The face of information infrastructure in Cambodia, as of 2015

The year 2013 marks the biggest transformation of media landscape in Cambodia. Like in most countries, digital technology – particularly mobile – and the Internet play the forefront role in this media remodeling. Today, the most influential platform for information sharing is social media. In Cambodia, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become better alternatives, if not substitutions, to traditional – mainly government-censored – media known as print, radio and television.

This major change in information communication owes to a radically sharp increase in access to affordable Internet and smart devices like phones and tablets. As of 2015, one- third of Cambodian 15 million population are connected online – a growth from 3.8 million at the end of December 2013, and from 2.7 million at the end of December 2012. The data also show that mobile is overwhelmingly driving the traffic with 98.67 percent of Internet subscriptions come from mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

Affordable Internet and mobile infrastructure have made information flow very instant, especially when users embrace the power of social media. There is a whole new set of practice in how content is consumed by users of social media and mobile.

According UNESCO, “social media have certain unique functions traditional media lack. More than a communication tool, they allow users to receive news and information more quickly, engage in information sharing and exchange, name and shame acts of violation, and receive feedback and comments in real time through posting, sharing, liking and commenting.”

Mobile devices also have unique characteristics. People use mobile to take advantage of the downtime that they have between activities. They’re looking for distractions, whether they’re standing in a line or waiting between meetings. This basically means people like to dip into social media and other content platforms via their mobile devices for a short period of time, albeit very frequently, throughout the day.

Cambodian mobile and social media users are not alien to these new behaviors. The Internet demographic in Cambodia is rather young with more than 50 percent aged under 23. These young media users are very accustomed to sharing and consuming news and information in real time on social networking sites via smartphones and computers. In fact, they do not have the patience to wait for scheduled content normally offered by traditional media like print, radio and television anymore.

Cambodian citizens expect the media to act as their eyes and ears, investigating issues and problems that are important for the people to know about.

Professional news industry is unavoidably being disrupted due to these emerging media trends while its relevancy is still critically significant. Cambodian contemporary society may relies on social media for news and information, but “Cambodian citizens expect the media to act as their eyes and ears, investigating issues and problems that are important for the people to know about,” said U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, William E. Todd. There is a demand for news organizations to invest in finding effective ways to deliver their content that best fits the audience’s behaviors in the new media landscape. News needs to be online and instant.

As of 2012, there are 30 registered – approximately 300 unregistered more – daily newspapers in Cambodia and only 11 television channels. Radio stations are counted in total at 160 in 2013. Only several of these publishers and broadcasters have shown investments in online medium in addition to their primarily focus on print and broadcast. Given the fact that the number of Internet users keeps rising dramatically from year to year, online news is becoming an attractive venture. There are simply not enough supplies of quality news products – text, audio and video – online for the growing audience.

To take advantage of this opportunity, existing and future news organizations must understand the online media nature and infrastructure, exploring the latest phase of website development, social media implementation, and mobile integration. The study of audience behaviors is as well a crucial component to making news content relevant.

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