Media Q&A with Michelle Zhu, Online Editor of The Edge SG
PR Newswire recently sat down with Michelle Zhu to get a sneak peek into the daily routines and challenges of an online editor at The Edge Singapore. Here you will find out more about The Edge Singapore and the type of stories that will attract their attention, plus a scoop on how Michelle decided to step foot into the media industry.
1. Tell us more a bit more about yourself?
I started out as a copywriter at Saatchi Lab, a subdivision of Saatchi & Saatchi, about nine years ago. It was my first media job which I stayed at for two years before moving on to editorial roles at smaller firms, many of which are now defunct. In my past roles, I’ve dabbled in editorial subjects on a B2B and B2C basis across a broad range of topics including weddings, luxury & lifestyle, F&B and hospitality. I still write advertorial copy for our clients from time to time, so that experience at Saatchi Lab has come in very handy.
Personality-wise, I can be described as an ambivert depending on the situation and my mood. As for hobbies, I’ve been stuck on Dota 2 (and the versions before that) for years now, but wouldn’t really call myself a gamer as I am pretty bad at it, not to mention other games. Most of the songs on my Spotify playlist may be classified under the metal genre, although I’m far from being a metal head as I do appreciate some indie, pop, rock, alternative and EDM as well. And admittedly I’m a bit of an alcoholic, even though my tolerance for it is pretty below-average.
2. What made you move into the media industry?
English was perhaps my only strong suit as a student as it’s the one subject that doesn’t require intensive studying and memorisation. I’ve always been an avid reader and aspiring writer, so the composition component of homework and exams were actually the fun part of education for me… Needless to say, Literature became my favourite subject in junior college and therefore the only one I scored an A in for the GCE ‘A’ Levels. With that, I guess media was the natural industry alternative if I didn’t want to end up teaching.
Strangely enough, a number of my family members are also in the media industry although their career pathways had no relation to mine. My uncle was a deejay several decades ago and is still in the industry today as a radio programme director. My younger sister joined the industry a few years after I did; she’s a reporter for an online news platform as well.
3. Can you tell us more about The Edge Singapore and the type of news that you are constantly on a look out for?
The Edge Singapore is a business and investment weekly and the sister publication of The Edge Malaysia. We mainly focus on SGX-listed companies, their corporate movements and updates, and discuss how these might impact the local and regional markets. Our editorial team is led by Benjamin Paul, who really is the face of TES but is too humble for fancy job titles. We think of him as our editor-in-chief although he simply calls himself an Editor.
Aside from SGX-related news, we also cover updates on major mergers & acquisitions, VC funding and startups & entrepreneurs. These topics, too, can be found on the online platform of The Edge Singapore (formerly known as The Edge Markets Singapore) which I am mainly responsible for working on. Most of our content except for Digital Edge, the digital replica of the main paper, is FOC. You can expect shorter, punchier and more instant news on our website as compared to the main paper, albeit less elaborate compared to print. Also, because we have shorter deadlines, we don’t usually have the opportunity to conduct face-to-face interviews or gather comments on particular issues due to the desk-bound nature of the job.
There’s also a lifestyle section I occasionally contribute to. It’s called Options, and is run single-handedly by my colleague Audrey Simon. It regularly highlights news in the luxury fashion, timepiece, automotive, retail and dining scenes, and provides more lighthearted but by no means less important reading material as part of The Edge Singapore.
4. Do you think press releases are still relevant in today’s world?
Yes, definitely! Press releases are a valuable source of official information and can be considered the foundation of the communications industry. The hard part, though, is distinguishing a proper press release from a marketing brochure as you often find the latter masquerading as the former these days.
5. What are some of the differences in managing and writing for print and digital content? What are some of the challenges you faced?
My work mostly comprises writing for our website, and for that, time is always of the essence. My direct manager is not strict about this but personally, an online article should not take more than 20-30 minutes to complete – else you’d be taking too long and missing out on other possibly more newsworthy stories or announcements, or end up falling too far behind other news sites. It’s therefore a daily challenge for us to get each story out as soon and hopefully as accurately as possible; which is why we work on shifts starting from 7am and sometimes till late into the night. In my managing editor’s case, he voluntarily keeps a lookout and puts up stories over the weekends.
Print stories naturally have slightly longer deadlines but also require a lot more time and effort per story. Our journalists spend a good chunk of their workdays running around attending events, conducting interviews (the biggest headache is transcribing, of course) and trying to get a good scoop while maintaining their editorial integrity. That is just based on my observations as I haven’t contributed much to the main paper in print, save for the lifestyle stories I work on for Options.
In general, acquiring and organising high-res images for print can also be quite time consuming as compared to gathering material for online. Another challenge often faced by print writers and editors would be making sure that every laid-out PDF during the pre-press stages is absolutely perfect before it goes to print – else the mistake will be, dramatic as it might sound, immortalised on paper for all of eternity.
6. What are some of the features that you look for in a press release (and any additional tips for writing press releases covering the financial sector)?
Neat, concise and to-the-point information is always the defining factor of a decent press release. Unfortunately, too many marketing / PR agencies tend to oversell their interview candidate or product, and this only serves to create more work for us, i.e. having to “filter out the fluff”. Randomly highlighted, bolded and coloured text for emphasis also knocks off points for professionalism and credibility, and overall is just painful to look at.
I’m also always appreciative of press releases which have links to the high-res images for use in print, especially when it’s pitched from a lifestyle angle. Unless the point of contact can respond to you almost immediately, it’s a pain having to request for and wait for the materials, and having it all laid out, ready and available for download just makes it a much smoother process.
7. What do you foresee the financial themes or trends to be in 2018?
Tech companies and stocks in the relevant sub-industries (tech manufacturing, cyber security, fintech, and so on) dominated headlines in a mainly positive way throughout 2017, and though I’m too new to The Edge compared to my colleagues to comment on it, it seems that many analysts and economists are expecting this trend to continue well into 2018 and beyond.
Following a relatively stable and quiet year for global stock markets in 2017, plenty of us are also expecting volatility to return soon as the calm can’t possibly last forever. And as recently discussed in one of our cover stories, the hype over cryptocurrencies may no longer be as positive as it was last year as regulators begin to clamp down on the crypto-economy.
About the author:
Stephanie Lau is the Audience Development Executive focusing on the Singapore market at PR Newswire. If you would like to be featured, please get in touch (Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org)