Media Q&A: Focus Malaysia

Focus Malaysia is a business weekly that publishes news and analysis on issues relating to corporate affairs, small and medium enterprises, economics, personal wealth and current affairs. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, it is now the largest circulating business magazine in its category. The magazine provides specialist coverage of companies listed on Bursa Malaysia, property news, the role of small and medium-sized businesses, and personal wealth management issues.

Focus Malaysia is also a platform for the discussion of macroeconomic topics such as wealth distribution, sustainability and the impact of innovation and technology. Led by a team of experienced editors and writers, the magazine offers in-depth coverage of topics relevant to business leaders.

Today, we sat down with Calyn Yap, the Associate Editor & Business Writer at Focus Malaysia, to gain insight on how their editorial team works to achieve the magazines’ goals. Calyn also shared a few important tips that Communicators should take into consideration when pitching their stories including : understanding the nature of the publication & the specific topics that journalists cover and doing in-depth research on the possible questions that might be asked by journalists when pitching to them.

1. Can you tell us about Focus Malaysia and the scope of your media including your reader demographics and how many people are there on your team?

Focus Malaysia started nearly 5 years ago in late 2012. We’re available in hard copy and online. We’re a weekly publication focused on Malaysian business news and are available on newsstands on Friday mornings. We have 6 sections – Mainstream (corporate), Property, Enterprise (entrepreneurs, start-ups, tech, SMEs), Income+ (personal finance), Markets (stocks, trades, bonds etc) FocusLife (lifestyle). Our reader demographics derive of those interested in business news. In terms of age, the majority of business readers tend to be older – 40-years-old and above. That said, we attract a fair number of younger readers ranging from 20 to 29 years-old. There is a team for each section, which has its own writers. I am part of a three-person team that writes/handles Enterprise. Altogether, the editorial team comprises of around 35 people.

2. How do you plan your editorial calendar?

The same as any other publication, taking into account timeliness and relevance of issues/topics/themes. Each section mostly manages its own editorial calendar and we have weekly meetings to pitch story ideas and identify any clashes. That said, there are specific times in the year where a recurring topic/theme will surface. For example, Hari Raya would see a business article related to the festive season, and the same with other major celebrations. One thing Focus Malaysia does have on a recurring basis is a bumper edition on the theme of the year forward/looking back that is published in late December.

3. How many releases do you receive & how many stories are churned out from them on a daily basis?

We receive around 10 – 20 releases a day, but as we are a weekly publication, we do not publish press/news releases as is. However, based on the releases we received, we publish in-depth analysis and features on current business issues and corporate activities, and each article is generally one to two pages. We churn out fewer articles daily when compared to dailies, but different sections have different target submissions.

4. Are there any specific topics you are looking out for in news releases?

Entrepreneurs, start-ups, tech, SMEs. Note that as SMEs are involved in a wide range of businesses/industries, matters relating to policy/legislative changes are also fair game.

5. What are the 3 Do’s and Don’ts when pitching a story to you?

i) Pitch it right – Do your homework and understand what Focus Malaysia publishes and the beat of the journalist you are pitching to. For example, PR companies should not call to ask if we will publish press/news releases. In the event there’s an angle that can be developed into a story from the press release, any interview pitch should be tailored to what the journalist covers. Don’t pitch something that is irrelevant to the journalist’s areas of focus and what Focus Malaysia covers. If the pitch didn’t succeed, never ask the journalist to pass the press release to another writer/journalist.

ii) Set the expectation level – Your pitch should have a background on the overarching topic, cover possible areas of discussion your spokesperson(s) has expertise on and their availability.

iii) Do some research – If you pitch a face-to-face interview with me (or any other journalist/writer) research possible questions relating to the subject matter that may be asked, instead of expecting me to send over questions. In my experience, there have been a number of times where I’ve sent over questions and all the interviewee does is parrot answers prepared beforehand. In these cases, an email interview would suffice.

There are others that aren’t directly related to pitching, including ensuring the availability of high-resolution photos and refraining from calling to chase writers/journalists on publication dates.

6. How do you determine the success of your stories, Eg. No. of shares, likes, the amount of discussion generated via your article, the no. of media outlets that credit you as their main source?

In the digital era, numbers of shares/likes and comments are important, but as we are very much focused on business, the amount of discussion generated (including by peers, the business community or authorities) is equally – if not more – important.

7. When is the best time to contact you and which mode of contact do you prefer? Friday, as it’s the day after the deadline or Monday works as well. Email is the best.

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