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Asia defies global newspaper meltdown

US university experiments with social media blackout
Washington (AFP) Sept 14, 2010 - Students and teachers at a Pennsylvania university are banned from "tweeting," updating their Facebook page, sending instant messages or visiting MySpace this week. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, a private school in the town of Harrisburg with an enrollment of some 570 students, has decreed a social media blackout for the week. The week-long ban on social media, which began Monday, is not punishment but an exercise the university said is designed to "get students, staff and faculty to think about social media when they are not available." The university is blocking IP addresses for campus network computers to shut down access to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and instant messaging services such as AOL.

"Our goal is to challenge people to think about how they came to rely on (social media)," said Steve Infanti, Harrisburg University's associate vice president for communications and marketing. "University faculty, in particular, use social media to communicate with colleagues about curriculum ideas, but what if they had to rely on face-to-face meetings?" Infanti asked in a blog post at "We wondered would the process take longer, or would the outcomes be any different?" Infanti asked. He stressed that the university, which was founded in 2001 and is located between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, was not anti-social media. "(Harrisburg University) looks at social media as a fact of life for millions of people," Infanti said.

"So the real question we are addressing is not whether we connect, but where and in what ways we should connect to benefit from online networking's pluses and avoid its minuses," he said. Harrisburg students will be asked to write an essay when the week is over on the experience of living without social media. The university is also hosting a "Social Media Summit" Wednesday featuring experts talking about such topics as "Twittervention: Social Media and Legal Issues for Employers, Educators and Parents." Eric Darr, Harrisburg's provost, told Inside Higher Ed, an online journal of higher education, that the social media blackout was inspired by observing his 16-year-old daughter multi-tasking between Facebook and iPhone conversations.

"I was frankly amazed," Darr told "I thought, 'How do you live like this?' It struck me to think, 'What if all this wasn't there?'" "It's not that, as an institution, we hate Facebook," Darr said. "Rather, it is about pausing to evaluate the extent to which social media are woven into the professional and personal lives of the people on the Harrisburg campus, and contemplating what has been gained and what has been sacrificed." By unplugging from Twitter, Facebook and other social media for a week, "I wanted to make it real for people -- not to make it an intellectual exercise," Darr said.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 15, 2010
Asian newspapers are defying the global print media meltdown while their counterparts in the West spill red ink and lay off staff in droves as readers flock to online news.

Print advertising -- the lifeblood of a newspaper's revenue base -- has plunged 47 percent in the hard-hit North American market since 2005, while the outlook for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) remains tepid, says a new study by global consultancy Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

However, Asia's newspaper advertising is expected to rise 3.1 percent annually through 2014 to 27.3 billion US dollars, according to PwC's "Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2010-2014."

The trend toward online news has been slower in Asia where newspapers remain popular, including Japan which has the world's highest newspaper readership.

"In Asia Pacific and Latin America...newspaper readership has held up and is increasing, which accounts for their stronger performance in recent years and faster growth rates compared with North America and EMEA in the next five years," the report said.

Spending in Asia's newspaper sector will rise at 2.3 percent annually through 2014, it added.

In Hong Kong, the city's myriad Chinese and English-language newspapers wage a daily battle for readers in one of the world's most saturated newspaper markets.

Leading tabloid Apple Daily boosts its coverage with fanciful animated depictions of gruesome and violent news stories, and employs an army of young reporters who will stop at little to get the story.

"It is cut-throat competition," says Cheng Ming-yan, Apple's chief editor, adding, "We're not conservative -- we have very aggressive reporting."

Number-one selling Oriental Daily News (ODN) once sued its bitter rival Apple over claims that its reporters tricked ODN colleagues into divulging exclusive stories.

"It is pretty intense -- Hong Kong has always been a newspaper town," said Steve Shellum, executive editor of the English-language daily The Standard.

Newspapers reach almost 80 percent of adults in Hong Kong, a city of seven million, and its two biggest-selling papers each claim a daily readership above 1.2 million, according to "World Press Trends 2010" produced by newspaper association WAN-IFRA.

"Chinese people are eager to get information from newspapers because, traditionally, that was the way their mother and father spent their leisure time," said Cheng at Apple Daily.

But circulation at Hong Kong's paid dailies has still been dropping as free newspapers muscle in on their turf.

Apple not only plans to continue using cartoon animations in its print edition, it is also moving to video with sometimes questionable depictions of news -- all in a bid to attract the next generation.

"It's very important and will become more important. Young people have grown up with cartoons -- they want the image," Cheng said.

Apple's computer-generated video of Tiger Woods' now ex-wife running after his car swinging a golf club -- after hearing of the golf legend's infidelities -- was an Internet sensation, and seems unlikely to be a one-hit wonder.

"Our new business is to focus on live animation news," Cheng said.

That swing to online and video news will ultimately spell doom for newspapers even in the Asian market, said Chan Yuen-ying, director of the University of Hong Kong's journalism school.

"(The decline) is hitting Asia slower and media owners still have some time, but the door is closing," Chan said.

"I don't think there is reason to be optimistic."

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