Tamil Murasu’s print publication boasts an 84-year-old legacy, but it faced a challenge from the digitalisation of the media world. Its earlier Web site was too basic and in dire need of a revamp.

A recent survey by Limelight Networks done in 10 countries, including Singapore, showed that consumer engagement with digital content has grown over the years, and Singaporeans are among the least likely to pay for content.

For a vernacular newspaper such as Tamil Murasu, in a country where Tamils are a minority of just 6% of 5.7 million people, the challenge was multifold. It was paramount that Tamil Murasu take the next bold step into the digital world and reinvent itself.

Teams at Tamil Murasu conducted extensive research and worked together to completely revamp their online presence.
Teams at Tamil Murasu conducted extensive research and worked together to completely revamp their online presence.

Launching a new Web site is somewhat like having a baby, at least from a father’s perspective. I’ve had the good fortune of going through both. Once you know a baby is on the way, you feel a responsibility for ensuring a healthy delivery. Even though you cannot carry the baby yourself, you focus on giving full support to the mother, research a lot, and anxiously await results from anomaly scans to check on the baby’s progress and health along the way. If needed, you might make important interventions. Then you anxiously await the delivery date.

There are similarities between this prenatal journey and the project roadmap for a new Web site launch. As the product owner from the editorial team, you feel responsible, but cannot carry it through all the phases yourself. You also need the expertise of the programmers, designers, and analytics team. You conduct various reviews and the necessary interventions. You have already announced a delivery date to the world.

Just like in the delivery suite, there is a lot of worrying, waiting, and anticipation. A team stands by to address any complications, but there is still a sense of trepidation.

Then before you know it … wham! The Web site is successfully launched into the world. There is a huge sigh of relief. Everyone around you claps and congratulates you.

But the celebratory mood only lasts a few moments, as you realise this is just the beginning. Now the real work starts. Just like the regular feedings, medical check-ups, changing of diapers, you have to maintain the Web site, keep the consumers well fed so that they come back to you, while also growing pageviews, tracking unique visits, and thinking of new ways to grow revenue.

More than a redesign, Tamil Murasu underwent a complete strategic shift to a more integrated cross-team culture, data-driven newsroom, and hyperlocal content.
More than a redesign, Tamil Murasu underwent a complete strategic shift to a more integrated cross-team culture, data-driven newsroom, and hyperlocal content.

Before the launch, the team behind Tamil Murasu, including product manager Mark Cheong, spent an extensive amount of resources in research to better understand readers and deliver a news product that meets their needs. Besides speaking with Tamils on the ground and in schools, the team also visited India’s two largest Tamil news publications, Dinamalar and The Hindu (Tamil), to understand how to transform its operations to become a digital-first and data-driven newsroom.

This whole process showed many shifts in the news industry. Different consumers in different worlds react differently to the same product. Understanding our market, the product, and consumer behaviour was vital — and with the ever-changing digital world, this has to be done regularly.

Editorial and marketing/sales teams can no longer work in silos. Editorial members, especially when the team is small, need to equip themselves with a business sense. Likewise, the sales team also needs to fully understand the strengths and capabilities of the editorial team.

Tamil Murasu launched its new Web site on January 14, 2019, to meet the daily needs of the Tamil community in Singapore. It now features hyperlocal content that captures the nuances of the Tamil language, with content focused around Singapore news, including social issues and issues relating to the Tamil community, events, and festivals. It is designed for consumption on the go with breaking news and Tamil content available for readers both in Singapore and abroad.

Now in its beta version, more features and content will be added to the Web site as the team monitors how it is being used through data analytics and reader feedback.

And oh, by the way, my second baby (also a daughter) was born almost exactly a month after the Web site launch. So, in both cases, the work and sleepless nights have just begun.