John Berthelsen on the future of Asia Sentinel
May 1, 2008
Launched in August 2006 by a group of veteran and prominent Asia correspondents (more background here), Asia Sentinel is intended to fill a void left by the closure of such publications as AsiaWeek and the weekly edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review.
Slate.com meets The Far Eastern Economic Review (the weekly version)
“Regional magazine journalism is dead, so we want to fill that void,” Berthelsen said. “Our target are the more in depth investigative pieces that nobody does anymore.”
Asia Sentinel’s ideal kind of articles:
1- The inside story of Thai coup: The King and the role of Prem, his longtime advisor.
2- Murder of the Mongolian translator in Malaysia (“We’re the only ones keeping this story alive and tying it to government officials.”)
- 35 contributors from around the region. (Who get paid, Berthelsen said, “peanuts”)
- New stories are supposed to be posted twice per day.
- A tie-up with the International Herald Tribune gives Asia Sentinel a space for their headlines on www.iht.com
- 7,000 unique visitors per day. This is well short of the 30,000 per day which Berthelsen said would generate US$10,000 per month to make an advertising model viable.
Long-term view is for Asia Sentinel
Tie-up with a journalistic company looking for a presence in Asia. One model is to offer Asia Sentinel Consulting, along the lines of the Australian site Crickey.au, which offers a free news site, archives and paid in depth custom research.
“We ran a great piece on the shambolic state of Indonesia’s air traffic system just one week before the Air Adam crash and it only got several hundred hits,” Berthelsen said. “Our Edison Chen coverage, on the other hand, shut down the site twice, with more than 13,000 hits in a single day.”
Other overlooked stories include a series of pieces on a US$200 million slush fund scandal related to Samsung. The top traffic topics now seem to be those involving Malaysia and politics.
Lessons learned about coverage: “Every now and then we clearly need to have sex, drugs and rock and roll.” (As of May 2, 2008, the Edison Chen story had 125,000 hits.)
View of the AsiaTimes, a website at atimes.com aimed at covering Asia news
“They are both polemical and act like a whale,” Berthelsen said. “They take in all plankton and do not practice the same standards of journalism as us.”