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Art June 24, 2016 01:00


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Scoffing at publishing woes, the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Tan and Time Out shore up the Thai magazine trade

THAI MAGAZINE readers had a few less publications to thumb through by the end of last year as declining readership and advertising revenue drove some out of business, but 2016 already has at least four new ones – not just on the streets but also online.

Thais aren’t reading less – the National Statistical Office says 48.4 million of us spend an average of 34 minutes a day reading – but the format’s shifted from printed page to pixels. Under threat, many established print magazines radically altered strategy, but not all were successful in converting to digitalism, and those that couldn’t adapt ended up dying.

Just six months into 2016, though, we’re seeing new players riding the ground shift and four new brands freely sharing their content in both digital and print formats.

One is The Hollywood Reporter Thailand, launched in March. It’s the Thai edition of the starry-eyed American magazine founded in 1930. Focusing on literally everything that’s of interest in the entertainment industry and Hollywood’s intersections with fashion, finance, the law, technology, lifestyles and politics, it’s offering Thai readers insight scoops, exclusive interviews and insider analysis. You can get daily updates on its website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, while the print version is distributed free of charge on the first and third Thursdays of every month at BTS and MRT stops and in cafes and restaurants.

Riding along with The Hollywood Reporter is its sister magazine, Billboard Thailand, which is aimed at music lovers. Also debuting in March, the Thai edition goes out free every Thursday to the same outlets and carries daily updates at its own online platforms.

“Billboard is all about music and its cultural by-products,” says the editor-in-chief, Onsiri Pravattiyagul. “We’d like to think we offer a wide range of music-related content as well as music experiences, regardless of style or genre. We move aggressively online as well as at creative events. Personally I enjoy our columns where new faces get discovered. Our cover stories are also fun to read as well because they’re so well informed.”

Billboard Thailand is currently the country’s only music magazine following the demise of Thai-owned Music Express after 25 years in print and a few years online. “I believe in the synergy between print and |digital,” Onsiri says. “Strong content will always be the most important factor, whatever platform you |choose to deliver on. I don’t have a definite opinion on our future, but we’re trying our best to do what we believe in.”

Another newcomer in March was Tan Thailand, a monthly priced at Bt60 and proffering the unique concept of “outdoor culture”. It’s for folks who enjoy going out – and not just into the wilds of nature. It covers fashion, travel, lifestyle trends and health, as well as outdoor activities.

“The magazine grew out of my passion for travelling,” says its founder, popular rapper Apisit “Joey Boy” Opasaimlikit, who’s listed as creative |director. “A travel magazine doesn’t have to be all about fancy hotels, expensive destinations or photogenic destinations. It can be about travelling for a purpose – whatever your purpose is.

“Tan is meant to be a bible for travellers, a magazine that urges Thais to get out more, experience more and have more fun in their own individual way. And, since Thailand is a world-renowned destination, the stories are in both Thai and English so that foreign tourists and expats can get|the same information.”

Joey Boy says the thrust of the publication comes down to happiness, but perceptions of happiness vary. “A lot of people work hard to get more money and be happier, but then they might realise that they could just as easily step out and enjoy different kinds of activities that don’t require a lot of money.

“We haven’t set a target age group for readers because Tan is for everyone who’s young at heart,” he says. “If you like doing fun things, we have something for you!”

“People said it was a bad call to launch a magazine right now, but I don’t really care about that. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, even if it wasn’t going to last that long. We’re multi-platform anyway, so besides the print edition we also have our website, Facebook, Instagram and a YouTube channel and we organise a lot of events.”

Last month Bangkok became the latest member of the Time Out Group of publications that originated in England. Time Out Bangkok is also free and available in print form, online and as a mobile application.

“Time Out is basically an insider’s guide to the best things in the city – restaurants, bars, shops and things to do,” says editor-in-chief Top Koaysomboon. “While we generate our own content, we’re also authorised to re-purpose content from other cities too. So, while you keep yourself updated on new cafes and restaurants, you also get to read exclusive interviews with Hollywood stars and Brit-pop musicians.”

Famed for frank reviews and the absolutely latest event listings, Time Out first appeared in London in 1968 and now has editions in 109 cities and 39 countries.

“When it comes to restaurants, bars, hotels and happenings, we prioritise the digital media,” Top explains. “We have a team taking care of the website and mobile app. We have around 300 or 400 venues listed online and the number is growing. The phone app, which utilises content from the website, will be active soonest. Its users can offer comments on any reviews.

“Our main target groups are Bangkok residents and visitors ages 20 to 14 who want to get the best out of the city.”

The app will also connect with various start-up businesses so that users can make restaurant reservations, book hotels, summon taxis and contact other services.

Time Out Bangkok is in English and is distributed for free on the 1st and 16th of every month at the Skytrain and subway stations, cafes, malls and restaurants. A Thai version will be available on its website starting in September.