segment that reported a decline in sales as advertising shrank. The planned cuts come less than a month after Chief Executive Officer Ng Yat Chung was appointed Sept. 1. Mediacorp, the country’s other main news group that publishes the Today newspaper, said in August it would stop the print edition.

Singapore Press’s market value fell below that of its U.S. peer New York Times Co. for the first time in 12 years earlier this month. Trading near levels last seen during the 1997 Asian currency meltdown and the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis, Singapore Press shares are the year’s worst performers on the country’s benchmark index, down more than 20 percent.

— With assistance by Andrea Tan, and Divya Balji

Whilst that may sound like a broken record, the key point for these retrenchments in media is the same - i.e. falling revenue and profitability.

Based upon the experience of newspapers in the United States, for every US$8 to US$10 drop in print adversing revenue, their online advertising revenue has rising by a mere US$1which is clearly unsustainable for most newspapers and magazines with print, online and digital editions, as well as those with online only or online and digital editions.

This is thanks or no thanks to competition for online advertising from global Internet giants such as Google and Facebook, as the infographic of US newspaper advertising revenue shows below.

The growth in penetration of broadband Internet, whether fibre or wireless, sounds the death knell of media, whether in the United States, Singapore, Malaysia and many other countries where such penetration is high, since this enables competition for advertising revenue from the like of Google, Facebook and others.

It also enables competition from news sources elsewhere, especially those with journalists reporting first band from the ground where the event or incident happened or is happening, rather than having to rely upon second, third, fourth, fifth and so forth hand reporting by media in one's country.

A ray of hope?
However, there could be a ray of hope coming to light especially for print media, TV and radio in recent reports that some major advertisers in the US are cutting or withdrawing their digital ad spending because they have found that it yields little or no return on investment in terms of sales generated.

This is provided  advertisers return to advertising in traditional media and whatever readers. viewers or listeners may remain.

Otherwise, the future for media organisations and journalism as a viable paying career will remain bleak, especially if advertising revenue for online or digital media remains low.

Perhaps journalists in today's media had better be prepared to clean toilets for a living, like some university graduates in Malaysia are doing, instead of relying on mummy and daddy to sustain them.

Meanwhile "Singapore Property Holdings" might well rise to new heights.



Monday, 30 October 2017


Saw this article in Free Malaysia Today of 30 October 2017.

I wonder whether Singapore Press Holdings' online and digital advertising will be enough to cover costs, if the print edition eventually goes down.

Free Malaysia today is a small online-only publication which publishes politically-oriented, generally pro-opposition news articles.

Dunno if it is profitable.

What the article below basically says is that human journalists are becoming redundant.


Why job cuts at Singapore media giant are a good sign

PETALING JAYA: Odds are that many journalists at a Singapore company will soon lose their jobs, but a report says the job cuts are a good sign that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is “modernising” in its efforts to remain competitive.

Asean Today said SPH’s decision to trim down its journalists was “a leap towards the new era of journalism”.

“In the hyper-competitive world of news reporting, a failure to innovate is a death sentence.

“The SPH message is clear: it wants to keep Singapore at the forefront of modern journalism, and that means reducing jobs and embracing technology,” it said today.

SPH, which began retrenching staff earlier this month, is Southeast Asia’s biggest newspaper publisher and owner of the 172-year-old Straits Times daily.

According to reports, the company intends to axe 230 staff members which will reduce employees in core media divisions by 15%.

However, Asean Today also noted that SPH was not in financial distress, as the company had recorded a surge in profits for 2017 of S$350.1 million.

“To stay relevant and profitable, SPH needs to keep up with consumer trends and create stimulating content for the new generation. To do this, it needs to embrace AI solutions,” it said.

Pointing out that 85% of the population now refer to online sources for their news, the report added that such platforms were not conducive to long articles.

“Visual journalism is becoming the new norm,” it said, adding that this means there is less need for actual journalists.

Today, AI bots can even write news articles for companies, a technique already being used by the Associated Press for its stories on corporate financial quarterly earnings, the report said.

The use of natural language generation (NLG) technology means that human input is only required to select relevant data sets, while other types of software can select images to accompany the article.

“The future of journalism is quickly advancing,” the report said, quoting co-founder of Narrative Science Kris Hammond who estimated that computers would be responsible for 90% of news content by the mid-2020s.

According to the report, last year SPH invested S$6.8 million in Brand New Media Singapore (BNMS), a leading video content company.

This is in line with the steady rise in the consumption of online videos, the company was reported as saying.

“Other companies are looking to transition to stay ahead of the industry and increase revenues,” the report added.


Doesn't all that management-ese sound oh so 'sophisticated'?

So even information workers can be rendered obsolete by the inevitable onward march of information and communications technology. 

Welcome to the much-touted Information and Services Society.

Earlier Bloomberg Technology of 21 September 2017 reported of impending job cuts at Singapore Press Holdings.

"Singapore Press Considering Job Cuts in Reorganization Plan"

Then on 13 October 2017, The Straits Times, the flagship Singapore Press Holdings' paper reported:_

"SPH starts retrenching staff"

That same day the portal (note States Times Review dot com) reported.

"40 reporters fired from Straits Times"

Also that same day, the Singapore online news portal Mothership reported:-

"SPH source: Resentment, confusion as second day of retrenchment carried out"

The following day - i.e. 14 October 2017, Mothership reported:-
"Editor-in-chief, Warren Fernandez, said 2 things that exasperated SPH staff at Friday the 13th townhall"

The Singapore Daily of 18 October 2017 reported, preceded by some background on a solid journalists' strike in Singapore 41 years ago:-

"SPH informs journalist union of retrenchment half hour before meeting"

On 22 October 2017 The Independent dot SG reported:-

"All Singapore Stuff wants to employ retrenched SPH journalists"

The way things are going for journalists right now, I would not recommend any school leaver consider pursuing a career in journalism, since they could find themselves out of work in their mid-forties with family commitments, a mortgage and car loan to pay off.