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Undercover remake: Goodbye bluetop, hello faces

Feeling Blue? Here's How to Find Property Report

Sunday, May 18, 2008
PSST. WE can tell you where the familiar blue masthead of Property Report Thailand went. It vanished from the shelves in April, to be replaced in May by a swankier looking magazine with a much larger cover price.

So . . . what happened? And what exactly is going on with the old, familiar magazine?

For those of you who figured that the property market in Thailand had gone bust, and with it the popular industry magazine, we can only say: hardy-har-har. Very funny. Not.

The familiar bluetop (cover price 100 baht) simply morphed into a modern magazine (cover price 150 baht, or 1.5 baht a page).

It has a new motto, ''The trusted source for Real Estate news,'' perfect binding, a face on the front, fresh types and lots of colorful photo spreads inside.

When a well-known publication has a major makeover, there are risks that it will shake off readers, along with its old image.

Many would-be buyers have probably gone looking for Property Report Thailand and the old, familiar blue mag just isn't there.

We tracked down low-key publisher Duncan Worthington in his Phuket lair and asked him how the new-look PR Thailand was faring.

''Initial reaction has been good,'' he told Phuketwan.

''We had two or three nasty emails from a few people who couldn't recognise it because we lost the bluetop.

''A few people feel we've sold ourselves down the river. But because of the redesign, I'd say there's actually more content.''

The international element is certainly more prominent, and there's a turn towards consumer-lifestyle products and information, with photos to make readers drool.

Some of the authority of the old familiar ''industry magazine'' should return once the readers are comfortable holding the new baby.

An added surprise comes with the revelation that a Thai language version of PR is now being published. It launched two months ago.

''That's going to be a slow grower,'' Mr Worthington says. ''But reactions have been positive.''

As everyone who has tried it comes to learn quickly, publishing in any language in Thailand can be a rough business.

PR Thailand, which this month is celebrating its fourth birthday, got off to a shaky start but the publisher now says the bad old days are long gone.

''We have had our ups and downs,'' he admits. ''But the magazine is well-respected among people in Thailand. I think we've cemented that good relationship.''

Other publishers have settled for a working life on Phuket. At 33, Mr Worthington now has his eye on franchising the PR model as well as expanding Ensign Media's corporate client publishing endeavours.

While the production of PR Thailand happens in Bangkok, with sales offices in all the appropriate spots around the country, accounting and finance make Phuket its home base.

Phuket is also home to Mr Worthington, who came from Britain to Thailand 10 years ago to spend six months with Safari Tours, stayed on, then worked for a local publisher for three years before trying some ideas of his own.

As Mr Worthington's background is in environmentalism, he sees the irony in now having a close connection with property. But it's also an opportunity to lead developers to improve quality and balance.

PR's annual property awards have promoted the best in the Thai industry and more innovations can be expected for the 2008 awards.

His forecast for Phuket property: ''It's going to be status quo through the low season and probably the coming high season as well. ''I don't see any major ups or downs.''

What does Phuket need most?

''I think the regulations regarding property are quite good. What they need to do is enforce them. There are always rumors about raising the height limit from 80 metres to 120 metres.

''I don't see any benefit in that. But I have no problems seeing Phuket developed more.

''People say its over-developed. Look at Tenarife, Spain, the Canary Islands . . . that's over-development. Phuket is almost virginal by comparison.

''Infrastructure is the big thing. That's sliding behind. Phuket did actually have good infrastructure, keeping pace with tourist development, until about seven years ago.

''That's where the huge investment is needed. We need to get the infrastructure up to speed, for sure.''

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You say from 80 metres to 100metres . . . the last time i looked, the 80 metres was a joke. 25 years ago they said you could not go higher than the tallest tree. But then again, the tallest tree is the one on the top of the hill

Posted by brian on June 11, 2008 14:11


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