Features

My media habits: Ian Tan of Razer – ‘My friends tell me what I should be watching’

A former print journalist from the 'old school of hard knocks', Razer's assistant vice-president of global marketing Ian Tan talks to Mumbrella's Dean Carroll about discarding relics of a previous era - like print newspapers, television and physical books

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?

“BBC, Bloomberg, and CNN for general news, and I scan Google News for the latest in business, technology and health. BBC, Bloomberg and CNN have a good diversity of viewpoints and they do strive for balance and quality in their news reporting.”

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

“I read the websites of the media platforms I mentioned earlier. I also read the daily email newsletters from Bloomberg and Time.”

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

“Can I say medium-form? If it’s too long, I’m just going to skip to the end. If it is too short, then there isn’t enough meat in the story to understand the context well.”

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

“I don’t have any favourites in news journalism, but my favourite writers in the media tend to be movie reviewers like the late Roger Ebert and Richard Corliss. They wrote for the reader with all the passion and subject matter knowledge they could muster, and that’s what made them great.”

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

“I don’t think any singular piece of journalism has changed the game. It is the change in the way news is consumed that has changed the game. There is more news than ever, and people expect news to be free – these two things have changed the way newsrooms work.”

Are there any titles you have paid subscriptions to?

“I do not currently subscribe to any news publication because I tend to read too few issues to justify the subscription cost. This happened when I subscribed to Time or National Geographic. I do subscribe to the Harvard Business Review, but that’s not really news is it?”

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

“Netflix.”

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?

“I think they are okay, but I tend to watch what my friends tell me I should be watching.

“My friends are the better recommendation engine. And I am not particularly adventurous with film genres. I have always preferred science fiction, fantasy and horror flicks. And I stay away from serious drama (unless it is starring a favourite actor like Gary Oldman).”

What was the best film you saw of late – and can you describe why it made an impression on you?“‘Isle Of Dogs’ directed by Wes Anderson. It was very quirky and I always admire stop-motion animation films for the sheer amount of effort and genius needed for the visuals to come alive.”

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

“None actually. Well, maybe ‘Rick and Morty’ because it has such unpredictable plot lines.

“For many people, Game of Thrones is considered one of the major TV events of the past decade. I watched the Game of Thrones when it first came out and got so bored with the first episode I did not bother to watch it again until several years later when I decided to watch seasons one to seven in one go, just to see what was all the fuss about.

“When the final season eight came out, I didn’t start watching it until the third episode was broadcast because there was no hurry.”

“What I cannot miss are the latest must-play games. Examples are Apex Legends, God of War, Spiderman and Tetris 99. I guess you can say I play games more than I watch any form of television.”In terms of devices, how do you access content most often – on mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop or television?

“Laptop and desktop, both always connected to a large monitor. I only use my phone for messaging and calls thanks to long-sightedness, a common malady of middle age.”

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

“This is a complicated topic, but what I will say is that with entertainment content getting cheaper and easier to access or stream these days most people I know are happy to pay for content and they do.”

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

“I read a lot of science fiction and self-improvement books, but I read the Bible more than any other book.

“One other book that did stick in my mind is Ben Horowitz’s ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ for his frank words about running a business.”

So Kindle or hard copy?

“Kindle. I have sold off or given away most of my physical books to free up space in my house. I use both the Kindle Oasis as well as the Kindle apps on other devices. I don’t dislike hard copy books, but it gets gross when the pages start to yellow.”

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

“I only stream through Spotify now. I used to buy music from iTunes, but stopped when Spotify came on the scene. Spotify is great because everyone in my house can have their own cloud playlists that will not disappear if the computer crashes.”

Bruno Mars

Which musical artists appeal to your tastes right now?

“I listen regularly to 1970s and 80s artistes like Fleetwood Mac and Sting, but most of the time I am listening to endless streams of classical music on Spotify while I am working so I do not check who is playing. I have an aversion to auto-tuned music so I cannot stomach most modern pop except Bruno Mars.”

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

“Hero, I guess? That is because I have curated my newsfeed on Facebook to show me most of the publications I already like reading.”

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?

“It really depends on what you define as a media company. Does Facebook send out journalists to go out and gather news like a traditional newspaper?

“No, but they do aggregate the news and opinions people want to read. We used to call such a site a ‘portal’, but now they call it a social platform. Any site which collects and distributes content can be considered a media company.”

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?

“The old days always seem nice to think about. I was a print journalist then, from the old school of hard knocks.

“But in the old days, there were serious limits on newsprint space and television airtime. This forced traditional media content creators to be very brutal in curating content. It had to be more concise and the variety of content was limited.

“Today, we have a staggering range of content but there is an increasing lack of copy-editing and a decline in the standards of writing and editorial objectivity.

“The challenge now is for the viewer to decide how he wants to filter the news or content he wants to read, without getting pigeonholed into limited viewpoints.”

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?

“Could you tell if my responses above were written by me or by AI?”

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