QUESTION TIME Starting a new enterprise in which you have a personal stake is no easy matter, especially when you have not done it before.
When Malaysiakini's CEO Premesh Chandran talked to me about setting up a business news portal, I was excited. It was something I had thought about as well before, wondering how I could get it off the ground.
Over the next few months, we met from time to time and put our heads together on how we should get it going. We churned some numbers which looked encouraging for a paid subscription model which would be buttressed by advertising.
KiniBiz, a joint venture between Malaysiakini and myself, will start early next year. A small team has been assembled and will be in place by January and we hope to get it online within two months.
But why KiniBiz? What would a new business news website have to offer which would be very different from the offerings currently on the market, both print and online? What would be the reason for our existence? And why would subscribers have to pay?
To explain the first part, let me repeat what we said in a teaser/recruitment advertisement about KiniBiz:
"What's the real deal? In the dark? We're not surprised. Business news should go beyond the spin and the hype. We will smash through the barrier with independent, fast, and incisive business news to discerning readers.
We will break news, analyse it, dissect the complexities and comment unflinchingly. We will unravel and reveal the players behind the scenes and put things in the right context. And more. If you want to be informed and be ahead of the crowd and the market, you will want to read us - everyday and during the day. We will shed some light."
We feel there is a gap to be filled in the coverage of business news. We aim to fill that gap. It would take effort and it would be a different kind of editorial stance from what we have seen before in the coverage of Malaysian business news.
KiniBiz also aims to be a complete portal for business news which means that we will closely follow foreign business news as well, especially those which have a major impact on the average citizen and this region. We will carefully select the news, analysis and commentary here, too.
We need a steady stream of income to be able to provide this - not much but enough. Unfortunately in online news, advertising alone won't do it. Which is why we have opted for paid subscription after a short period of free trial. It is likely to be higher than it is for Malaysiakini but it will still be less than a ringgit a day. Also, without undue dependence on advertising we can afford to be more independent.
These days, you can't even buy half a cup of coffee with that one ringgit, so we figure it's a good deal. And we will work very hard to ensure that it is a good deal for you, the reader.
Here are at least 10 things we will be focusing on doing.
1. Tell it like it is. Business news can get complicated. We will break it down into bite-sized pieces and tell you exactly what to look out for and where lie the essentials and controversies. We will have straight reporting of course, but we will look out for the details in the deals.
2. Do the groundwork. Oftentimes we have to dig to get to the roots of a deal and the important news. We are prepared to do that. That will range from having the courage to ask the right questions to developing contacts within government and industry to get the real picture and different viewpoints.
3. Be independent. The ultimate controlling shareholders behind KiniBiz are my two partners at Malaysiakini, Premesh who is chief executive officer of KiniBiz as well and Steven Gan, Malaysiakini's editor-in-chief, both of whom are founders of Malaysiakini, and myself. I take on the role of founding editor and publisher at KiniBiz. The point is, we are not beholden to anyone and can therefore report independently on any news.
4. Give all sides of the story. But we do recognise that independence comes with responsibility. We will give everyone involved an opportunity for fair say before articles are written and after that.
5. Analyse. We will have enough competent people and training to ensure that we can analyse complex happenings and write them in a manner easily understood by anyone. And we will call upon external expertise as and when required.
6. Provide an avenue for feedback. We will welcome feedback from readers and others. We also intend to be providers of feedback as well to the government, the companies we cover, regulators and other capital market players in the many events that they will be responsible for. We think that accurate feedback and criticism is a necessary condition for the progress of society.
7. Comment. We will have in-house and external commentators daily who will offer their personal opinions, backed up with data and reasoning, on the most current and important issues facing Malaysian business. And yes, we will get commentators for foreign news as well.
8. Raise issues. We intend to focus on some of the issues that periodically face us, highlighting them and looking in-depth at them and what we should be doing to overcome them.
9. Suggest solutions. We don't intend to just highlight problems, we intend to also suggest possible solutions and alternatives through our own analysis and by talking to those in the industry who have the depth of knowledge and experience to offer remedies.
10. Monitor developments. We will keep track of key developments and initiatives and see how they are advancing. We will report and analyse these on-going developments on a regular basis.
That's really quite a bit on our plate. There's a lot to be done and we are all quite excited. We are working hard towards providing a product which will prove to be good enough for our readers. Wish us luck, and if we deserve it, please support us by eventually subscribing to us.
A belated Merry Christmas and hope that you have a happy, prosperous and fulfilling New Year.
P GUNASEGARAM has been a journalist and analyst for over 30 years, having worked in key positions in Malaysian newspapers and magazines including Business Times, Malaysian Business, The Edge and The Star. He has also worked as an analyst and head of equity research at local and foreign brokerage firms. Early next year, he will help launch business news portal KiniBiz in a joint venture with Malaysiakini.