The Straits Times rebuilding mobile and digital content for the media industry to remain competitive.
The Straits Times rebuilding mobile and digital content for the media industry to remain competitive.

The year 2015 marks Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence. The year also marks the 170th anniversary of Singapore’s oldest printed newspaper, The Straits Times.

These are two significant milestones distinctly marking the journey we have taken as one people and one nation. In the same way Singapore has transformed from third world to first, The Straits Times has mirrored this evolution by going from a print-only product to an interactive, full-blown expression across a multiplicity of devices and platforms. 

These are exciting times for us at Singapore Press Holdings! Starting on July 1, The Straits Times began a major revamp with a consistent new look and feel that will cut across both print and digital, giving readers the quality content that has come to be associated with the brand.

Our investment of US$1.19 million for this revamp extends the group’s commitment to excellence in the context of today’s current media landscape, where most readers consume news across a variety of physical and electronic devices.

Our team of editors and designers worked with Lucie Lacava, a multiple award-winning designer from Montreal, Canada, and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Newspaper Designers in 2010, to come up with a fresh design that ensures a seamless experience whether the newspaper is being read in print or on computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

We even commissioned a special new font, called Silane, exclusively for the newspaper.

The Straits Times’ digital apps and Web site have also been rebuilt from the ground up by international digital user interface specialists at Tigerspike, which has a track record including work done for The Economist and The Telegraph.

The new user experience will be faster, sharper, and more stable, and allows more customisation and sharing of content than ever before. There will also be more video and interactive graphic content.

The old-style paywall, which used to put much of its content out of reach from non-subscribers, will be moved to a metered paywall, which accords non-subscribers a certain number of free articles a month to read in full and share with their friends and contacts on social media.

To sum it all up in four key words, the revamped Straits Times will be more local, global, visual, and social:

More local because readers can expect a substantially beefed up “home” news section.

More global because its growing network of correspondents and contributors around Asia and beyond will deliver regular insights and special reports.

More visual because the newspaper’s award-winning photographers, videographers, graphics artists, designers, and cartoonists will have more room to showcase their skills in both print and online.

And more social because the metered paywall will allow readers to experience and share content readily, including engaging with our correspondents. 

At a time when industry pundits and pessimistic soothsayers the world over are sounding the death knell for print media, The Straits Times is confident that in putting out a well-thought-through, integrated, consumer-centric product that resonates hugely with today’s audiences, we can delight our readers across platforms and devices.

With richer content and better user experience, we look forward to a surge in our all-in-one subscriptions!

2015 is a watershed year for SPH across many aspects of our business. In my previous blog post, I shared about the SPH Plug and Play Accelerator programme in collaboration with Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play business accelerator and Infocomm Investments, a fully owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

This collaboration aims to build a strong pipeline of high growth, innovation-driven tech start-ups to address challenges the media industry will face.

Although the programme targets to admit up to 20 media tech start-ups within the next year, our first run, which has just closed, generated 282 sign-ups!

So whether it is augmenting the traditional business to ensure its continued relevance as in The Straits Times’ revamp, or exploring a new growth opportunity as in SPH Plug and Play, the mandatory directional impetus must be forward. A crucial sense of urgency must prevail. There is no glory in resting on one’s laurels.

Future proofing must be the name of the game. If the organisation you work for is not plugged in and thinking like a start-up, if it is not regularly trialing new concepts and business models, and if growth hacking does not feature prominently from day to day, there will be no podium finish.

We have everything to fight for. So let’s do it, or lose it!