(The Star) - With the 13th general election approaching, local socio-political blogs and news portals are continuing to see a rapid growth due to a high demand for online commentary and views on Malaysian politics.
As both sides of the political divide go into cyberwar mode, newcomers are giving established news website a run for their money.
Among the new players is The Malaysian Times (http://www.themalaysiantimes.com.my), which aims to tap into the growing market of tech-savvy but largely fence-sitting younger Malaysians who now make up 40% of the country's electorate.
“Our target audience is the younger generation who will be able to change things in the next five to 10 years but who have yet to make up their mind on many issues,” said Anbumani Balan, 37, a media consultant who runs the news portal.
Though only two months old, The Malaysian Times is fast gaining attention, attracting 500,000 hits so far and currently averages about 5,000 hits daily.
Run by a team of five reporters, a sub-editor and an editor, the news portal covers subjects ranging from politics to sports in English and Bahasa Malaysia.
Competition for reader attention is fierce, but Anbumani said there was a large demand for a more balanced take on local news online, which he was hoping to meet.
“Our editorial policy is to offer rational and balanced arguments to our readers. We do criticise the Government at times but we ensure that it is balanced because we won't change anything if we are on the attack' all the time,” said Anbumani.
The growing market for more diversity in online news is partially the reason for the popularity of other relatively new entrants, such as Stop The Lies (http://stopthelies.my), the anti-Pakatan Rakyat website, which will celebrate its first anniversary next month with a sum total of 1.8 million visitors to its site so far.
Driving the demand for more variety in online news is an increasingly mature readership, said Universiti Teknologi Mara associate professor Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin.
“The trend we're seeing now is that the number of political fence-sitters is becoming larger and they are mostly considered non-partisan readers who want to see a variety of views and arguments online,” he said.