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Straits Times attracts digital audience with e-books app, in-depth content

The Straits Times STAR e-books app that offers digital-only content and re-purposed print articles.
The Straits Times STAR e-books app that offers digital-only content and re-purposed print articles.

The Straits Times STAR e-books app for users of iPad and Android devices is an elegantly designed gateway to the Straits Times’ expanding universe of digital content.

Launched in June 2014, it offers e-books with both exclusive digital-only content, as well as re-purposed print articles, for readers who are consuming more content than ever on their mobile devices. The app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times.

According to Associate Editor Sumiko Tan: “Our approach in ST Star is to re-imagine storytelling. The digital space allows us to create beautiful, exciting experiences for our readers, and we hope they will join us in this journey."

To date, Straits Times has launched two e-books on Singapore’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew; 13 issues of the monthly e-magazine The Life; two fitness e-books; and a few other titles. The total number of e-book downloads has crossed 500,000.

The app’s debut offering was the e-magazine, The Life, packed with articles on style, design, pursuits, travel, and food. This digital product was targeted at the nation’s urban and upwardly mobile readers, with aspirations to own beautiful homes and travel the world. The e-book attracted several high-end advertisers, including Cartier.

Next on the app’s virtual shelf were two fitness e-books. 100 Hot Bods is a collection of some of the most interesting physiques featured in the company’s Sunday Times newspaper, with tips on what it takes to get one. The book includes a guide to healthy eating.

The other fitness e-book, Personal Best, provides tips for runners to run a good race, from experts. The e-book employs some never-seen-before interactive features, including a 360-degree look at several shoe models.

Another feature in the book is a stop-motion-like animation used to explain how some stretching exercises are done. Unlike a regular video, this allows the reader to slide their finger through an image to see the sequence of an exercise at their own pace.

We have since introduced many more titles and promoted content via social media as well as print, to increase visibility and gain new readers.

With Ocean’s Fury — an e-book marking 10 years after the Indian Ocean tsunami — we sought readers from beyond Singapore. This was the newsroom’s most ambitious cross-media project of 2014, with videos of interviews with survivors and officials in areas hit by the tsunami.

Each chapter opens with a slideshow that leads readers into the theme. A series of interactive graphics was included to explain the science of the tsunami to readers. More than 13,000 copies were downloaded.

Two e-books on the nation’s founding father titled Lee Kuan Yew — The Man and His Ideas and Lee Kuan Yew: The Final Journey, which was released just days after his death in March this year — have been our most successful e-books.

The first e-book, on Mr. Lee and the ideas that shaped modern Singapore, was released in 1997.

Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez said: “We thought a younger generation of Singaporeans might be interested in this. But as this book is out of print, we decided to revive it, and decided to do so in a form that the young might find more engaging.”

More than 137,000 copies of the e-book were downloaded. 

The second e-book on Lee Kuan Yew, which contains more than 100 images of the seven days of national mourning, as well as video and audio clips, has been downloaded close to 78,000 times.

The experiment continues. 

About Chew V Ming and Shefali Rekhi

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