Features

My media habits: Ian Loon, Starcom Singapore managing director

A mix of action packed pop-culture like Narcos with a more eclectic taste in reading and journalism round out the media habits of Starcom's Ian Loon

What are your must-read news sources you can’t live without on a daily basis, and why are those particular media titles so important to you?

“Instead of specific-channel sources, for the last five years, I’ve relied heavily on Flipboard to curate news based on professional and personal interests. Whatever is trending and relevant lands on a magazine-style feed with a great user-experience.

“My top five topics are fitness and nutrition, self-improvement, wellness, technology and gadgets, and business and marketing. I’m very much a techie who appreciates global events, striving to improve the well-being of others and myself.”

In terms of news consumption – do you prefer, print, television, radio, websites, newsletters, social networks, blogs, apps or something else entirely?

“I rise every morning with a command to have Google Home play the latest news on my TV — streaming from various YouTube news channels. During the day, most of my news is consumed online via subscribed newsletters and social feeds or chats.

“At night, I spend about 30 to 45 minutes with content on Flipboard.”

Do you prefer long-form or short-form content?

“Most often short-form content during the work week. When long-form content is discovered or referred to, I have a bookmarking system to revisit it during my commute or over the weekend.”

Can you name your favourite journalist and set out what makes them great?

Christiane Amanpour

“Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s current chief international correspondent.

“An exceptionally bold woman from a minority background, fully committed to objective journalism and freedom.

“I’ve followed a lot of her reportage — for instance, during the Arab Spring where she interviewed Muammar Gaddafi, his last interview before his capture and execution. To her outspoken views on President Trump’s criticism of the press in recent times.”

“Most recently, I stumbled upon the Netflix miniseries ‘Sex and Love Around The World’. She travels to cities like Tokyo, Beirut and Berlin to explore the evolution of intimacy and pleasure in an increasingly complex world.”

What piece of journalism has changed the game in recent times, in your view?

“The entire frenzy surrounding “fake news” which heightened over the last two years since Trump. And the related political exposes of today between the US and Russia.

“Also, the discussion around the role of technology companies like Google and Facebook in news distribution has been game-changing.

“The age-old argument about whether media should be a “watchdog or mouthpiece” to the government has blown into a parallel argument on the extent to which certain sections of society, or social media should be in-check or whether they should be allowed absolute freedom of speech.”

Are there any titles you have paid subscriptions to?

“Not for news.”

In terms of films and shows, is your preference for terrestrial television or streaming platforms like Netflix?

“Very much streaming, especially Netflix with its increasing volume of quality content.”

Are recommendation engines a good thing or do they cancel out the joy of serendipity in terms of discovering fresh content not aligned with your previous preferences?

“Trusted recommendation engines are necessary to de-clutter and aid productivity. But being a highly curious individual, I do venture to explore information and entertainment beyond my usual preferences.”

What was the best film you saw of late – and can you describe why it made an impression on you?

“While I fully appreciate the entertainment value of Hollywood blockbusters, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma on Netflix was a standout in 2018. It also happened to be the last film I caught last year.

“A black & white film set in Mexico of the 1970s, telling of a domestic helper’s life and struggles. Extremely simple storytelling with focus on exceptional cinematography that delivers emotion from every character on set.”

And what shows do you consider to be event TV, those programmes you just have to watch and can’t contemplate missing?

Narcos: Mexico

“I’ve been a fan of ‘Narcos’ and completed its fourth season set in Mexico (again) in December.It’s entirely a coincidence that I’ve started enjoying mescal during my recent bar visits.

“But anyway, I tend to enjoy darker shows with deep characters, based on true events, and loaded with plot-shocks. All four seasons delivered that and more.”

Somebody Feed Phil

“I’ve also really enjoyed ‘Somebody Feed Phil’, a travel-documentary focusing on Philip Rosenthal — the creator of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ — and his food adventures. His colourful personality, candid commentary, and hilarious tasting-expressions are addictive.”

In terms of devices, how do you access content most often – on mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop or television?

“Most often on my Smart TV in the living room and my mobile phone. I have a smart home and often sync content between devices, as I move between different parts of my apartment.”

How damaging is piracy and illegal downloads when it comes to the media and entertainment space?

“Extremely damaging, especially if you work in the space. Like many major issues such as global warming, most people would act if there were greater education around its threat, or if consequences become more apparent to impacted individuals.”

And moving on, what’s been your favourite book in recent times?

“I am currently reading ‘Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics’ by Tim Marshall. It contains revealing perspectives of how geography and ideology collide to explain many international events of today with centuries-long roots.

“My favourite chapter covers historically-rich Japan and Korea in a sub-region closer to home, and of their values shaped by their geographical environment through history, which explains a lot about their government and society today.”

Kindle or hard copy?

“Hard copy for books.”

And now to music. How do you buy and consume music?

“I subscribe to Spotify, but also play free music videos or tracks on YouTube. Mostly on my mobile or my Smart TV in the living room.”

Which musical artists appeal to your tastes right now?

“I do not have a preference for specific artists, but I have favourite genres depending on my task at hand or mood. When I’m at home relaxing, I enjoy the vibes of Deep House or Lounge music.

“When I exercise, my adrenaline rises to trance or EDM.

“I also make it a point to listen to popular and trending music, allowing me to stay in touch with musical evolution across genres, widely appreciated by global masses.”

Social networks: Hero or villain when it comes to giving you access to content?

“Hero, but I believe that they should take a greater responsibility for regulation, considering they have the power to create real heroes or villains in people.”

And are social networks like Facebook and Twitter actually media companies these days in your view, even though that is something they deny – perhaps to avoid further regulation?

“They are media companies, solely by definition that they have the power to distribute content and influence.

In the digital world, algorithms rather than humans are the media gatekeepers. Do you miss the old days when the likes of journalists, critics and broadcasters played that qualitative role, or have we simply evolved to a better quantitative system?

“I fully appreciate the evolution as the world was becoming digitalised while I was being educated in school. Qualitative, by definition, was constrained by local limits, but as the world got increasingly connected, quantity became limitless.

“There is still quality today. It is just that we have evolved with shorter-attention spans to be less-patient for quality discoveries, through quantitative binging.”

Finally, what does the future hold for the media space in your view – will artificial intelligence and virtual personal assistants take over to the point where we just trust the machines to tell us what we want to consume, in terms of news and entertainment?

“It’s a scary thought for many of us to realise that technology and machines are increasingly taking over a larger-share of our daily lives in exchange for convenience.

“But I have faith in the human conscience and judgement which will allow for news and entertainment to sustain the functions of connection, education, and amusement.”

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