Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sultry debut for Bangkok freesheet


THERE she was, sultry pop star Sarunrat “Lydia” Visutthithada splashed in a compact-sized newspaper with the headline: Why I love the Shinawatras.

What a way to introduce Daily Xpress – Thailand’s first ever English-language freesheet newspaper.

On Wednesday, Nation Multimedia Group launched the Daily Xpress. With print order of 100,000 copies a day it is the largest-circulation English daily newspaper in Thailand.

And on the same day, the 37-year-old The Nation, an English-language broadsheet, was transformed into a newspaper whose core content is business-related news.

“We’re shifting the core content from general and political news to business news because current politics for many people is a boring issue,” said The Nation/Daily Xpress president Pana Janviroj.

“Our strategy is to rethink The Nation to meet our readers’ evolution and needs. But while changes have been made, what have been preserved are the credibility, substance and essential insights that are The Nation’s trademark.”

Added Daily Xpress editor Tulsathit Taptim: “The younger generation of sophisticated readers is a largely unfulfilled or untapped market as far as the English language media is concerned.

“And we hope Daily Xpress, with its focus on lifestyle, human interest news, talk of the town events, entertainment, and fun, will help serve their needs for a new kind of media.”

Nation Multimedia Group, according to Pana, who is also the executive director of Asia News Network (an alliance of 16 newspapers including The Nation and The Star) said the group aimed to segment its content to suit how, when and where people actually use its publications.

“For example, subscribers can read The Nation in the morning for its focus on immediate business and political information to plan their work lives, and then use Daily Xpress at their leisure during the day to plan their social and lifestyle activities,” he said.

“And there will be no duplication of content between the two segments so whether you are reading for work or leisure it’s always fresh and relevant information.”

The Nation’s transformation is driven from the changes in the way people consume news – half of the world’s newspapers now come in compact size, and half are freesheets.

“We can say media innovation is the heart of the freesheet. The growth of English-language newspapers in Thailand was limited because there were only two players (the other is the Bangkok Post),” he said.

“And while the consumption of news is unlimited, most choose to get it from the Internet and television. These have been the influences behind The Nation’s transformation.”

Mario Garcia, a world-renowned newspaper designer who has designed more than 500 newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, The Nation and The Star (2007), designed the Daily Xpress.

With a friendly and attractive format featuring big, lavish pictures, striking headlines and concise news stories, the Daily Xpress targets readers aged “plus or minus 30”.

Readers should be able to finish reading the freesheet in around 20 minutes.

“The stories will be short, to the point, and geared to people on the go. There will be plenty of small bites of encapsulated information,” the 60-something newspaper designer told The Nation.

“Young people hardly ever buy a newspaper, but they’ll grab one if it’s free and if the design appeals to them,” he added.

Daily Xpress’ masthead is in bright orange. “The colour represents the vibrant city (Bangkok) and its people,” said the CEO and founder of Garcia Media.

What Garcia did when he was hired to design the freesheet was to go on Bangkok’s skytrain and subway to observe Bangkokians’ lifestyle.

“The way people read doesn’t differ much from one country to another, but the differences in culture might be reflected in their colour preference,” he explained.

“For example, people prefer grey or light blue in Scandinavia, while in Latin America they want more sass, including yellow and orange.”

Bangkok’s fashionably dressed young people who are often plugged into an iPod reminded Garcia of their counterparts in New York and London.

In case you’re curious about why Linda loves the Shinawatras, it is because former Thai prime minister Thaksin showered her with love, which she never had from her own family.

“My tough exterior melts when I’m in the embrace of his household, who are my ‘second family’,” the woman, who has denied ever having been Thaksin’s lover, told the Daily Xpress.

(Published in The Star on March 8, 2008)