Q&A with Yahoo! Southeast Asia managing editor Alan Soon

Alan SoonAlan Soon is the managing editor of Yahoo! Southeast Asia and country manager for Yahoo! Singapore.

In this interview, Soon talks to Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks about the reinvention of Yahoo!, the credibility of content aggregators as news organisations, and press freedom in Southeast Asia.

Yahoo! has a new logo and a newish CEO. What impact do you feel these changes are having on the Yahoo! brand in Southeast Asia?Yahoo! logo

The impact has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been at Yahoo for almost five years – and I can tell you that this is a new company. The energy is fantastic. We’re in the process of pivoting the company to ensure that we’re winning in both mobile and video. We’re super focused on these media and you’ve seen the great mobile products that we’ve rolled out – for example, Weather, Screen and of course the new Mail. At the end of the day, we want to help make the daily habits of our users inspiring and entertaining, so you’ll see a lot more coming out of Yahoo.

Yahoo! enjoys a large audience from its news content in Southeast Asia. What sort of credibility do you feel Yahoo! enjoys as a news organisation when much of that content is generated via news wires?

Actually we work with a number of partners – news wires, broadcasters, newspapers, magazines and bloggers. We also do a lot of original stories. We have a broader view of “credibility”: ultimately, credibility is as much about service as it is about trust. Our users trust us to provide the widest coverage of news – and we do that with the help of our many partners in the region. People come to us because they know we can provide a diversity of content that our rivals can’t.

How is Yahoo! news consumed in Southeast Asia, through which media?

Most of our content is consumed on PCs. This is of course shifting quickly to mobile – and we’ve seen a very rapid uptake on both iOS and Android devices. And that’s exactly why we’re making big bets on mobile today. I can’t wait to show you what we have in store!

What’s your take on Vietnam’s attempt to stop the sharing of news stories in social media? How will these rules effect Yahoo!?

We’ve been working with the industry to get a more comprehensive view on this. We’ll be in a better position to discuss the implications further down the line.

What effect do you feel the MDA’s rules for online news reporting will have on the blogging community and news creation in general in Singapore?

We’ve put out a very clear statement on this previously and there’s nothing new to add at this stage. We’ve consistently expressed the view that the “new” rules are redundant given the existing frameworks in which web publishers already operate within.

The IndependentWhat’s your view on the launch of The Independent in Singapore, which occupies the same middle ground on political reporting as Yahoo!. Does it have a future?

I hope it does. There’s room for diverse viewpoints in Singapore and it’s in Yahoo’s interests to see a vibrant online community develop here.

Which markets in Southeast Asia do you feel are toughest on news organisations in how freely you can report political news?

We’re actually in a relatively good place in Southeast Asia given the thriving press freedoms in the Philippines and Indonesia. Both these countries have worked very hard to earn their stripes and to protect their rights to expression – and sometimes noisily! They’re good examples of thriving online news communities.


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