With sweeping changes across Cambodia’s publishing industry, Marcus Holmes, CEO of Post Media, will be steering the publication through a “digital first” agenda that will transform the iconic publication into one that is faster and more effective in reaching its audience. The Post’s Kali Kotoski sat down with him to discuss the future of the company.
What are the major changes in Cambodia’s publishing industry?
The greatest change that the industry has seen over the last five years has been the adoption of Facebook, and we are proud that almost every Cambodian who has a Facebook account follows The Post. However, that contributes absolutely nothing to our bottom line because all of our stories are being read for free. So, the major challenge we need to address is this gap and to start thinking of ourselves as a digital information product and an online resource for unbiased and independent news.
What does your ‘digital first’ strategy mean for the future of the publication?
The strategy is threefold. Firstly, we need to start improving our digital sales and addressing the way we sell our products. Secondly, we need to create more channels and to diversify so we are no longer just focused on print. Thirdly, we need to transform our newsroom to be more digitally minded.
At the moment, we are basically taking stories that are a day old and publishing them in a paper. ‘Digital first’ is about reversing that, so that our online stories are at most a couple hours old and what you read in the paper the next day is definitive and in-depth. The malleability of a digital service will change and improve the speed in which the story gets out.
What does that mean for the future of The Post’s print product?
Well, while we are aware of the fact that the majority of our readers are reading online, this gives us more flexibility with our print product. But we are still focused about how we can reach and serve our readers better. And if that means our readers want to continue to have a completely traditional newspaper, we will continue producing one. If that is not what they want, then we will find that out and do something else.
How do you see how the Cambodian publishing market has changed compared to the sweeping global changes in the industry?
Cambodia is an interesting market in the fact that the majority of our readers have almost skipped over the use of desktops and laptops. We have people who have no computers at all, but are constantly looking at their smartphones to receive information. All the business models applied in other markets for online news platforms do not apply here. One thing that is apparent is that we need to develop an app very quickly, and we will have one by the first quarter of 2018 to help drive traffic to our site.
What differentiates The Post from other media outlets in Cambodia?
Other news outlets in Cambodia are posting clickbait types of stories, and we clearly do not want to go down that road because there is no value in it. We need a business model to keep The Post as a long-term player in Cambodia, and Cambodia needs us to be a long-term player in its development. We need to keep up the same journalistic integrity that has made The Post what it is today. Also, Cambodia needs us because we are the last independent source of information in the entire country. In the current political climate, our mission is to deliver the truth to our readers. We are not anti-government, but we will always speak truth to power and take the risks associated with that.
Do you think that the tightening of press freedom in Cambodia will hinder The Post’s ability to report?
That is very hard to tell. We believe there is no political urge to close The Post, and we are clearly being told that press freedom has a future here. The government probably sees political gains in that. Of course, the months leading up to the elections will be a critical time in Cambodia’s history, and I feel lucky to be running The Post during this time to help inform the Cambodian people about what is happening in their country.
Do you think The Post could face similar challenges to those faced by the Cambodia Daily?
I think there is a perception that with how quickly the Cambodia Daily was taken down, the ruling party is gunning for us next. That is not true. However, perception is everything, and when we are still standing after the elections, readers and advertisers will see that we are the most trusted and reliable source of information in the Kingdom.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.