SPH Media’s Chinese titles to reach younger readers, go digital
Zaobao has to play role as key regional paper, tap value of unique Singapore perspective: Khaw
The main task of SPH Media Trust's Chinese titles is to expand their readership among young people while leveraging Singapore's unique perspective to draw in overseas readers, said chairman Khaw Boon Wan.
Speaking on his plans for the Trust's Chinese Media Group (CMG), he set out four key areas to address: making content more suitable for younger readers; using digital technology to more effectively bring good content to readers and listeners; recruiting and retaining talent to bolster operations while ensuring salaries are market-competitive; and systematically strengthening the skills of its journalists.
Mr Khaw's remarks were published in Lianhe Zaobao yesterday following an interview with CMG last week.
The group's daily newspapers comprise Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News.
Mr Khaw said the papers have to follow their readers and potential subscribers by staying relevant to their digital habits.
He added that serious investments in technology, hardware and software, and digital skills have to be acquired and strengthened to create first-class digital products that will attract and retain the digital audience. These are enablers, without which the best content from the best newsrooms will fail to reach the intended audience, said Mr Khaw.
For Lianhe Zaobao, as it transforms into an all-rounded news platform, it has to play its role well as a key regional Chinese newspaper and continue to cultivate its content and tap the value of the unique Singapore perspective. "There is a demand for the Singapore perspective because we are a rational, neutral player, and a successful political player in the world," said Mr Khaw.
He also said the role of Zaobao is not just as a newspaper, but that among the Chinese population, it has an important role of promoting the Chinese language.
"On this mission, Zaobao is an important partner of the Ministry of Education. We share a common interest to ensure that our young view the Chinese language beyond an examination subject," he said.
"It is to be used daily, as a way of life, as a bridge to our rich cultural heritage."
Mr Khaw's remarks come at a time of change for the local media landscape.
SPH Media Trust, a company limited by guarantee (CLG), will take over Singapore Press Holdings' media business in December.
The CLG is a profit-making commercial venture with profits reinvested in the business.
In May, mainboard-listed SPH announced that it planned to hive off its media business to a CLG as part of a company-wide strategic review.
Mr Khaw, the former coordinating minister for infrastructure and transport who retired from politics in June last year, was named chairman of the CLG. Former SPH deputy chief executive Patrick Daniel was named its interim chief executive.
On Sept 10, SPH shareholders approved the plan. Details of the transfer to the CLG are now being worked out.
When asked why there is still a need to appeal for donations and support from the public, given that the Government has pledged its support for the CLG, Mr Khaw said the Government's support is to help in digital transformation as SPH has not invested sufficiently in that space.
"We have a lot of ground to catch up. This requires serious investments in technology, product development and digital skills acquisition," said Mr Khaw.
Lianhe Wanbao to merge with Shin Min Daily News
Lianhe Wanbao will be merged with its evening counterpart, Shin Min Daily News, from Dec 26, with its last edition on Christmas Eve, said SPH Media Trust chairman Khaw Boon Wan in an interview published in Lianhe Zaobao yesterday.
Christmas Day, or Dec 25, is traditionally a printing holiday.
Mr Khaw said that with digitalisation resulting in a rising demand for instant access to news, it makes less sense to have evening papers, and most regional evening papers have folded. The merger will also be in tandem with efforts to help more elderly readers pick up digital ways of reading the news.
Mr Khaw noted that local media faces the same financial and resource pressures as the media in other countries do to close its evening papers, but that in consideration for the reading habits of the older generation, SPH Media Trust's Chinese Media Group decided on a two-pronged approach to address the challenge.
The first way is to consolidate resources by delivering only one evening paper, while the second is to help senior citizens learn and get accustomed to using tablets and other technology to read the papers, so that no one will be left behind in the Chinese newspapers' push towards digitalisation.
"They need guidance to learn to adopt technology, and need time to transition," he said.
"We must try to help every person, and understand the readers, what they are afraid of, because to change an old habit needs time and is a process."
Under the merger, Wanbao's resources and part of its content will be transferred to Shin Min.
Wanbao has been in circulation for 38 years, and Shin Min will mark its 55th anniversary next year. - THE STRAITS TIMES