Sunday, November 15, 2009

Killing The Competitions: Death Of The Far Eastern Economic Review.

Hantu Laut

Many would have thought that the Review died a long time ago.No, it didn't.Dow Jones makes sure it dies a slow excruciating death.The announcement of its demise came in September 2009. The final death blow and the end of its long history will come in December 2009.

I used to subscribe to this magazine for many years.It used to be a highly respected publications in this region, popular with businessmen,economists,government policy makers and those who have keen interests in the business,economy and politics of the Asian regions.It was once the most authoritative magazine in Asia and one that have rattled a few governments of the region.

A few of its issues were banned in Singapore and the publisher sued by former Singapore Premier Mr Lee Kuan Yew.It has also been at loggerhead with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.Like Singapore, Malaysia had its fair share of banning certain issues of the Review.I used to remember,with is laughable now, getting my copy of the magazine with either a paragraph or whole page blackened.

The magazine started in 1946 by an Austrian Jewish immigrant and has changed hands a number of times, from its original owner to a consortium of investors, to Rupert Murdoch and finally sold to Dow Jones.

The problems started under Dow Jones, publisher of the Asian Wall Street Journal, which do not enjoy the same popularity as the Review.

Former Chief Editor of the Review Philip Bowring lay the blame on Dow Jones for the decline of the magazine.In 2004, Dow Jones converted the magazine from weekly to monthly issue.In September this year Dow Jones announced the closure of the magazine by December 2009.

It is sad to see a magazine which have enjoyed such popularity among the elites of Asia to finally hit the dust, facing the same fate as Asiaweek which was closed down by Time magazine after having bought it. Both Time Asia and the Asian Wall Street Journal do not enjoy the same kind of popularity as the demised magazines.

Message from the Editor of the Review.

The editor spoke for his masters.

November 2009

From the Editor

Five years after the REVIEW was relaunched as a monthly journal, and 63 years after its founding, we have regretfully decided to close the magazine. Subscribers have already received notices in the mail. Thankfully we still have one more issue left in which to pen a proper valedictory.

In the meantime, however, a few thoughts on the dislocations faced by us and everybody else in the information business. The Economist newspaper's "Banyan" column tackled the review's closure by focusing on the difficulties faced by Asia's regional publications. The market has fragmented as individual economies have developed to the point that advertisers need to target their campaigns more precisely, and local publications have sprung up to allow them to do so. Readers too are less catholic in their interests than they were just a decade or two ago.

Those challenges were widely discussed when the weekly review folded. The business model was put under further pressure by competition from global publications that could use content from other editions and thereby enjoy a lower cost base. Since then, however, it has become increasingly clear that the newsweekly format has passed its sell-by date in most developed markets. It is a hallmark of this gloomy age for journalism that no publisher can afford to take heart from the closure of a competitor; in most cases it does not bring an uptick in revenue but rather is a harbinger of more pain to come.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons to be skeptical that the media business is in its death throes, globally or in Asia. The appetite for information continues to grow, but publishers have made several mistakes that meant they failed to capture this demand. By giving away their content without charge on the Internet, media companies have done double damage. First, they have conditioned consumers to see content as a free good, and second, valuable time has been lost in the development of efficient payment mechanisms.

While e-readers will not be a silver bullet, the development of such new platforms for reading will surely play a big part in the renaissance of publishing. This development comes too late for the review, but it is a natural fit for the niche publication, removing the problems of availability, distribution and production costs.

Eric Halpern founded the review in Hong Kong after he was forced by World War II to abandon a Shanghai-based magazine. Perhaps the review may rise once more in a new incarnation, following Halpern's spirit of optimism that "a period of prosperity will certainly follow."


The biggest insult to the Review and its readers was Dow Jones refusal to sell the title.It has received many offers.

Both Time which is owned by Time Warner and Dow Jones are prepared to buy these Asian-based magazines and killed them to improve circulation of their American-based publications.

It's called killing the competitions.A fair game in corporate America.

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