If you’re Singaporean and you surf Youtube a lot, you might have asked “Where are the video bloggers and Youtubers of Singapore?”
If you recall our “Crowdsourcing the Media” presentation at Nexus 2007 (watch video), the “Singapore” search results on Youtube lead to an estimated 23,000 videos. That was on 24th March this year. Less than three months later, the count has now grown to an amazing 35,100 videos (just over 50% increase). What gives?
Singaporean made (or related) online videos are abound. In the past, we had to search for them, but now the mainstream media has done a great job in becoming the primary aggregator for local videos and photos.
With more local mainstream media soliciting photos and videos from the public, namely The Straits Times’ STOMP and Channel News Asia’s “Your News”, this trend is likely to continue rising. The recent seven-page feature about Citizen Journalism in the Straits Times only lends more credence to this, and it does well by featuring prominent citizen contributors to STOMP, as well as by explaining what citizen journalism is about through academics in this field and through relevant examples from around the world (e.g. OhMyNews).
There seems to be a bias to this report though… As James Seng explained, the news spread seemed more like a self-promotion for ST’s STOMP, since it’s plastered with STOMP branding and it fails to mention local bloggers who might have been the forefront citizen journalists for Singapore.
Understanding our socio-political landscape, I can comprehend why this might be the case. Hopefully, the media ecology here will be better connected over time, instead of the mainstream media and blogosphere referencing each other, without much acknowledgment. It’s as if we live in two separate worlds, yet remaining dependent on one another.
We’re already seeing our national newspaper, The Straits Times, opening up as seen in their web site’s recent redesign. Two key features stuck me as being progressive…
First, the ST forum section now allows readers to directly comment on a submitted letter. Previously all you could do was read, write a letter response and send it in. While it might be more work for ST, it’s serving a public good which all newspapers should be engaged in. We’re already seeing good reporting of current affairs, with greater involvement of the public into the generation of news itself (as seen in the left screencap). This is great since it lets everyone, including the government, gauge public sentiments towards new public policies.
Second, more emphasis on video reporting. The Straits Times actually send their journalists on-location to shoot videos. I initially found this surprising, since the television news media already specializes in that (on their own web sites), and they’d be somewhat competing with their affiliate STOMP. However, it may be a matter of positioning against competitors, rather than within the organization. While STOMP adopts a more laissez-faire approach to their publicly submitted reporting, The Straits Times’ videos would stand to be a more authoritative relative of it. Also, we will soon have to shed the notion that the Singapore Press Holdings is limited to print, since the online media affords the publishing company more media channels.
Despite these two great features of the Straits Times web site, my biggest gripe with it has always been how its still subscription-based. Perhaps more research into online advertising is needed here, because I see this as a major hindrance to the “top of mind” significance of Singapore on a global level.
Imagine, the lack of news from Singapore pretty much leaves us as black hole in the online media landscape. All the effort in bringing talented Singaporeans home (i.e. Contact Singapore) could be easily resolved by making our national newspaper essentially free and accessible to everyone. Just by knowing what goes on back home creates a sense of connectedness, preventing Singaporeans abroad from losing touch and potentially interested in returning. The same would go apply for foreigners interested in Singapore. If there were no news, there’s be less cultural understanding of how our country functions. My argument is whether the financial gains made by ST’s online subscription is worth the lost presence of national news on the Internet. While there are alternative means to getting news about Singapore, nothing would beat getting it straight from the horse’s mouth.
If you’re interested to know how Singapore’s news media is performing, see Bernard Leong’s comprehensive overview of the state of citizen journalism in Singapore. For those who just want quick bites, the Rambling Librarian (aka Ivan Chew) summarized his points into useful links. Ivan also remind us of a three-way video iChat interview we conducted last year relating to “mainstream media and the blogosphere” (Ivan Chew, Brennan and me).
Aside 1: To help foster more Singaporean videobloggers, I’ll be giving a public talk entitled “Youtube and beyond…” at the National Library at 6pm, 19th June 2007. I’ll be sharing my tips to uploading great looking videos online. I’ll also be exploring video services beyond Youtube, by showing the neat tricks which some of the other free video sharing sites can do. Check it out!
Aside 2: Interestingly, Youtube’s no. 1 search result for the keyword “Singapore” lead to the complete version of Singapore Rebel, a film our local government banned from being shown locally.