Sunday, December 03, 2006

Minda Massa

April launch? The MCA-owned Star Publications has a license to publish a Malay-language daily. It has been holding on to the permit for nearly a decade now. The people at the NSTP know it and the people at the Utusan Melayu know it. What they probably didn't know was that the management of the Star has revisited the idea of launching the new paper, whose working title is Minda Massa.
People familiar with the matter say the Star stands to be the biggest beneficiary if Media Prima is allowed to execute plans to eat up Utusan Melayu and merge it with the flagging NSTP.
In the event of an NSTP-Utusan Melayu merger, one or even two of the four major Malay-language titles in the two rival groups could be cannibalized. The people behind this proposed merger are hoping to corner the Bahasa newspapers market in terms of advertisements and circulation but they may have forgotten that the Star has a license to publish a Malay daily and has been on stand-by mode since 1997 to launch the daily.
Last October, they started the mSTAR Online as part of its run-up to publish Minda Massa. The mSTAR Online has garnered a huge following. Since news of the NSTP-Utusan merger, there has been talk about an April 2007 launch for Minda Massa.
A merger between NSTP and Utusan Melayu is likely to create a vacuum that Star would be more than happy to fill.

p.s. At the press conference to announce the merger tomorrow, questions on cannibalization and vacuum and Minda Massa will likely be raised. That is, if the press conference is not called off. I was told that after last Friday's resistance shown by some Umno Supreme Council members, the people behind the merger idea have been told to retreat. For now.


  1. Anonymous10:31 pm

    my advice to the star is very simple. stay away from the malay market. you will get burnt very badly.

  2. Anonymous11:04 pm

    aha i see. that's why la.

    nstman - on the contrary, i think the star will do very well. they already monopolise the advertising market, now they can add another bonus page to their existing clients.

    I see the promo pitch already: Just another 5,000 (special launch discount) and you can reach another 2million people!!! or even better, for the first year, we give you free space in Minda Massa when you sign a package!!!

    sei lor!

  3. Anonymous11:05 pm


    Do you mean that only utusan melayu has the monopoly of the Malay market? NST used to be the most established english daily in Malaysia and after less than 10 years Star overtaken it and now it has gone down the drain! Thank to Kalimullah, the liar of the June 11 article, and Brendan the plagiarist.

    My advice to nstman is look at how nst is managed or mismanaged under Kalimullah and do something about it before nst really go down the drain.

    My advice to nstman is that he better start to do something in the nst as many people have stopped buying NST. I am one of them.

    You know Kalimullah is using hte nst for furhter his interest and yet you did nothing ot stop it. ood luck ot nstman. SOon you will be out of job! Try the Star. With Kalimullah recommendation I think Wong Chun Wai will take you on with a reduciton of salary.

  4. Anonymous12:14 am

    Ok, lets have minda massa. Lets give the malays the choice they deserve. We are not a herd of cows, you know.

  5. Anonymous2:39 am

    nstman said... "my advice to the star is very simple. stay away from the malay market. you will get burnt very badly."

    That sounds more like a threat than an advice, KaliProxy! :)

  6. Anonymous7:42 am

    No doubt the Star will do well with a Malay paper. There is a significant group of MPEBs that would want to read something different than the trash of Utusan.

    Certaintly would be interesting...

  7. Anonymous7:43 am


    I picked this from - very relevant to the ongoing discussion in yr blog.


    NST Utusan merger set to go on despite objections

    Oleh Dato' Rejal Arbee

    At long last, a number of Umno Supreme Council members seem to have found their voices again when they questioned the proposal for a merger of the New Straits Times Group and the Utusan Melayu Group at its meeting on Friday (Dec 1). Before this, none of them saw fit to bring up the going-ons in The New Straits Times (though majority owned by interests close to or associated with Umno) which culminated in the exodus of some 60-odd senior Malay journalists including some very experienced editors earlier this year, only to be replaced by Singapore cheerleaders and elements cynical to Umno and the Malays.

    But don’t hold your breath. The merger looks like it will still be on despite strong objections by these few. What has happened is that the proponents have merely been told to go back to the drawing board to ensure Utusan Malaysia will not lose its identity in the merger - whatever that means.

    So don’t be surprised if the proposal will still be pushed through. Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi only said that the distinct identity of Utusan and perhaps the other titles in the NST stable should be retained. It is now up to journalists of Utusan and the NGOs and other concerned Malays to try and stop such a move.

    Many Malays have expressed disbelief over the proposed merger and are unable to rationalise the need for it. But of course these views will not gain space in the mainstream media, so pervasive is the fourth floor’s hold over them through Datuk Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan previously the Group editor-in-chief now the Editorial Advisor. The title may have changed but the status quo ie control remain intact.

    Malays who value their identity recognise the role of Utusan, in the beginning with the Jawi script, Utusan Melayu and later, Utusan Malaysia in upholding and championing the cause of Malay nationalism and Malay interests. Utusan Melayu has also been at the forefront of Malay nationalism and the struggle for independence from the British.

    Should the merger go through with Utusan’s stance compromised, its pioneer editors like Abdul Rahim Kajai and Yusof Ishak will turn in their graves. Some concerned Malays are questioning whether this is not a covert move to undo the Malay agenda.

    The New Straits Times and even Berita Harian under the new group of people have already been transformed into a shadow of their former glorious selves in furthering the cause of the Malays.

    Since the NST went tabloid some time ago, it has lost much ground and goodwill. The master puppeteer and his band of spinners and lackeys were hoping that such a move would help to draw some new non-Malay readers especially for the NST. But of course this has not happened. In fact some Malays have now lost faith in the group and abandoned the group’s products.

    Not only has it lost its premium status as a paper of quality when it was a broadsheet, the tabloid NST cannot even make a small dent in The Star’s standing. Without counting the schools subscriptions - given at a discount of up to 50% of its cover price – its circulation would have been at an unsustainable figure of below 100,000 copies.

    And now it has come up with this merger proposal. Whoever is behind this may have their own agenda but the various products which were built up over the years by very dedicated people in the editorial may face an untenable situation, especially the Malay products Berita Harian and Harian Metro. How are the proponents going to rationalise Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian as well as Harian Metro and Kosmo?

    Newspapers are not mere business entities to be used for corporate maneuvers. They have their own souls and are indeed influential in shaping public opinion. But of course the spin doctors at the NST know this and they have used their sway over the newspapers – whether under their direct control or not - to the full.

    But what is known is that the puppeteers have not been able to reign in Utusan which had taken a more independent stance. So to them the only option available is to gobble up the delinquent Utusan to bring it in line.

    So much for a more open and freer press. But of course those in the know, are fully aware that this ‘more open society and freer press’ is only a spin. Look at how even a mild reaction by Umno Youth Exco member Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir describing the Umno’ President speech at the recent Umno general assembly as nothing new had thrown the party into a frenzy. What is wanted is only praises.

    Those in the know are also aware what is allowed, ie praises and spin for the leadership and the reverse for anyone who so much as is brave enough to question the current leadership.

    Another taboo subject is criticisms against Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. This I can vouch for from first hand experience. Two items for my Wednesday’s column in Berita Harian were spiked over two successive weeks in April for advocating a more circumspect relationships with Singapore.

    And then now it is OK to support Singapore government controlled companies’ forays into corporate Malaysia but never to question them. Thus it is taboo to question or even mention the creation of the “free excess zone” in the Iskandar Development Region (South Johore Economic Region) to enable unfettered excess to Singaporeans without them needing passports to enter the area – or what some have described as an “official de facto extension of Singapore” into Johore.

    So what is going to happen to Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo (or for that matter Berita Harian and Harian Metro) should the merger plan go through as it surely will despite the few voices of dissent. Utusan because of its history may gobble up Berita Harian, a more recent publication just as Metro may swallow Kosmo, the new kid on the block with much lower circulation compared to Metro, now with the highest circulation among the Malay newspapers.

    Should this be the scenario, then the spin doctors at the NST will have the distinction of becoming destroyers of newspapers. They have already destroyed the Sunday Mail. The Malay Mail is next in line. The day they decide to turn it into a fashion and entertainment trash that is a sorry excuse for a newspaper its days are already numbered. After that, god forbid, maybe the NST which has become a shadow of its former glorious self.

    The paper’s management at the behest of the editorial management had made the worst decision it possibly could when it went tabloid. This was the single most damaging decision that could spell the death knell of the paper if no proper remedial measures are taken to arrest the slide it is going through.

    The premium the NST as a broadsheet held over its competitors like the Star dissipated overnight. Its advertising revenue fell due to the reduction of its size – an advertiser taking a full page ad in a broadsheet will still only take a full page ad even in a tabloid as he will hardly want to take a two page spread there. At the same time it also lost the edge it has over the Star as a favoured newspaper for corporate advertising.

    Readers’ support that the new editorial management hoped for did not materialise. In fact the paper continued to lose its readership. The NST management should have seen that it could never be able to compete with the Star by bringing itself down to the Star’s level. The Star’s readers will not just switch to the NST merely because of the reduction of its size.

    Putting the two newspapers side by side will not show much difference in their content and coverage. So what incentive is there for a Star reader to switch to the NST when there is nothing extra that the NST could give him? In fact the similarities had nudged some of the loyal NST readers to switch to the Star and the Sun.

    When the NST tried to be different through innovations in page design, layout and coverage they are just copied by the Star. The majority of its readers are quite oblivious of such blatant acts since two thirds of them do not read the NST and do not know the Star was copying the NST.

    Thus whatever effort by the NST to dent the Star’s readership will always come to nought. At the same time some of its loyal readers had also abandoned the paper when they lose confidence in the paper and switch to the Sun. So is it any wonder that the NST’s circulation continues to slide?

    Yet the NST CEO Datuk Syed Faisal Albar was made to stand up for the plagiarist Group Editor, a Brendon Pereira, now on one month leave before going back to his adopted and much revered island republic across the causeway. The gall of it was Syed Faisal being made to have the audacity to describe a plagiarist as one of the best Group Editors the NST have had in a long time. Is he trying to state that this Brendan fellow is of the same caliber as Tan Sri Lee Siew Yee and Tan Sri Nordin Sopiee? Come on!

    And on the allegations of plagiarism, Syed Faisal has this to say: “our position is very clear, it is not. The other piece (Mitch Albom’s in the Detroit Free Press) did not revolve around the Prime Minister or former Prime Minister. Our content was original”. How pathetic they made Syed Faisal to be.

    Jeff Ooi in his blog Screenshots has made it easy to do the comparison between Albom’s Sept 10, 2006 article in the Detroit Free Press “Remembering the day before the day” with Brendan Pereira’s “How we miss June 6” in the NST of Oct 30, 2006 by putting them side by side and highlighting eight places where there were similarities. If this is not plagiarism then I do not know what is. I have in fact told a journalism lecturer he should use Jeff Ooi’s made easy comparisons as a clear example of plagiarism.

    It is obvious that this Brendan fellow copied the idea, and in some instances even phrases from Albom, when writing how the country misses the time before June 7 – that was the day when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad accused Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of stabbing him in the back, reversing his policies and undoing some of his projects. Albom had written how America misses the day before Sept 11, 2001. Any journalist worth his salt will not succumb to this kind of copying of other people’s ideas and style and language without so much as acknowledging it.

    But what is most surprising is why must the CEO be made to defend this fellow over the allegations. The editorial department of a newspaper have always been jealous of its turf not allowing the management to be made accountable for any breeches of editorial matters. Thus in this case it should have been either the Editorial Advisor, Datuk Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan or the Group Editor-in-chief Datuk Hishamuddin Aun who should have the courage to defend their man and not leaving it to their CEO. Again how pathetic can one get.

    Rejal Arbee
    Dec 2, 2006

  8. Anonymous7:58 am

    If we accept the fact that running a newspaper is a business, then we have to accept that the people at the star are much better at it.

    Their track record of profit is impressive, which reflect the ability to not only garner readers but to control cost as well - whereas nst had been making millions of losses year after year.

    The star's share price is like ten times that of nst and 20 x that of utusan (if you take into account the fact that star shares had been split). Good dividend as well.

    So whether we like it or not it will be no surprise if this will be another successful venture. They are just good at it.

  9. Anonymous8:38 am

    aku beli the star utk baca iklan jek, tak beli pun utusan n berita harian pasal bleh baca kat internet berita dia, so aku rasa kalau iklan dah banyak kat minda massa, bleh mati gak paper lain sebab berita sama jek, bukan semua orang nak analisis isi kandungan suratkhabar dan tengok dia punya slanting ke arah mana!

  10. Anonymous11:00 am

    Not many outside the industry are aware that The Star and Utusan Melayu have, for many years, been friends. Not casual friends but the best of friends. The two have a fascinating editorial cooperation arrangement whereby editors from the Star (an English-language paper) and Utusan Malaysia (a Bahasa daily) would consult one another on a daily basis on editorial matters, including what they would be publishing on the front page for the next day!

    This Utusan-Star cooperation has hurt the NSTP, which once was a media empire with five major English and Malay titles (Berita Harian, Metro, NST, Malay Mail and Business Times) and a host of magazine titles under its subsidiary Berita Publishing, including Malaysian Business, Her World and Anjung Seri. In the end, because of the Utusan-Star links, the NST lost much of its readers to the Star and Berita Harian never was been able to beat Utusan Malaysia in terms of circulation, let alone in terms of influence.

    I would be tempted to speculate that Media Prima's illogical proposal to buy over Utusan Melayu, in the name of consolidation of Umno's media empire, as a below-the-belt punch at the heart of the Star-Utusan bond. The proposal will do two things:

    1/ kill off Utusan Malaysia
    2/ give birth to Minda Malaysia

    What it will not do, however, is add much value to Umno's media hold, which is what the proponents of the merger promised. On the contrary, the merger will quickly dilute Umno's influence in the Bahasa media industry. It may even spell the end of the political party's lordship over the editorial direction of the Malay papers under the merged entity.

    Is that far-fetched? Consider: under Kalimullah, the NSTP has become a stable of newspapers that serve no one except Pak Lah, the man who put Kalimullah there. Not for the Malays and not for Umno. Not even for Islam but for Islam hadhari. Utusan is in the way because it is still seen as an Umno property and not the party president's propaganda tool. And Utusan is sleeping with the enemy!

    A media free from the shackles of political party, of course, is a dream. When NSTP buys out Utusan, the Badawi clan will have control of a big chunk of the media in this country. Five million readership, I read from somewhere. Knowledge is power and those who control it has the most power. Kalimullah and Nor Mohd Yaakob will be the main power brokers and they, mind you, will be even more powerful than anyone in the Badawi clan, including Khairy (who is their oversized pawn from the start, in the first place) and Pak Lah himself.

    Coupled with the scenario that bro Rocky has painted, of another Malay daily (controlled by the MCA and not Umno!) entering the scene, we will have two big groups squaring it off. Star vs NSTP. Both have English and Malay dailies. There will also be Nexnews (which publishes the Edge and the Sun, among others) but Nexnews is subservient to Kali/Nor Mohd . I will not rule out that Nexnews will be next on Kali's long list of Mergers and Acquisitions as ordered by Nor Mohd. And Vincent Tan's MiTV will have to play the game, too.

    Karangkraf has started a daily in the east coast but it is small and cannot compete with the giants. The opposition parties have their news organs but they either don't have a licence (as in the case of KeAdilan) or a clue (as in the case of DAP and Pas' Harakah).

    One more thing will happen in the media industry. Bernama will merge with RTM, which has the most extensive radio network in the country, and provide Anuar Zaini, another Pak Lah's close pal, his throne to a media empire. In the long run, Media Prima and the merged Bernama/RTM network may find ways to, once again, consolidate.

    And there's Astro. And Astro is going to launch its 3rd satellite soon, which will give it greater coverage and more revenues. Ananda Krishnan should be quite nervous looking at the appetite of the young men who serve Kali, Nor Mohd and Pak Lah. But he is more shrewd and is cleverer than both Kali and Nor Mohd combined. If one day I wake up finding Ananda ruling everything from satellite tv to the newspapers and magazines I read, I wont be surprised.

    Maybe even the blogs and the stuff we get from the Net today.

  11. Anonymous12:03 pm

    Let me say tough and difficult it was when the people concerned sat down to discuss the fate of PUDU JAIL and STADIUM MERDEKA, on the reason of its sentimental value. Even there are so many prisons and stadiums in this country, people are still sceptical about demolishing them.
    Ironically, its is so easy to make the decision to destroy Utusan Melayu. Does it meant Pudu Jail has more value than Utusan Melayu?