Two years on, COVID-19 continues to be the news making headlines globally. For Malaysia, besides the pandemic, 2021 was also a year it grappled with political instability and deadly flash floods. Looking back at the year, media intelligence company CARMA conducted a review to find out the top 10 events and trends shaping Malaysia news in 2021 - and its not all gloom and doom. While the shadow of the more serious matters loomed, the brighter news did make its way into the media.

Here are 10 trending topics journalists were covering, which PR professionals can take note of. 

1. COVID-19 (SOV – 55.9%)

With more lockdowns in the second quarter of the year, the kick-off of the largest vaccination campaign, booster shots, and emergence of new variants, it is hardly surprising that COVID-19 had the largest share of voice in the media, making up more than 50% of the news reported. The Malaysian government also introduced the COVID-19 Intelligent Management System (CIMS) 3.0 to manage applications by industry to operate during the Movement Control Order (MCO). According to Google Trends, CIMS 3.0 was ranked the top COVID-related search in 2021. Coverage around COVID-19 began to taper down as the population started to get vaccinated and the nation eased into an endemic phase.

2.  New Prime Minister and state elections (SOV – 8.4%)

Malaysia’s political news continued to be a key agenda in the media last year, following a series of continuous and rapid political developments that took place in 2020. 2021 saw the resignation of Malaysia’s PM, Muhyiddin Yassin, after 17 months in office, and welcomed its new PM, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, on 20 August 2021 – the third federal government in three years. This was followed by two state elections in Malacca and Sarawak at the end of 2021 which drove up the share of voice of political news in December. As communicators, it is worth thinking about how we could navigate this political news landscape to the favour of our brand or corporate stories.

3. Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics (SOV – 6.8%)

After a year’s delay, the Olympics was very much anticipated. With COVID-19 management creating an additional layer of complexities, all eyes were on it. The 2020 Summer Olympics received great attention from the media. However, unlike how it had been traditionally, coverage was not purely on the games and athletes this time around but included pandemic management too. This unique position made the Olympics the most reported global event in Malaysia media.

4. COP26 and climate change (SOV – 6.5%)

With climate ambitions being a key agenda of most governments around the world, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and climate change were another key area that created headlines in the media. On the domestic front, stories around efforts and initiatives to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint had been consistently carried by the media throughout the year. For instance, Malaysia announced its commitment earlier in the year to reduce its economy-wide carbon intensity (against GDP) by 45% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The Malaysian Forestry Policy 2020 was launched in March 2021, amongst others. As a subject that aligns with the global agenda and will infiltrate businesses and lives, it is no doubt climate change has been of great media interest.

5. Financial aids (SOV – 6.2%)

The pandemic has adversely impacted the local economy and businesses. In 2021, the Malaysian government introduced several financial assistance schemes such as PEMULIH package, i-Citra and Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) to help Malaysian citizens and businesses during the pandemic and especially after the enforced lockdown. These initiatives were well-covered in the media and came up as some of the top searches on Google’s Trends.

6. Gaming (SOV – 5.8%)

Amidst seemingly unwavering news around COVID and lockdowns, online gaming has slipped into the daily lives and conversations of Malaysians. It is interesting to note that stories around gaming and e-Sports made it into the top 10 in Malaysian media. A new click game called "Popcat" went viral and took Malaysia by storm in August, after the Olympics came to a close. Malaysians came together on the virtual space to help the country get a Gold in the leaderboard, for the Golds they had missed at the Olympics – what great influence a virtual game can bring!
Carma, events, trends

7. Cryptocurrency (SOV – 3.4%)

Cryptocurrency continued to gain attention in Malaysia in 2021, mainly driven by news in the region. It was reported that interest in cryptocurrencies is exceptionally strong in Asia, accelerated by high adoption of digital payment and the introduction of NFTs, amongst other developments. All these have clearly pathed the way into the Malaysian media. Additionally, with all the talk about Metaverse and how brands can carve a meaningful space for themselves, this trend is certainly one that is worth delving deeper into.

8. Malaysian floods (SOV – 2.5%)

2021 did not end on the brightest note for the country as it was hit by the worst floods in years, just before the year ended, leaving more than 71,000 people displaced, infrastructure damaged, lives and businesses disrupted. This drove the huge surge in media coverage in December with up-to-date flooding situation reports, news on humanitarian work, and assistance provided to the residents.

9. Cybersecurity (SOV – 2.4%)

Ransomware attacks and data leaks have been a key issue on the radar of corporations, and Malaysia is certainly not spared. In September 2021, the personal data of millions of Malaysians kept by the National Registration Department (JPN) was leaked and appeared to have been put up for sale. The Malaysian government called for a cybersecurity audit on government websites and recent news reported that “at least 90 government websites are still “not secure” despite months after audit announcement”. As we enter the digital world, news around cyber-attacks looks likely to spill into the new year as it continues to be an area that businesses need to battle with.

10. 5G rollout (SOV – 2.2%)

As the nation prepared for the rollout of 5G, Malaysian media has been closely reporting on the developments involving the Digital Nasional (DNB) and several relevant stakeholders. At long last, 5G went live in Malaysia on 15 December in three main city areas, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, alongside Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, provided by two of the country’s oldest mobile operators Telekom Malaysia and YTL Communications.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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