USP study wins best research paper award at Singapore Media Conference
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USP's Dr Shailendra Singh and Mr Eliki Drugunalevu with Professor Lin Allen, University of Northern Colorado.
A study by The University of the South Pacific (USP) into the state of Asia-Pacific ethnic print media in the digital media age has won the Best Research Paper award at an international conference in Singapore recently.
The study, which was titled: Adaptability and Survivability of Pacific Islands Diasporic Newspapers in the Digital Media Age: Case Studies in the Three Diasporic Hubs of Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane was co-authored by USP Journalism Programme Coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh and Teaching Assistant Mr Eliki Drugunalevu.
The paper was among more than 35 papers from fifteen (15) countries presented at the 6th Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communication in October. Some other countries included Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom and China.
The major topics looked at social media versus mainstream media, digital news consumption, and new media and social movements.
According to the principal researcher, Dr Singh, the award was an acknowledgement of the importance of ethnic media and the uniqueness of their research.
“The award also recognised the need to study the impacts of digital media on an important institution such as ethnic print media, especially at this crucial time,” Dr Singh said.
The study, sponsored by USP’s School of Language, Arts and Media’s (SLAM) research incentive fund, was based on a pilot study in Brisbane, which was part of a broader project covering Sydney and Auckland.
Interviews were conducted with publishers of three ethnic media publications: Brisbane Indian Times (Fiji/Pacific); SS Tuan Bao (Vietnamese); and Epoch Times (Chinese).
The research paper noted that ethnic print media play a critical role at community and national levels by keeping migrants informed and helping them integrate yet it was understudied, compared to mainstream print media.
With regards to the findings, the paper pointed out that while the mainstream Australian and New Zealand press were fighting unrelenting circulation, advertising and revenue declines, the overall effect on ethnic media had been minimal so far, due to three main factors:
Free distribution, so guaranteed circulation;
Small-sized operations, which meant low overhead cost; and
Specific target audience—aging/elderly ethnic demographic.
However, the paper concludes that while holding out better than their mainstream counterparts for now, ethnic media’s position look more perilous over time. It states that ethnic print media’s mainstay—its distinct readership—is an aging/diminishing demographic on which it cannot rely forever.
The new influx of migrants and the younger generation are the children of the digital media age and if ethnic media want to secure this market, they will have to embrace the new technology in time to come.
The study highlighted some obstacles ethnic print media face in digitalising. For example, while readers were migrating to online platforms, advertisers had not followed as quickly.
The impact of the digital divide—the computer skills gap between the young and old—were also emphasised: while the digital divide had helped prolong ethnic print’s survival, it may have also led to procrastination in the adoption of new technology and lulled the publishers into a false sense of security perhaps.
The study emphasised that even if ethic print media wanted to change, they faced some major obstacles, such as lack of resources and know-how.
“In this regard, what had been strength of ethnic print media—small operations with low overheads—had turned into weaknesses with regards to lack of funds for re-capitalisation to keep up with trends,” the authors concluded.
The report recommended that while maintaining the print publication, ethnic print media have to consider adopting new technology to ensure a healthy existence in future, if not their very survival.
The fieldwork for the next stage of the study in Sydney is expected to be carried out this December.
Dr Singh stated that Sydney had a bigger migrant population and a larger ethnic print media sector so it would be interesting to investigate the trends there.
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