Marketing Guide

History of Print Media in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the advertising industry had started many decades ago. Today, newspapers and magazines are among the most popular advertising media among advertisers and companies alike. This is because Malaysians are known to be avid readers despite the growing popularity and demand for online content and media.

How printing came to Malaysia

To trace back the print media in Malaysia, one must understand the country’s history where much like many other places, the printing press was ‘migrated’ to the then Malaya by the Europeans. Then, Malaya had its first English Language newspaper known as the Government Gazette before it was renamed as the Prince of Wales Island Gazette (PWIG) which started in March 1, 1806.

This was circulated in Penang which was then known as the Prince of Wales island managed under the British East India Company. The newspaper was targeted for the colonialists and expatriate readers and was not intended for the locals of the island then which was operated by an Indian entrepreneur known as A.B. Bone.

Progressing under colonial laws

Take note that this was at a time when there were no commissions or law that govern the printing of newspapers under the Straits Settlements. Bone had requested from the governor of Penang to censor the publication which many believed is the start of print media and the regulating of its practices in Malaysia.
PWIG would continue to circulate for the next 21 years in which a few other publications came about and disappeared as easily and were mainly published in Singapore, Malacca and Penang, the 3 Straits Settlement states. Throughout this era, there were no local language newspapers as the language was not as formalized.

First Local Newspaper

In 1876, the Jawi Peranakan newspaper was published. This was to be the first Malay weekly publication and before long, many others followed suit which included:

  • Al-Imam
  • Lembaga Melayu
  • Utusan Melayu

Singai Warthamani, the first Tamil newspaper would come out around this time while it would continue to see The Straits Times and the Malay Mail all gaining popularity before the Japanese occupation.

After the war, new publications like Suara Rakyat came out while the others which were outlawed during the Japanese era re-emerged as well. One of the most prominent events in the publishing industry took place sometime after independence that saw Utusan Melayu becoming a wholly owned company of UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) becoming the main mouthpiece for the political party. Today, the print industry is said to be strongly linked with politics as they are owned or indirectly owned by the parties.