SPH rethinks its magazine distribution

By Hafizah Hazahal

SPH Magazines

Singapore, Singapore


Upon mentioning “magazines,” one can easily recall the colourful glossy books filling up the once-crowded stands in bookstores before the Internet hit us. Those crowded bookstores were one of the very few ways to access content back then.

Fast forward to today: Mobile devices that follow us wherever we go, together with fast Internet speeds, make it all too convenient for us to depend almost entirely on the Web for content. As a result, magazine stands are now almost always devoid of crowds, with some places even removing these stands altogether.

SPH Magazines has created pocket-sized subscription cards, allowing readers to access their favourite magazines where and when they want them.
SPH Magazines has created pocket-sized subscription cards, allowing readers to access their favourite magazines where and when they want them.

To follow where the crowds go, most legacy magazine publishers launched brand Web sites. However, in this vast digital space, they have to compete with many other content providers that are not confined by geography and, most importantly, content expertise. Most of them will converge on social platforms to jostle for audience attention.

Given this, it is not surprising to hear about Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer, which found the level of trust in online platforms (defined as social networking sites, microblogging sites, and online forums) has further declined globally. This is a trend observed since 2016. By publishing its content on social platforms, magazines face a risk of diluting their trustworthiness.

At the same time, and perhaps not surprisingly, the same study found trust in journalism (defined as mainstream media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, online news sites, and widely followed blogs) registered an increase, and journalism is now more trusted than platforms in 21 out of 28 surveyed countries.

What can magazines make of this good news? The answer: Bridge the physical-digital divide. Offer the convenience of having magazine content right on people’s devices, without diluting its value.

One way publishers have done this is by creating their own magazine apps or sharing their content with aggregator apps that pool together various publishers. However, apps are having a difficult time getting discovered in the App Store. Even when they are discovered, chances of them being used are low, because they compete with more popular apps such as Facebook.

Publishers need fresh ideas to market their digital magazines. SPH Magazines took up that challenge and has come up with a solution: Pocket-sized subscription cards mounted on magazine stands in bookstores. It is a return to their once-glorious position in the market but reinvented to fit into readers’ new lifestyles.

With these cards, readers will be able to access their favourite magazines anytime and anywhere on their devices. And, unlike print issues that have short lifespans on the shelves, readers will get the latest issue of the magazine at the point of card activation (regardless of when the card was purchased).

There is also the possibility of launching seasonal cards for special occasions such as Mother’s Day and Christmas — a perfect gift idea for loved ones to indulge in some “me time” wherever they are.

These cards are currently available at all Times outlets in Singapore for all SPH Magazines titles. Talks are currently in place to distribute them in other retailers in Singapore and regional countries. 

About Hafizah Hazahal

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