We hear so much about the American newspaper industry's woes that this may come as a surprise. Not every American newspaper is bleeding red ink, only those facing competition, says the New York Review of Books.
So the US newspaper industry is not all that different from that in Singapore, where it is thriving, except for one thing. As Singapore's Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew said:
"Unlike some foreign newspapers, the media here in Singapore has not gone for aggressive journalism; they have not gone for aggressive campaigning. They have taken the position that they will investigate thoroughly before they publish."
Speaking at the Singapore Press Club, he said: "As long as the mainstream media reflects the reality on the ground more accurately than any other sources, you ought to be able to retain a sizeable segment of your population."
I believe the word he was looking for was "audience".
Semantics aside, his statement begs the question, is it quality or monopoly that has kept the Singapore newspapers so profitable?
Singapore Press Holdings, which reported a net profit of 127 million Singapore dollars ($89.3 million) in the third quarter ended on May 31, either wholly or partly owns all the major local newspapers.
Television and radio stations are also owned by either SPH, MediaCorp, SAFRA or NTUC – all government-linked companies.
For anyone who wants Singapore news, there is no other choice. No wonder they are profitable.
Sure, international media like the BBC, Reuters and Bloomberg report from Singapore. But they don't cover everything. As the minister no doubt knows. A Google News search showed his remarks were reported only by the Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia and the Temasek Review.
This is what the New York Review of Books says about American newspapers:
"Many of the nation's smaller papers have their own advantage—they're the only news source in town—and many are thriving. It's the large metropolitan dailies like The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, and The Miami Herald that, contending with both large staffs and brisk competition, are the most endangered, and it's widely feared that one or more will go under in the coming years."
It's a fascinating article that covers not only the newspapers but also digital media like Slate, Politico and the Talking Points Memo.