Media in the time of MCO: Malay Mail grew most in readership among major English news sites

Online traffic numbers tabulated by the Malaysian Digital Association (MDA) showed readership for Malay Mail grew 250 per cent over a seven-day period in the month of March following strict measures taken by the government to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

The surge in traffic was accounted for during the period of seven days ending on March 21, the week that saw the announcement and enforcement of the movement control order (MCO) that forced people indoors, with statistics obtained in January used as a baseline for comparisons.

MDA’s numbers showed Malay Mail had performed the best among other English news sites, and were perched in second place in terms of overall percentage of spike in traffic during the monitored period, losing out only to Mandarin daily China Press.

Other news sites also saw significant increase in readership, including, in descending order, English dailies The Star and Free Malaysia Today who were closely trailed by media houses under the NSTP group, Malay news site Berita Harian and its flagship New Straits Times (NST).

The remaining sites which made up the study group in order of performance were Astro Awani, Malaysiakini and Harian Metro, with no numbers provided for government-run news agencies Bernama and RTM.

“With households hunkered down at home, desktop and mobile web traffic showed a mass migration to online services for news, conference calls, grocery shopping, and delivery, and entertainment during the third week of March.

Sequential change in year-on-year growth rates in traffic to major news websites in Malaysia. — Screengrab of the Malaysian Digital Association and market intelligence SimilarWeb's report
Sequential change in year-on-year growth rates in traffic to major news websites in Malaysia. — Screengrab of the Malaysian Digital Association and market intelligence SimilarWeb’s report

“Hungry for news and information, Malaysians flocked to online media outlets, with sequential traffic surging between 190 per cent and 250 per cent during the rolling seven-day period in the third week of March for eight key publisher platforms, and 276 per cent for a ninth, China Press, (when) compared to the first half of March,” read MDA’s report.

Another period that was closely monitored by the MDA was the first half of March, where when compared to January’s traffic, showed at least a 40 per cent increase for all agencies across the board, but were still incomparable to the spikes seen during the MCO.

NST and Malay Mail both recorded the most significant spikes, with both agencies clocking in at well over 80 per cent increase in traffic during the beginning of March as compared to earlier in the year.

“The huge swell in the third week of March 2020 by far outstripped the growth in traffic to media properties earlier in the first quarter, which largely arose from interest in the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government and ascent of the Perikatan government,” read the report.

Today, Malaysian enters its 15th day and second phase of the 28-day MCO enforced to break the chain of infection of the Covid-19 outbreak.


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