Managing Editor Ben Blaschke speaks to Inside Asian Gaming CEO Andrew W Scott about the recent decision to rebrand IAG’s parent company to O MEDIA as well as the current media landscape in and around Macau. By Ben Blaschke
Ben Blaschke: Hi Andrew. Our company, World Gaming Group, recently rebranded itself to O Media. What was the reason behind this corporate rebranding?
Andrew W Scott: Well our corporate name of World Gaming Group was a legacy name as a result of our first publication, World Gaming Magazine, which a few years ago rebranded as WGM. Since then we have acquired Inside Asian Gaming and we’ve recently launched a new magazine called High Life. Through 2017 we also plan to launch a number of other media brands as well – not all of which will be print publications.
Since we will have this wide range of media which doesn’t relate to gaming, the previous corporate name doesn’t make sense anymore. So we have rebranded to O Media – the “O” being from O Mun, which of course is the Cantonese way to say Macau. Since our brand is very much centred in Macau and we want to strongly identify with and support Macau as well as the wider Asian tourism industry of which Macau is essentially the capital, that’s why we chose O Media as our new name.
BB: How has the company changed since it first began in 2009?
AWS: A lot! When we started there was really only four of us and only two were based in Macau. Now we have around 42 staff – not all of whom are in Macau but most are. We have expanded so much and broadened our horizons. Originally we were just a small company producing one magazine in an area that we were comfortable in, which was gaming. But over the last eight years we’ve made so many friends in Macau, we’ve learnt so much more about Macau and we have a greater understanding of what Macau is and needs. Our products and offerings have expanded to match.
BB: How has the media landscape in Macau and southern China changed over the last 10 years?
AWS: It has changed dramatically. I think specifically in Macau, a lot of media was for a long time just there at the pleasure of the gaming industry. We don’t have a very advanced media ecosystem in Macau at this stage like you would see in Hong Kong or Singapore or other cities around the region. O Media is trying to do something to address that.
When the gaming industry went through its downturn a few years ago a lot of budgets were reduced and it became a lot harder for media companies in Macau to get revenue from gaming companies and other large corporates. So that has put the pressure on the media industry. It has made things difficult and we have to change as a result of that.
“We don’t have a very advanced media ecosystem in Macau at this stage like you would see in Hong Kong or Singapore or other cities around the region. O Media is trying to do something to address that.”
BB: As you mentioned, O Media has recently launched its latest publication, High Life. Can you tell us a bit about that?
AWS: High Life fills a gap in the market that we perceive. For many years now we’ve wanted to make a non-gaming magazine because Macau really has so much to offer apart from gaming. And even though the vast majority of Macau’s revenue still comes from gaming, you’ve got to remember we’re talking big numbers here – so 10% revenue from non-gaming is still a significant amount of money in absolute terms.
It’s been quite a few years now that the government has been saying they wanted to expand non-gaming, so we wanted to play our part by launching a high quality nongaming publication. We also wanted Macau to be known as a place where you come to get the very best – the very best in Asia and indeed the very best in the world. We do really believe that Macau will become, if it isn’t already, Asia’s undisputed leisure and tourism hub. We still have some way to go to get everything right but we believe it willinevitably become the Asian equivalent of Las Vegas which is the centre of tourism and entertainment in the Americas.
We needed a magazine to reflect that. At the same time, we didn’t just want to be a luxury magazine. We also wanted to have a part of the magazine dedicated to the interesting parts of Macau that people don’t always get to see, so while High Life does have indulgence and high end retail in our magazine, it also has a section called Society that features not just celebrities but also interesting people in Macau that probably wouldn’t get into other magazines. They might be artists, chefs or even just grungy and edgy people that are different.
The other thing is that we really wanted to make the magazine beautiful, really high end, so we’ve got some great photographers – one in particular who is our fantastic lead photographer – and the imagery in the magazine is simply superb. I think it’s probably the best in Macau.
It’s not really a magazine that has a lot of words in it but the words we do have pack a punch. It is very artistic. We only have four issues so far and are making our fifth now but in four short issues our team has taken the magazine to an extraordinarily high standard. high standard. I expect through 2017 that standard will rise even higher. High Life will definitely be the most beautiful magazine in Macau if it isn’t already.
From its very first issue in November 2009 to its latest in January 2017, WGM has come a long way over the past eight years.
BB: Can you talk a bit about the media talent in Macau and the challenges the industry faces in finding great people?
AWS: That’s actually a real problem and we’re not the only industry that has this issue in Macau. You have to remember it was only a few short decades ago that Macau was little more than a small country town to be honest. It is to Macau’s credit that in the last decade in particular it has expanded and grown, incomes have risen and the offerings have become high end. But it takes generations for talent to develop. From generation to generation people need to be educated and it takes many years to instil certain attitudes and cultural beliefs and work ethics and so forth. So the human resource talent in Macau has lagged behind the growth of Macau – and media is no different.
The number of really good journalists in Macau can be measured in the 10s, not the 100s, so it’s tough. We’ve been seeking out the very best in Macau but sometimes you do have to hire from outside Macau, use people from Hong Kong and the like. That’s our very last resort though – we do try to find talent from within Macau. Fortunately, as O Media becomes more and more well known, some of the talent is starting to gravitate to us which is great.
BB: How does the media in Macau differ from the media in Hong Kong?
AWS: Well the main thing is that there is no strong, established media ecosystem in Macau. In a big city like Hong Kong, the media industry is big enough to have separate companies providing separate services, so there will be companies that create content, companies that have well-established distribution networks, companies that purely do graphic design and layout, independently operating sales forces, companies that do strategy and some that do social media work.
In Macau we don’t have that. Each individual media proprietor does everything for themselves and that’s a little bit problematic. I hope some of that can actually change over time and some of the media companies in Macau can cooperate a little bit more.
I recently went to a Christmas event in Hong Kong for Hong Kong’s senior media executives. There were over 100 people there and they were all friendly, all working together because during the year they help each other and work together almost as a team. They hire each other. When you get a media event in Macau with all the CEOs of the media organizations, there are probably six or seven of us and we’re all doing our own thing, which is not ideal.
BB: What role does modern media play in Macau and how viable is it?
AWS: Not as big a role as it should play. Obviously media is changing and it’s a challenge for traditional media companies to handle that change. Revenues are down and they are down because user-generated content is a big thing, social media is a huge thing.
It is our challenge over the next 12 months to make sure O Media is a company that focuses on social media. People want their news and their information and their entertainment right now. They don’t want it next month, they don’t want it next week, they don’t even want it tomorrow morning. When news breaks, people want it on their phones immediately. That’s the direction the world is headed.
So we have to do that and we have to create content that is distributed to people’s phones directly. The content needs to be made for that distribution medium, rather than simply taking a news or magazine article and just posting it online. That’s not really very effective. But it’s very necessary to have a paper magazine or newspaper to give your media organization credibility, because there are millions of what I call JAWs – Just Another Website. Anybody can create a website, but by having a beautiful, glossy magazine or a broadcast TV station or a radio station or a traditional newspaper, that gives your electronic product credibility.
So in Macau we’re not doing that very well. We are making some inroads – some of the companies are doing some things well, so we have websites and a social media presence – but that natively created electronic media content is not very strong yet in Macau. That’s certainly the direction we’re going to be heading in the next 12 months.
BB: Is the media in Macau influenced by mainland China?
AWS: It depends what you mean by that. If you mean is it influenced by the mainland Chinese Government and does the mainland Chinese government put pressure on media companies in Macau, I would say absolutely not. As CEO of O MEDIA, I’ve never, ever had any member of any government department lean on me directly or indirectly to either publish something or not publish something. In fact, this is one of the biggest misconceptions in the West – that Hong Kong and Macau media are heavily influenced by the mainland. It’s never happened to us and I’ve spoken to the other media proprietors who say it has never happened to them either.
If your question means is the content we create influenced by things that happen in China, then yes, absolutely we are. Macau is part of China and even though it’s a very different part of China, what happens in China really affects what happens in Macau in many ways.
We’ve constantly got an eye to China and what is happening there when it comes to our reporting of news for the region.
O MEDIA recently launched luxury leisure and lifestyle publication High Life
BB: Finally Andrew, what is O Media’s long term plan?
AWS: Well, with apologies to our friends in the other Macau media companies, our vision is to be the largest media company in Macau. And by that I mean to capture the largest number of eyeballs – a very large chunk of the over 30 million people who visit Macau each year. Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for companies outside of Macau who want to get their message to those affluent people who visit Macau. We’re even hiring people in positions that have long-term plays, where the pay-off for those positions won’t really be seen for maybe three or five years or more.
So we’re planning long term and will hopefully soon have more than 100 staff with many media channels – not just print media but digital media, outdoor media and whatever it is that the times dictate. As society changes, we will change with it.