Sunday, 1 May 2016


Many in the media may hate me for telling them that the days of journalism as viable paying career are coming to an end as media publishers are forced to shift from print media where they have enjoyed ample circulation and advertising revenue which has enabled media companies to pay large armies of writers, photographers, support and production staff well with generous bonuses and ex-gratias; to online media where advertising revenue is about one tenth or less that of print advertising revenue and growing too slowly to make up for the decline in print advertising revenue.

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Moreover, the relatively low barriers of entry to online and digital media publishing has resulted in more intense competition for online advertising revenue, coupled with competition from huge non-media sites with global reach, such as Google, Facebook and so forth.

For example, according to the Newspaper Association of America and Google, Google's worldwide advertising revenue surpassed total U.S. newspaper print advertising revenue in 2012, whilst growth in newspaper online advertising revenue was anaemic.

In August 2015, Maybank IB Research reported:-

"Jul 2015 total gross adex fell 18% YoY, the largest YoY contraction on our records."

"Public sector ad spend declined substantially by 39% YoY. MNCs are also beginning to cut back due to the weak MYR."

"Sector’s NEUTRAL call and calls on all media stocks under coverage placed under review."

"What’s New"

"Total gross adex for Jul 2015 fell 18% YoY, the largest YoY contraction on our records dating back to Jan 2007, despite a low base in Jul 2014 due to the MH17 aviation tragedy. The fall was driven by the public sector whose ad spend dropped substantially by 39% YoY. We understand that with the depreciating MYR against the USD and lingering effects of the 6% GST, MNCs such as Nestle, P&G and Wipro Unza have also cut ad spend by 20% - 40% YoY."

"7M15 total gross adex contracted by 10% YoY, more than our adex growth forecast of -8% YoY. 7M15 FTA TV adex and newspaper adex both declined 11% YoY. 7M15 radio adex also softened 3% YoY, which is much narrower than the YoY contraction experienced by FTA TV and newspaper adex. Going forward, it is still possible for advertisers to migrate part of their ad spend from FTA TV and newspaper mediums to the cheaper radio medium."

You can read the full report here:-

Now this article by Alexander Guzman foresees robots (well actually computer programs) replacing human journalists in article production, so how are journalists going to move up the value chain (to use that oft-heard cliched phrase), to remain in paid employment.

We have already seen the demise of The Malaysian Insider and The Rakyat Post, so what's next?

Welcome to that information and services economy, information technology journalists so often wrote about and lauded to the skies, thinking that as information workers, they were safe, unlike manual workers in automotive assembly plants.

Heck! We may soon have robots or more likely coin-operated machines dispensing burgers, so there goes low-paid services jobs as well.

We already have fairly affordable robots to clean the floor for us in the stores, so soon there may be no jobs for house maids.

Yours trully.


"Automated Journalism", Robots in the Newsroom: The Future of Corporate Media
By Timothy Alexander Guzman
The Main-Stream Media (MSM) or corporate media has recently began making moves to replace humans with robots or “automated journalism” to produce its news stories. Not to say that the corporate media journalists who currently work under the propaganda machine are independent and are committed to the truth. However, more than ever, corporate media conglomerates are slowly replacing those same traditional journalists with robots that can produce twice the amount of stories at a faster rate to beat out their competition is just one of the reasons for the change.  But there is a bigger picture to this new advanced technology.

Robots as we know, have replaced humans in several industries especially in the automobile industry where robots are already replacing humans on production lines. The media is no exception. Recently the New York Post (a tabloid propaganda newspaper) reported that Bilderberg attendee and Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait told Bloomberg’s 2,400 journalists in an internal office memo that he was creating a 10-person team that will study how to “use more automation in writing and reporting.” Micklethwait reportedly said:

“Why do we need you, if the basic idea is to get computers to do more of the work?” Micklethwait asked in the memo, obviously addressing an unspoken concern among his staff.

One irony of automation is that it is only as good as humans make it. That applies to both the main types of automated journalism. In the first, the computer will generate the story or headline by itself. But it needs humans to tell it what to look for, where to look for it and to guarantee its independence and transparency to our readers. In the second sort, the computer spots a trend, delivers a portion of a story to you and in essence asks the question: Do you want to add or subtract something to this and then publish it? And it will only count as Bloomberg journalism if you sign off on it.

“Done properly, automated journalism has the potential to make all our jobs more interesting,” he said

New York Magazine published an article in 2014 titled ‘Robots Are Invading the News Business, and It’s Great for Journalists’ interviewed an independent analyst by the name of Ken Doctor:

Ken Doctor, an independent analyst who studies the news industry, told me this week that the rise of robot reporting is a product of the times — both technologically and in terms of the troubled economics of the news industry, which has led media organizations to search for ways to reduce their costs. “The robots are just another tool of new journalism,” he said. In the future, Doctor predicts, robots won’t just be reporters’ competitors. They’ll collaborate with us by preparing data-dense paragraphs that we can then supplement with our own analysis, producing a hybrid story that’s better than our human efforts alone.

“Journalism is becoming a more highly skilled job,” Doctor said. “Simply showing up, in the Woody Allen sense — being able to read a press release or interview a single person, and write up a story that is understandable in 750 words — that’s not going to be enough. The optimistic part of this is that we’d use computers to do the basic work of organizing facts, and that the judgment and analysis, the interpretation, the experience is brought to it by humans”

In 2014, the Associated Press partnered with Automated Insights (AI) to produce automated quarterly earnings reports by using AI’s Wordsmith platform. According to AI’s website:

The Associated Press, working with Automated Insights and Zacks Investment Research, uses automation technology to write earnings stories. Previously, AP’s reporters wrote such stories. AP now produces nearly 3,700 quartlery earnings stories for US and Canadian companies, over 12 times the number that AP reporters and editors produced manually

Robots taking the place of humans in the newsroom are just another way of eliminating journalists to cut labor costs. Just like McDonalds is eliminating their workforce and replacing them with robots to serve customers due to the $15 an hour increase in the minimum wage across the U.S. Although Ken Doctor said that the way robots (providing and organizing basic facts) would collaborate with humans who would then provide the experience and the final analysis to produce a “hybrid story” is nonsense, it’s about reducing costs for corporate news owners and executives. Another important factor to consider is that humans and robots collaborating to produce news are easily controlled by top management. According to a 2014 article from Politico by Charles Lewis, a former 60 Minutes “investigative” producer and founder and former Executive Director for the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) wrote a story titled ‘Why I Left 60 Minutes’ and said:

Fewer commercial news organizations support investigative journalism now than at any time in recent history, and reporters today—especially those who aggressively seek the truths that government, business and other powerful institutions seek to conceal—are arguably more alone, more exposed and more vulnerable to professional and even physical harm than they ever were. There has to be a better way

Charles Lewis left the CPI in 2005 which has been hijacked by the CIA-connected Ford Foundation, George Soros’s‘Open Society Foundation’ and other corporate foundations who are major contributors for the nonprofit organization. The corporate media will be a competitive market for journalists especially if they are competing against robots that do not require a salary, a retirement plan or healthcare benefits. It is not a hard choice for those who manage or own corporate media especially when it comes to their profits and political agendas.

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