SPH to spin off media business

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will be hiving off its media business amid declining advertising revenue. Despite its efforts to digitalise and provide contents online, revenue has kept dropping.

While media used to be the core business, it’s the company’s other businesses — property and nursing home — that are holding the fort now.

The decision to spin off the media business into a non-profit organisation caught many by surprise.

Social media posts were filled with comments from current and past employees, as well as many others in Singapore. The company has reportedly held town hall meetings with staff to address pay cut and retrenchment concerns.

Despite its formation only in 1984, SPH is an institution that delivers news in the major languages to all in Singapore. It used to be the main source of news for the nation until the advent of the Internet.

Easy access to news contents from around the world made it harder for SPH’s titles to compete. News is avaiable digitally almost instantaneously while newspapers only come out the next day.

It put its contents online but wanted to monetise it by having some contents accessible only to paid subscribers. Though online income grew, competition was stiff as many sites provide contents for free.

Advertising revenue kept declining as advertisers either had reduced budgets or turned to alternatives, such as Facebook and Google, which offered more targeted outreach.

SPH had to make a move to be financially viable and accountable to its shareholders. The transferring of the media business to first become SPH Media, then a non-profit organisation in the coming months, is a massive move as part of the strategic review.

“With the resources that SPH is providing upfront and the prospects for public-private partnership funding going forward, we anticipate that SPH Media will have a more sustainable financial future. It will have the resources to focus on transformation efforts and quality journalism, as well as to invest in talent and new technology to strengthen its digital capabilities,” said Lee Boon Yang, Chairman of SPH.

SPH has joined many others to become yet another victim of the ever changing digital landscape. It will not be the last but hopefully, through this move, its titles will live on and provide quality news contents in the years ahead.

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