2021 year in review: SEA edition

2021 year in review: SEA edition

Despite the myriad challenges brought forth by a global pandemic, 2021 proved to be an exciting and busy year for the communications and media industry. Telum has gathered some crucial updates within the year as a handy recap. Some of the key stories include…

Singapore
This year, Singapore’s media landscape witnessed the restructuring of SPH Media Trust (SMT), as well as the merging of Lianhe Wanbao with Shin Min Daily News. 

There were print launches from Boulevard.co and Retail Asia, while the digital space brought on releases from Brytehall, iTnewsAsia, MartechAsia, and Chief of Staff Asia.
 
Media titles that addressed the issue of sustainability include MONEY FM 89.3, Sustainable Future by CNBC, and ELLE Singapore. 

The year also brought on major journalist appointments. Murali Subramaniam was appointed as Managing Editor for SPH Media Limited, while Walter Fernandez was named as Mediacorp’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Financial Times also saw the replacement of its Singapore Correspondent, Stefania Palma, with Mercedes Ruehl.

The Wall Street Journal witnessed relocations from Yumiko Ono, Serena Ng, and Sui Lee Wee. BBC News was also privy to a few major promotions from Mariko Oi, Karishma Vaswani, Yvette Tan, and Joao de Silva. 

Malaysia
In Malaysia, Ashwad Ismail is now the Head & Editor-in-Chief of Astro AWANI, the 24-hour news channel. On the digital side, REV Media Group named Samuel Wee as their Chief Executive Officer and Nicholas Sagau as the Chief Operating Officer. Tatler Asia Group also recently welcomed their latest digital key player, Marc Lourdes, as the Regional Digital Content Director. 

After helming The Edge Malaysia for 27 years since 1994, the pioneering member and former Editor-in-Chief Azam Aris is now retired. 

We bid farewell to some print news titles as New Sabah Times ceased operations and Oriental Daily News went fully digital, but the lifestyle world celebrated the return of Harper’s BAZAAR Malaysia, ICON Malaysia and The Peak Malaysia to shelves. Meanwhile, Media Prima Berhad’s radio arm has undergone another rebranding exercise and is now known as Media Prima Audio. 

Also, few digital titles have entered the e-commerce scene as Beauty Insider Malaysia launched Insider Mall for Malaysian beauty enthusiasts, and Vulcan Post Malaysia rolled out VP Label to support local entrepreneurs and homegrown brands. 

Indonesia
Indonesia saw a rise in English language media in 2021 compared to the previous year. Media Group launched Metro Globe Network, Pikiran Rakyat Media Network with JakartaDaily.id, and Sari Kusumaningrum who established The S Media. 

In August 2021, FORTUNE Indonesia was revived by IDN Media, with Hendra Soeprajitno helming the masthead. 

Journalist associations remained key to bridging media and communication professionals. Indra Prabowo of Sepedemotor.com and Otobisnis.com was re-elected to lead Indonesian Automotive Journalists' Forum (FORWOT) until 2025.

Crucial journalist moves in Indonesia included Georg Matthes who led the editorial team of Deutsche Welle in Asia Pacific out of Jakarta, Andreas Ismar who joined Capital.com, and Freelancer Antonia Timmerman who found her home in Rest of World. Kompas TV’s Executive Producer Riko Anggara left his role to join Liputan6 (SCTV) as its Senior Manager News Production Department Head.

Thailand
After going through rough changes and disruption in the past several years, still, a few major titles have ceased their operation or turned online. Tatler Thailand was one of them. 

As a silver lining, the new title Koktail Magazine has arisen, by some of Tatler’s ex-team members and under the advisory of none other than Naphalai Areesorn. CLEO Thailand was brought back to the media scene, by its former Editor-in-Chief, Aey Supicha Sorndamrih. 

Another big move to mention, Natthawut Saengchuwong has joined Beartai to oversee the lifestyle content of the title, after almost seven years with GQ Thailand, Chamnan Pakdeesuk has been named Editor-in-Chief at Harper's BAZAAR Thailand as Duang Poshyanonda has stepped down from the role but still Contributing Editor of the magazine. 

TV seemed to be the most active platform when it comes to changes in their strategy, programmes and news presenters. This year, most of the channels have added more news programmes to better serve an increasing number of the audience’s need for timely, trending, and insightful news. 

The comeback of Sorayuth Suthassanachinda, hosting the morning news programmes, not only brought back the popularity and rating to Thai Television Channel 3, but also made the TV battle in news talk shows even more bustle. Newscasters’ movements this year included Parinda Kumthumpinij who joined Thai Television Channel 3 in April, Nina Sutita Panyayong who left BBTV Channel 7 to join PPTV HD36 in October, and Kiang Nantakwang Sirasoontorn who bid Nation TV farewell in November. 

Due to the audiences’ behaviour that demands more in-depth and analysis stories, media outlets have adjusted their strategy. Key movements include the launch of Thairath Plus by Thairath Online, and the rebranding of Modernist that aims to provide inspiring content that brings value to society. 

Philippines
In the country, Maria Ressa made history as the first Filipino to win a Nobel Peace Prize. “Online violence is real-world violence,” Maria Ressa says in her acceptance speech. The President / CEO of Rappler, a news organisation she co-founded, received her award in Oslo together with Russia’s Dmitry Muratov.

In April, veteran Journalist Crispulo Icban Jr. passed away. He was Manila Bulletin’s Editor-in-Chief and Publisher and was with the publication for almost five decades. Separately, Philippine Daily Inquirer saw new appointments such as Tina Arceo-Dumlao promoted to Business Editor. Completing the team are Doris Dumlao-Abadilla and Dax Lucas who join Tina as Business Features Editor and Business News Editor.

On media industry news, in February, Inquirer.net acquired all the publications that were previously under Hinge namely Nolisoli.ph, Scout, Preen.ph, Multisport.ph, and F&B Report. The acquisition includes Hinge’s custom publishing division which works with brands and clients to craft bespoke digital and print projects. 

In September, GMA News and Public Affairs reached a milestone as a top news content creator on TikTok. GMA News Online’s Jaemark Tordecilla shared that his organisation’s digital teams are working hard to bridge relevant news and compelling storytelling in formats that everyday Filipinos enjoy. 

We also observed the rise of indie podcast groups such as BUNK Collective as well as new podcasts from veteran broadcast journalists such as Howie Severino. There are growing partnerships between Spotify and content creators. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) launched its Ethical Guide for Filipino Journalists as part of the organisation’s goal of media self-regulation. This comes at a time when social media is becoming the public’s main source of information.

SEA PR Industry
In Southeast Asia, we've seen a lot of leadership shuffles. Some key moves and promotions include Edelman, where John Kerr, CEO of Edelman Singapore, was promoted to Vice Chair of Technology in Asia Pacific. Additionally, Adrian Warr, CEO of Edelman Hong Kong and Taiwan, will take on the role of CEO for Southeast Asia, overseeing Edelman’s operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

In August, Brunswick Group appointed Caroline Dent as Partner, Group Strategy in the Singapore office from the UK. In October, Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K) expanded Justin Then’s role within H+K Asia’s senior leadership team to CEO of H+K Singapore, in addition to Lumos H+K Malaysia. 

In the Philippines, Tahl Gopez returned to WSP Inc as Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, after a stint at Globe Telecom as Head of Public Relations and Communication Strategy. Lastly, in Indonesia, Bhayu Sugarda was appointed Head of Growth at The Fortuna.co, moving from Weber Shandwick Indonesia where he was Vice President, Integrated Media.

Despite COVID-19 shaking up the comms industry in 2021, interestingly we've also seen a lot of expansions and new launches within the industry over the past year. Some highlights include:
  • Sling & Stone opened its first Southeast Asia office in Singapore
  • BBG opened its sixth office in Indonesia
  • Red Havas launched in five new countries: China, Spain, Germany, Italy and France
  • The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) announced the launch of PRCA Asia Pacific
  • Former Managing Director of Golin and FleishmanHillard Singapore and Southeast Asia / India, Tarun Deo, launched Progressive Communications
Stay connected with virtual events
2021 was another year of social uncertainty but we kept ourselves busy and virtually connected with leaders from journalism and PR through webinars tailored to the Southeast Asia market.

Telum started the year with a journalism-focused webinar where we spoke to Marites Vitug, Editor-at-Large of Rappler, Kamarul Bahrin Haron, formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Astro Awani, Stephane Delfour, Director for Southeast Asia at Agence France-Presse, Walter Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of Mediacorp, and Zulfiani ‘Uni’ Lubis, Editor-in-Chief of IDN Times, to share their insights for journalism in Southeast Asia in 2021. Watch the recording here.

In March, Telum spoke to Stephen Forshaw, Head, Public Affairs at Temasek Holdings, Selvi R, Communications Leader, Singapore & ASEAN at IBM, Delicia Tan-Seet, Managing Director at Edelman and Ferry de Bakker, Adjunct Lecturer, Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information, Nanyang Technological University to share their own employee engagement experiences and discuss the future of the workplace and communication tactics to drive engagement. Watch the video here.

In June, Telum held a live webinar with Su-Yen Wong from the Singapore Institute of Directors, Robin Hicks from Eco-Business, Elliot Wilson from Euromoney and Cognito's Darrell Wright, where we discussed ESG from the perspective of comms, the Boardroom and the newsroom. Watch the recording here

October was a FinTech themed month at Telum and we held a webinar with panellists Jame DiBiasio, Editor, DigFin; Sam Coyne, Chief Marketing Officer, Currenxie; Aaron Woolner, Editor, currency.com and capital.com; and Hanna Tantoco, Head of Marketing Communications - Asia Pacific, Gemini to speak about how FinTech is evolving in Asia and the challenges and opportunities reporting and communicating around FinTech. Watch the recap here

And that’s 2021 wrapped! We hope to keep you updated in 2022 and if you have stories to pitch or collaboration opportunities, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at pralertsea@telummedia.com

More stories


Telum Media database

Get in touch to hear more

Request demo

Telum alerts

Regular email alerts featuring the latest news and moves from the media industry across Asia Pacific Enjoy exclusive daily interviews with senior journalists and PRs as well as in-house editorial and features from the Telum team

Subscribe for alerts