Newspapers Add Color to Circulation War

Chakraval newspaper will start publishing again after Lunar New Year later this month, becoming the fourth Khmer-language paper in Phnom Penh to splash color on its front pages.

“A newspaper that publishes in color will bring in more readers and more advertising. And that may bring in more income,” said Keo Sophon, Chakraval’s owner and editor-in-chief.

The pro-government Chakra­val (Universe), like many other local newspapers, is known for political coverage and lurid crime photos. In color, Keo Sophon said, readers will be able to see the blood stains on the clothes of corpses .

“I understand that the readers now are more interested to see colorful pictures than reading articles,” the editor said.

Chakraval will join the Khmer-language papers Rasmei Kampu­chea (Light of Cambodia), Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) and the Evening News, which already publish in color.

Keo Sophon spent $20,000 to upgrade his presses. The paper may lose money over the next few months, he said, but plans to raise advertising income to cover the cost. He declined to say how many copies his paper prints.

Tat Ly Hok, president of the Khmer Journalists’ Association, said the trend towards color printing shows the development of the Cambodian print media. “A newspaper without color will attract fewer readers,” he said.

He predicted advertising will increase partly because products can be shown in color.

At the moment, though, most of Cambodia’s print media have been hit hard by a drop in advertising. According to figures from International Management and Investment Consultants Ltd’s market research department, ad­vertising revenue for newspapers dropped 21 percent overall in 1998 from 1997.

According to IMIC’s Media Monitor, Chakraval earned about $9,000 in ad revenue in Decem­ber. Rasmei Kampuchea, supported by tycoon Teng Bun­ma, regularly leads the pack, taking in between $66,000 to $78,000 in ad revenue monthly, IMIC’s re­search shows.

According to at least one publisher, color does help the circulation numbers.

Koh Santepheap started printing its front and back pages in color two months ago. Since then, the newspaper’s publisher, Thong Uypang, claims that circulation has increased from 7,500 to 9,500 or 10,000 per day.

The CPP-aligned daily also is known for its coverage of crime and corruption.

“I think it is good to publish the newspaper with more pages and more color and even more interesting news,” Thong Uypang said. “I understand what my readers want to read.”

But the increased readership has not yet brought the paper more advertising, Thong Uypang ad­mitted. IMIC’s numbers show ad income has dropped from about $550 in July to just over $200 in Decem­ber.

(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)






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