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Panpa Bulletin : September 2010
UNCONVENTIONAL online video channel Razor TV has been serving the growing appetite for web-based video news in Singapore for the last two years. The Singapore Press Holdings' website uses guerrilla production tools and has done away with the conventional news desk, replacing it with young presenters who, accord- ing to Razor TV editor Jonathan Ng, are "not highly polished media pre- senters but talk like the Singaporean girls and boys on the street". The studio is a converted office space made with a mix of consumer and 'pro-sumer' gear. "It's been quite guerrilla in fashion but it has been very successful," Mr Ng says. Officially known as the Straits Times' Razor TV, its objective was to be a 100 per cent Singaporean video news channel based on 'hyper- local' news, something digital editor Felix Soh -- the mastermind behind both Razor TV and STOMP, SPH's citizen journal- ism website -- says the mainstream media were not covering. "Occasion- ally, the main- stream media may cover something more quirky or a human interest story, but they were not go- ing to the heartlands and getting the voice of the people on the ground," he says. Razor TV features a mix of news and interviews with people on the streets of Singapore, with an empha- sis on lifestyle, fashion and entertain- ment. Both Razor TV and STOMP were created to engage young people who might not necessarily read the Straits Times -- SPH's star daily -- and spurred by the push from social me- dia towards the democratisation of news gathering, dissemination and production processes. "We wanted the Straits Times name to be in the younger audiences' con- sciousness," says Mr Soh. By engaging youth audiences using social media tools both STOMP and Razor TV gained traction with youth audiences initially and, according to Mr Soh, are now gaining recognition across a greater spectrum of the Sin- gaporean population. The success of the site is meas- ured through video views and visitors to the site, with over 900,000 unique visitors per month and between 50,000 -100,000 video views a day, accord- ing to Mr Soh. Their free iPhone app has been downloaded over 100,000 times, and the site has also been awarded a string of regional and glo- bal innovation awards. In fact, the format and production style has been so successful, Mr Soh is in the process of taking the Razor TV format to market. By offering the web platform and skills of the production team, Mr Soh wants to provide video solutions for a range of companies and organisa- tions -- what he calls "the Razor solution". "We launched a De- fence and Security (SG Defence) channel a while back. We did this as a prototype to show people what can be done. "We are using SG Defence as a model so when we are ready to sell the channel concept we have some- thing to show as a prototype," Mr Soh says. What Razor TV will offer is in a similar vein to what YouTube chan- nels provide. Razor TV will provide the video hosting and will manage and upload company video content. The content can then be embedded into individual company websites or viewed as their own channel on the Razor TV site. "Of course you could put content on YouTube, but we will give you a special channel, something bespoke -- you know YouTube is a bit crowd- ed," Mr Soh says. With 16 cameraman who all double up as video editors, and 17 presenters who are also responsible for the writing, reporting, the initial rough edit of their stories and even occasionally for shooting breaking news, Razor TV has been at the forefront of the consolidated broad- cast newsroom model now taking off across large television news broad- casters. And with little to no adver- tising budget the Razor TV team re- lies on its tenacity with social media to get its content viewed, while also experimenting with non-mainstream production tools. On the occasion where the team has committed to live streams from the field, not having a budget to hire vans and pay for satellite fees, they have used video Skype from report- ers' laptop and fed it straight into the live coverage. "It was very experimental but it has been a very good make-shift so- lution," editor Mr Ng says. The team produces and uploads about an hour's worth of content every day, equal to about 20 indi- vidual stories. "We tailor our content for the web, we know people have an appetite of about three and a half minutes for video online, after that they lose in- terest and move on," Mr Ng says. And the key to boosting video views? Webs of online networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Youku (Chinese site similar to YouTube), Friendster and Twitter. "Social media is extremely impor- tanttous--itgetsusalotofhits," he says. "We use our Facebook sites and YouTube religiously. Any new sto- ries are tagged on Facebook and we blast it to all our Razor TV Fan Page and also our personal networks." The online nature of Razor TV's video news content also swerves the strict rules and regulations which govern terrestrial TV in Singapore. In a multi-lingual country, the four broadcast languages are Malay, Eng- lish, Mandarin, and Tamil. But there are "so many other dialects", Mr Ng says. Mr Ng reflects: "Our viewers appreciate that we can interview people in their own dialects." The Razor TV control room, made with a mix of consumer and 'pro-sumer' gear. Our viewers appreciate that we can interview people in their own dialects because they know that a lot of dialects simply can't be translated -- this adds value for many of our viewers." Jonathan Ng " MEMBER PROFILE Cutting edge TV SPH's popular online video channel Razor TV uses guerrilla tactics and social media to engage young people, REBECCA LEAVER reports. Razor TV editor, Jonathan Ng and SPH's digital editor, Felix Soh. Presenters on the set of Razor TV The PANPA Bulletin | SEPTEMBER 2010 | 15 www.panpa.org.au