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What sort of news is Asia reading online?

Most popular story on SCMP.comWhat are the most popular news stories on Asia’s most popular news sites, and what do they say about us – the reader?

This is not a exact science. But it might be useful for media planners and advertisers to take a quick look at what people are most likely to be reading, right now, and think about why.

Take today.

Let’s start with the Bangkok Post, ‘The world’s window on Thailand’. You might think that the catastrophic oil spill that is ruining Thailand’s coastline would dominate the mind of the reader. After all, the story has made international headlines. But no, the most popular tale is about a fight that broke out during a badminton match in Canada.

Bangkok Post

In Malaysia, the top story on the New Straits Times‘ website has been reported widely in Southeast Asia and beyond – the assassination of the former head of the Arab-Malaysia Development Bank. In fact, four of the top 15 stories are about this incident. In amongst the gloomy yarns about crime and religion is just one upbeat story (if you’re a man). The search for a man to be the public face of polygamy.

New Straits Times

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald is a completely different organ online than it is in print. It is boisterously tabloid. But even so, you might expect, with elections approaching, that a yarn about prime minister Kevin Rudd bringing in ‘Barack Obama’s digital attack dog’ to help him stay in power might be the most popular. Not so.

Sydney Morning Herald

In Singapore, where the cost of living gives locals cause to complain, it’s perhaps less surprising that The Straits Times‘ top story is about money, pipped by a story about a car that gets smothered in cement by a wayward lorry. In fact, four of the top ten are money-related. The ninth speculates what sort of stuff the car got covered in.

Straits Times

Burmese online newspaper The Irrawaddy‘s top story is intriguing, partly because the headline is baffling. Even after reading the story itself.

The Irrawaddy

In Indonesia, readers of The Jakarta Post care less about learnings from the political and social implosion of Egypt than late-night shopping.

Jakarta Post

On The Times of India‘s site, the top story’s a shocker about outrage over “intimate” pics of a couple of Bollywood stars on holiday in Spain – which the website has duly republished.

Times of India

And finally in Hong Kong, the top story on the South China Morning Post’s site – which has been sitting on top of the most-read section unbudged for months now, is about the “rude” behaviour of tourists from the Mainland.

South China Morning PostMachines, not humans, now do most media placements on online news sites. They know what we like to read as well as we do. Possibly better.

Should online news editors look to computers for what readers want? Or should they trust old fashioned instinct?

Robin Hicks

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