Telum Talks To… Niezam Abdullah, Senior Editor at mStar

Telum Talks To… Niezam Abdullah, Senior Editor at mStar

This interview has been originally conducted in Malay, and edited and translated into English. If there is any inconsistency or ambiguity between the English version and the Malay version, the Malay version shall prevail. The original text can be read here.

What does your role as Senior Editor at mStar entail?
As a Senior Editor, my main role is to ensure smooth operation, creating engaging content, and maintaining the portal’s page views. One of the greatest milestones in mStar, was achieving 26 million page views and eight million unique visitors, which makes mStar, a Malay entertainment and lifestyle portal with the most readers. I am certain that fact accuracy from valid news sources is important in each mStar content to make us a trusted portal and does not simply capture or scoop from other social media sources.

What are the perks and challenges of being a Senior Editor of a Malay entertainment and lifestyle news portal that focuses on local entertainment industry?
Throughout my 28 years of experience in entertainment journalism, I have been exposed to writings in forms of news, articles, and gossips, started from a small publishing company up to the giant media company is an advantage that I gained to drive mStar. In 2010, I was being offered as mStar’s Entertainment Editor, I was asked by an Associate Editor at the time – Rozaid Abd Rahman (current Sinar Harian’s Editor-in-Chief) of what can I contribute upon my induction?

My answer was simple, give me 3 months’ time and evaluate it yourself.

Within 3 months as promised, mStar became the spotlight of many, not only hot and sensation but more to accurate source-based news other than it is immediately published.

Currently, the biggest challenge is our content being scooped up and posted by other entertainment portals. Unfortunately, those portals do not give credit to the original news source being taken. Sometimes, the content that they scoop gets more share and likes.

What are your top considerations about picking what to feature on mStar?
Content-based on valid and accurate sources is our main target to establish mStar’s content regardless of entertainment lifestyle or viral is trusted by readers. Sometimes the news being delivered is in a form of gossips and might not favour by some local celebrities, however accurate information improves the readers’ confidence to make mStar a source of reference in obtaining valid and trusted information.

Is there any projects coming up in the news portal that you’re particularly excited about that you could share with us?
With the rise of digital journalism, reporters not only need to be skillful in writing news, but they also have to be the Key Opinion Leader (KOL) representing their portals and active on various social media platforms. In this way, they can influence the readers which in turn may contribute more traffic to the portal.

By realising that, I find ways to bring the readers closer by introducing mStar Rojer Telegram fan club which was launched on 19th April. Through this group, the readers get to share ideas, opinions besides being a source contributor to us. The club will expand its role in helping society. The official launch is scheduled either in July or August 2021 at one of the famous theme parks in the city.

What are your PR pet peeves? Are there any particular topics and story pitches you would like to receive from PRs?
I respect PR’s work however the PR industry players today and before is far different. PRs today is a bit self-centred to fulfill their client’s demand and seem to be pushy for aiming the media to publish every press release being shared.

These days, PRs take lesser steps to build a good relationship with the media. I noticed that they prefer to use the approach by contacting through emails, sending messages via WhatsApp to check in with the media whether or not they have received the press release that was sent and when it will be published? Personally, I don’t really like to receive follow up messages from the PRs. They need to understand the purpose of each press release, if it is to promote a certain product, it needs to go through the marketing team beforehand and it is not easy to be published unless it is in a form of advertorial or paid content.

PR agency also needs to understand the content and target audience of every portal before they submit a press release to the media. If the portal is publishing in Malay language, the press release also needs to be in the original language given that it will reduce the journalist’s work in translating and rearranging press releases to suit each of the portal’s house styles. For mStar, we are more concerned with topics related to entertainment gossips and celebrities, travel destinations, eateries, and attractive restaurants, religion, family tips, hobbies, health guidance from the experts and esports as well as viral content.

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