Jul 9, 2007

You Can Play Sudoku Just About Anywhere, Really

I had already said that I would be moving away from sociopolitical blogging. But looking back over my blog entries for the past month, I'm quite surprised to see how complete the transformation has been. I had imagined a more gradual transition, not something as total as what actually happened.

Part of the reason for the rapid change is that ever since I started on my new job, I've been reading less and less of the Straits Times, and more and more of the news from Bloomberg. Nowadays, several days can go by without my reading the Straits Times at all.

My previous job was already quite regional in its scope. My new job is even more international. I find it more important to focus on international news than local news. And by default, the news that shows up on my Bloomberg is "top news" from around the world. Singapore is never "top news". I guess that on a worldwide scale, the little red dot is just too little.

Whenever I can, I still pick up a free copy of Today. I often find that the articles in Today are more thought-provoking and insightful than those in the Straits Times. Also, I like Sudoku. There's one Sudoku puzzle in every issue of Today. Anyway, in today's Today, I found this editorial:
How to deal with media double whammy
Monday • July 9, 2007
P N Balji

VARIOUS reasons have been given for the unabashedly pro-government stand of the Singapore media: Restrictive media and libel laws, journalists who have surrendered to the Government or been convinced by its argument that an unbridled press is not for Singapore, general public support for the Government by readers who believe Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his team are always right because
they have delivered an economic miracle.

Another reason, not well-documented and hardly articulated in public discussions, is how the media has benefitted from the Government's delivery of economic growth. Like nearly everything else here, it is money that drives this place. Minister Mentor Lee said as much over the weekend.

"Once you have growth, all problems can be managed," he said in his pragmatic and straight-talking style about Singapore's success.

Good economic growth means more advertising dollars for media companies, which means higher salaries for editors and journalists, which means don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. And which means support a government that delivers.

So far, so good. But last year, something happened that might put a strain on this cosy relationship between economic and advertising growth. For the first time, a yawning gap between economic and advertising growth has got media owners worried.

A double whammy is at work here. Some of the top advertisers, such as SingTel and Asia Pacific Breweries, are getting more and more of their revenue from outside Singapore.

Advertising dollars are being channelled to countries where these companies are opening up new operations. Why should such companies continue to put all their ad dollars in Singapore?

Then, the new businesses that are coming here are very different in nature, using Singapore as a launching pad to the region.

One example is Olam International, an agricultural commodities firm which is listed here. However, its revenue — 100 per cent of it — comes from outside Singapore.

Why should such outfits advertise in our media?

Throw the slow but pervasive influence of alternative news and information-on-the-go, though not so pronounced and immediate yet, into the pot and you have a media meltdown in the making.

So, what are the media managers doing? Opening up new revenue streams by investing overseas, kick-starting alternative media ventures and wooing expatriate readers who are surging into Singapore now that the floodgates have been thrown wide open.

But these are slow-burn measures, risky and tentative.

What is more important is to relook the kind of news in our media ....
I guess that if I were still the old Mr Wang, this is the kind of article that I would dissect and analyse at length. Frankly, now I can't be bothered. See, I chopped off the article even before the editor got to his main point (if you'd like to know what the main point is, click on the link above).

All I feel like doing is draw a few analogies between my current job, and some of the examples mentioned in this Today editorial.

In a way, my work feels like the businesses of Singtel, Asia Pacific Breweries and Olam. I'm located here in Singapore, but at work, I've barely touched a "Singapore" transaction since I started work three months ago. I'm working on deals where the assets and clients are in China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, New York, Hong Kong, the Middle East .... almost anywhere, but not Singapore.

It feels kinda strange, really. It's like Singapore isn't real. It's just a construct of my imagination, an abstract puzzle with its own peculiar rules. Intellectually, it can be fun to try to work out those rules, but they don't necessarily mean anything in real life. Singapore is just a place where I can situate my butt on an office chair, and from which I can make telephone calls and send emails to people in other countries. Apart from that, it doesn't seem to have much relevance.

Today is trying to revamp its approach to news reporting, so as to stay relevant to readers in Singapore. Meanwhile, I, as a reader in Singapore, grow less and less interested in Singapore, and more and more interested in the rest of the world. And for news about the rest of the world, I don't need Today. I just need my Bloomberg. Which is REALLY relevant to my work.

Increasingly, my best reason for picking up a copy of Today is its Sudoku puzzle. Now if Today had two Sudoku puzzles every day, I would definitely want to get my copy.

Strangely, nowadays my foreign colleagues take a bigger interest in local news, than I do. And I have many foreign colleagues. I think at least half of my colleagues are foreigners or PRs. I often hear them talking about local news - the current hot topic being the property market.

But then they also make funny jokes about PAP ministers. One of them, an Indian national, was cracking father-&-son political jokes today, about LKY and LHL. In some vague way, as a Singaporean citizen, I suspect that I ought to feel mildly offended. But I don't. The jokes are quite hilarious, really. Even more fun than Sudoku.


Anonymous said...

why not sociopolitical blogging?they are so fun.

mk said...

ouch Mr. Wang! Personally I'm up to my ears in so much reading, that I only look at Life for the comics now ('coz I'm maxed out on web rss feeds)...

I don't know if it's the Straits Times' fault - Jeff Jarvis would tell you ALL newspapers are irrelevant now, too static.

As for the "little red dot" bit - I'm new enough here to feel lucky I can rely on state stability and ignore local news enough to do whatever I want, wherever it may be. Efficiency.

richard seah said...

It says a lot when one of our sharpest socio-political commentators says he is now more keen to play Sukoku than to read The Straits Times and comment on stories / commentaries that appear there.

I, for one, misses your often brilliant commentaries.

Perhaps when you get tired of Sudoku... would I be correct to say you are a relative newbie at this?

Once you figure it out, you might even lose interest in the Monday-Friday editions of TODAY and go only for the 5+ version of this addictive puzzle ;-)

Cheryl said...

When someone like Mr Wang is not as interested about local news anymore, it makes me wonder if there is really so little Singaporeans can do to change anything that we decide not to waste time and energy analysing sociopolitical issues anymore.

But I must say it was very interesting reading your blog previously about issues surrounding Sinagpore since I am now away from the island. It had me updated from a fresh perspective, as it was not merely a one-sided news from ST online.

armando said...

If you want to try out something new in sudoku, try shendoku, using the sudoku rules but playing two people, one against the other, like battleshipps. They have a free version to download at http://www.shendoku.com/sample.pdf . Anything else they are bringing out or they are working on you can find at www.shendoku.com or at they´r blog www.shendoku.blogspot.com . Have fun, I am. I specially like one slogan I heard about Shendoku: SUDOKU is like masturbation (one person)…. SHENDOKU is like sex (it takes two).

Anonymous said...

Yes, the transition has been most complete.

While I started out enjoying your previous blog, after a while, the sense of hopelessness made it a bit depressing to continually return to.

You are now writing about stuff I have a great interest in, and the messages are far more uplifting.

Thank you for that :)


recruit ong said...

I read the local papers less and less too. Recently busy with exams but i found out i did not miss much.

Reading the 154th news i know i cannot believe the things they write. So it raises more questions and doubts hehe... Being lazy i might as well dont read haha. ^^

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang you should try the online Sudoku puzzles from the following online newspapers:

1) USA Today
2) Los Angeles Times
3) CBC.ca

Their sudoku puzzles have many interactive features which you do not usually find in other online newspapers. You will like them.

Anonymous said...

If you are an expert in Sudoku, go to: www.sudokudaily.net/puzzle. The hard puzzles are really mind-cracking.

Anonymous said...

I dont think socio / political blogs are that popular. I remember somewhere there was this guy called darkness who said it was a bit like an art gallery, it is never even when its free on a weekend and when its full, its for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps its raining.

Oh well that seems to say it quite well. But having said that, he did go on to say, the quality of ppl who often read socio/political blogs were dramatically higher than those who didnt.

Just thought I will share this

Anonymous said...

I really like the direction this blog is moving in. To make a political blog in Singapore, all you have to do is pick an article in the Straits Times and write a post about how the article is wrong.

Teaching people how to improve their lives is a more challenging (and rewarding) prospect.

Anonymous said...

That newspaper has nothing to offer for me. Even, the Tuesday's Digital Life sometimes has some subtle messages in some articles. For heaven's sake, that is a technology section. They also want to give you craps.

Tech websites are more complete. Singapore's politics is getting like daytime opera - predictable. Even the government's replies are predictable.

Time to make the party irrelevant.

the murderous children said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


You struck a right cord with me Mr Wang. I've for years given up reading the straits times and other local news. Especially the forum where silly singaporeans pretend to be smart ass giving ridiculus suggestions.

I find myself a much happier person not knowing what the hell is going on here and the bullshitting that is all over the local papers.

I hope you will become a happier person.

They say apathy is bad, but I guess for this place, there's no hope.

DomoMaster said...

You should visit Domo-Sudoku for a real challenging experience.