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Myanmar’s media tackles evolving business needs
03 Aug. 2012

Newspaper salesman on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Mizzima

As reforms in Myanmar continue, many in the media sector are finding it challenging to adapt to a more open, competitive and globally linked business environment

By Mizzima Media

The challenge of adapting to change holds true also for print outlets which are confronted with both new opportunities and problems in areas like profitability and management.

To assist in meeting these needs, some half-dozen Myanmar journals sent management representatives to partake in a business-modeling workshop in Yangon from 23-27 July. International Media Support (IMS) supported the event as part of its larger programme in Myanmar, with Fojo Media Institute, a Swedish journalism training institute, conducting the workshop. In total there are approximately 300 print journals in circulation in Yangon, emphasising the high level of competition and highlighting the need for requisite skills and knowledge if a business is to succeed.

Challenging ingrained mindsets to business

Workshop leader Anette Novak said she believed the workshop equipped the Myanmar media managers with tools to develop their businesses in a professional manner. The workshop also addressed challenges like high printing and distribution costs and the insatiable need for training and competence development.

Sein Win, Editor-in-Chief of the Mizzima Myanmar-language journal and a participant in the training, added:

“One thing I learned [from the workshop] is that there is some way to establishing a proper marketing system and strategy. We don’t have that kind of knowledge.”

Anette Novak also spoke of the ongoing needs of Myanmar’s media community if it is to serve as an ethical and professional component in democracy, advocating for the creation of a professional training institute for the benefit of the entire media community in Myanmar.

Participants were challenged to think beyond what have in many instances become ingrained mindsets and approaches to business in the media. Corruption in the industry has been endemic, with access to industry needs often highly curtailed. Meanwhile, just this week, two journals were suspended indefinitely by the country’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division for publishing speculation on reshufflings in the government and other perceived infractions.

A need for continued hands-on training

Throughout the weeklong workshop, emphasis was placed in meeting consumer demands, creatively packaging a product and anticipating the future landscape of Myanmar’s media industry. For a domestic consumer economy left moribund for decades under national economic mismanagement, there is plenty of room to learn.

The workshop was divided between presentations and discussion among all participants and individual visits to the offices and newsrooms of journals represented. The latter was an exercise Sein Win found extremely beneficial.

“I learned a lot face to face, said Sein Win:

“I learned a lot with regard to content, marketing, organizational structure and everything.”

On her part, Novak stressed:

“After my talks with the managers, many express the urgent need for a hands-on professional education, supplying competence with continuity.”

With investor money, domestic as well as international, lining up to claim stakes in Myanmar’s frontier economy, any assistance offered cannot come soon enough.