Editors Say Newspapers Not Threatened by Digital Media

A Cambodian boy hangs up copies of the English-language newspaper, Phnom Penh Post, at the newsstand in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Despite a surge in the use of digital technology in Cambodia, newspaper publishers and editors say print media remains strong. More and more Cambodians are getting information from smartphones and tablets, connected to cheap, high-speed Internet, but subscriptions and newsstand sales of papers are healthy.

Douglas Steele, general manager at The Cambodia Daily, told VOA Khmer that sales remain stable, though these days it is lower on the newsstands and higher on subscriptions.

“News is news, and it does not matter what it is, picture or paper, the news organization only has to gather the news, put together the stories, and get them out, in digital form or paper,” he said. “So it just depends on how people read the news.”

Kay Kimsong, editor-in-chief for The Phnom Penh Post Khmer, said subscriptions of his paper keep increasing, albeit slowly. He believes that in the next five to 10 years, newsprint will survive, due in part to advertising’s continued support of the medium.

Newsstands behind Langka pagoda, along Pasteur street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on September 27, 2015. (Oum Sonita/VOA Khmer)

“Those ads or pictures can be easily seen and be more appealing to target audiences,” he said.

But even if print remains popular, news institutions should strengthen their digital platforms for the future, he said.

Evidence of print popularity can be seen along Street 51, where newsstands are very busy on any given morning. Sellers here say business is good, with many customers making routine visits to buy their favorite papers.

Sroeun Chorvorn, a third-year student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, said he does not believe papers will disappear any time soon. “I think print media is very useful to me, because I can easily save it as documentation for my research in study,” he said. “Even though the speed of digital media is fast, its contents are not as detailed as the paper or print media.”

Un Phally, a 50-year-old doctor at Cho Ray Phnom Penh Hospital, a supporter of the print media, told VOA Khmer that in newspapers, the sections are well categorized, while those of the digital media can be scrambled.

“I think papers have plenty of stories from different sections, because before their publication, the papers have clear plans to provide their sections with different types of stories, such as economics, politics, education and so on,” he said. “When I read the newspaper, I find that there are many stories that have not been covered by digital media agencies.”

Sam Phairak, an officer at the Ministry of Defense, said he prefers to read the news in the paper, rather than on a smartphone or other electronic medium. “I think it is better for my eyes, and I think the contents of the newspaper are more trusted, because once it is published, everything will be there as evidence,” he said.

Newsstands behind Langka pagoda, along Pasteur street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on September 27, 2015. Every morning, lots of customers come to buy or read newspapers there to know what is happening in the society. (Oum Sonita/VOA Khmer)

A 2015 report by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications says more than 5 million Cambodians have access to the Internet. In recent years, online news in Cambodia has increased, while the audience for online news websites and social media continues to grow.

Sun Narin, manager and editor of the Voice of Democracy website, told VOA Khmer that the number of likes on their Facebook page has been increasing, along with viewers of his website. “In 2011, the daily viewers of my website were only around 3,000 viewers, but now the number of daily viewers on the website has been increasing to 30,000 to 40,000 viewers,” he said.

The best thing about online news is its speed, but the contents of the news can be less detailed than in print media, he said. That’s because print media has more time to follow up on angles, he said.

Ouk Kimseng, an adviser to the Ministry of Information, expressed some concern over the future of newspapers. “Even though the experts and professionals still based in print media save some data and do research, ordinary people are now starting to abandon print media,” he said. The extinction of the newspaper could come in the future, he said, as it becomes more difficult to compete in this digital world.