IN­TER­VIEW

U Soe Myint, founder of Mizzima Me­dia

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Tim Mclaugh­lin

U Soe Myint, founder of Mizzima Me­dia

In a state­ment is­sued on Jan­uary 28, Mizzima Me­dia Group edi­tor-in-chief and man­ag­ing direc­tor U Soe Myint an­nounced the clo­sure of Mizzi­maDaily news­pa­per from the end of this month and its re­place­ment by a dig­i­tal edi­tion. The news­pa­per was among 16 dailies launched af­ter the gov­ern­ment be­gan is­su­ing daily li­cences in April 2013, of which four have since closed in what is a chal­leng­ing mar­ket. The launch of Mizzi­maDaily fol­lowed the re­turn to Myan­mar in 2012 of U Soe Myint and his team from New Delhi, where Mizzima be­gan as an “ex­ile me­dia” or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1998, with web­sites in Myan­mar and English. U Soe Myint spoke to Mizzi­maWeekly's Tim McLaugh­lin.

You have said one of the main rea­sons you started Mizzima Me­dia was be­cause in­ter­na­tional me­dia cov­er­age of Myan­mar was lack­ing. Do you think that is still true to­day?

Af­ter the open­ing, with more and more ac­cess, es­pe­cially when the jour­nal­ists are given more free­dom in terms of visas and ac­cess to con­flict ar­eas, I think there is now bet­ter cov­er­age in terms of re­port­ing on the com­plex­i­ties of the coun­try. If you look at 1997-1996 the in­ter­na­tional cov­er­age, es­pe­cially from wires, it was black and white. It was like Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta. Myan­mar is much more than this. They are very im­por­tant, they rep­re­sented the com­mu­nity, the democ­racy move­ment and the mil­i­tary junta, but still it was much more than that. The in­ter­na­tional cov­er­age is much bet­ter than in the past, be­cause they get much more ac­cess than in the past.

Was it a big chal­lenge to make the tran­si­tion from donor-funded or­gan­i­sa­tion based out­side the coun­try to be­ing in Myan­mar and need­ing to gen­er­ate rev­enue?

It was very tough. I would say that we knew th­ese chal­lenges be­fore we moved, though we did not know what the specifics would be, we knew that it would be very tough and very chal­leng­ing. It was very tough be­cause I think we know how to pro­duce good con­tent, gen­er­ally speak­ing, with pro­fes­sion­al­ism, but me­dia busi­ness is much more than that. You have to look at the ad­ver­tis­ers, es­pe­cially for print. You have to look at the dis­tri­bu­tion, you have to look at the net­work. All this is much more than writ­ing a good story. I still be­lieve and I will al­ways be­lieve, that good con­tent is the king. But we needed a queen, which was the mar­ket­ing and sales.

When I came back here I was so sur­prised, peo­ple were very familiar only with the weekly pa­per. They were not sure about how they would do mar­ket­ing and sales of a daily pa­per, let alone other me­dia out­lets.

Good con­tent al­ways is sell­able de­spite the lim­i­ta­tions of what the mar­ket is. I know that jour­nal­ism in many places of this world is strug­gling, be­cause it is chal­leng­ing. Print and dig­i­tal, ev­ery­one ex­pects free in­for­ma­tion on­line and so­cial me­dia is even chal­leng­ing the tra­di­tional broad­cast sec­tor. But if you have good pro­fes­sion­al­ism, if you are in­de­pen­dent, you can sell it.

Train­ing was also a chal­lenge. It was a big chal­lenge build­ing up th­ese young peo­ple. If you look at Myan­mar jour­nal­ists, when they say re­porter, it is like, 6 months af­ter they started in the news­room. If they say edi­tor it is be­tween 25 or 27 years old. It is a very young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced and un­trained work­force.

You say that ‘con­tent is king,’ but some peo­ple in Myan­mar would ar­gue that price is king and if you can price your news­pa­per low enough it will be­come popular.

There is a big is­sue of peo­ple buy­ing the news­pa­per with the cheap­est price and there is one news­pa­per to­day that is very cheap, this kind of price war is there. I don't know if that is ac­tu­ally go­ing to last long. I don't think that it is re­al­is­tic. There has to be some­thing more than money to be able to do that. It has to be a po­lit­i­cal project or there is an agenda be-

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