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Straits Times allows subscribers to share content with social circles

By Chew V Ming

The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings

Singapore

Have you ever read an exclusive interview or special and wish you could share it with your family and friends? Subscribers to The Straits Times (ST) can do that now, thanks to the “Gift an article” feature launched on the ST Web site in November 2020.

With the feature, ST subscribers can share content exclusive to them with as many people as they wish. Those who receive the gift links simply register for a free mySPH account to access the subscriber-only articles.

A new “Gift an article” feature allows The Straits Times subscribers to share content exclusive to them with as many people as they wish.
A new “Gift an article” feature allows The Straits Times subscribers to share content exclusive to them with as many people as they wish.

Empowering subscribers

We developed this feature in response to requests from subscribers to share content recommendations with their social circles. It helps us get more registered users and has the added benefit of allowing more readers to sample original and exclusive work produced by the ST newsroom.

“Our subscribers have told us they would like to share with their families and friends the ST articles they enjoy reading. With the recent revamp, there is even more fresh and interesting content in print and on our digital platforms,” said ST Digital Editor Ong Hwee Hwee. “This new feature will allow more readers to sample the best of ST's work.”

Agile development

The development of this feature was a multi-disciplinary affair that involved business, product, tech, and editorial teams. We studied existing implementations of other publishers and made recommendations to fit our users and their sensibilities.

For example, to play well with our paywall strategy, do we set up sharing caps on the sharer or the recipient, or both? After considering ST users, we went with a monthly cap for recipients in our first iteration.

Within weeks of confirming the business rules, we worked with UX designers and developers to roll this feature out to 5% of our subscribers. This small initial launch was to observe how users were interacting with the feature in the real world on various devices and to give us the confidence to launch it to a much larger pool of users.

By mid-December of 2020, we were ready to release this to all ST readers. It was a happy coincidence that “Gift an article” was very much on-theme with the Christmas season then!

Straits Times subscribers who want to share ST articles with family and friends can now do that with the ST Web site’s “Gift an article” feature. After clicking on the gift icon (left) at the top of a story, they can send a “gift link” to their recipients.
Straits Times subscribers who want to share ST articles with family and friends can now do that with the ST Web site’s “Gift an article” feature. After clicking on the gift icon (left) at the top of a story, they can send a “gift link” to their recipients.

Positive results

We have seen strong results by empowering our subscribers. The registration rate of a gift link recipient is 60% higher than regular channels for sign-ups.

Similarly, the sharing rate by subscribers is 50% higher than usual. We also observed that more subscribers shared articles over weekends than weekdays; this shines a light on our readers’ habits and helps to inform our content strategy.

The positive results validate our hypotheses and suggest that more can be done on our platforms to tie social activities in with our users’ news and media consumption habits.

What’s next

We are already looking at improving the top-of-the-funnel step for this journey: How might we get more subscribers to share? How might we make the “Gift an article” more obvious and useful without disrupting their core reading experience?

For gift link recipients, we are looking at ways to make the registration process even easier.

This is part of the ongoing journey to improve our products for subscribers and readers, as their lifestyles and habits change. Our goal is to offer more ways for our most loyal users to make their news-reading experience more personal and more social while offering content and services that fit the busy lifestyles of our light users.

We plan to build “Gift an article” for the ST apps and other Singapore Press Holdings products, and continue to iterate on the feature to improve both sharing and registration rates.

About Chew V Ming

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