Webinar Recap: Telum Talks To... SPH Media
By Chua Rou Hui
Earlier this year, Singapore Press Holdings announced that as part of a strategic business review, SPH Media Limited (SPH Media) will now operate as a company limited by guarantee (CLG). This has led many to wonder what exactly a CLG is and how SPH Media’s new business model will affect its newsroom, audience, and content.
Telum Media hosted a webinar with Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, English / Malay / Tamil Media Group and Murali Subramaniam, Managing Editor, English / Malay / Tamil Media Group.
They discussed the current and future business model of SPH Media and shared fundamental precepts on quality journalism.
The hour-long webinar was moderated by Telum Media’s Region Head of Southeast Asia, Haikel Fahim. It was attended by 350 media and communications professionals.
Restructuring: The new CLG model
In the COVID-19 period marked by rapid shifts and uncertainty, journalism plays an especially critical role in making sense of the world. For Warren, this meant bringing quality and integrity to the SPH newsroom and putting readers’ concerns at the forefront. The business model shift is hence precedented. SPH Media is not nationalised, as Warren clarifies, and remains commercially driven. However, a hallmark change in operations will take place – SPH Media will prioritise stakeholders, rather than shareholders, and profits made will be redirected to serve the interests of the public, journalists, newsgroups, and the business community. The new mode of operation will focus on growing sources of revenue, rather than reducing costs. This will see SPH Media invest in hiring new talents, adopting new technology, and growing the audience and brand both locally and internationally.
Changing media landscape: New operating model and plans
The change in business model reflects the shift in the media landscape, remarks Murali. As the media scene becomes increasingly dynamic with preference for easily accessible audio and visual content, feedback and engagement must be prompt to capture the audience’s attention. SPH Media is looking to hire talents who can bring content in such a fashion. They are investing in fresh and experienced journalists who can provide an interesting perspective, tell stories in a multimedia-fashion, with skills in visualisation and data journalism. As the investment in technology ties in closely with their investment in talents, the latter should possess data skills that help them analyse viewership figures and to better understand how they may get stories to people. As Warren adds, SPH Media has also invested in an award-winning AI tool that helps summarise and publish stories quickly. This is aligned with their overarching agenda of timely content creation, be it breaking news, website content, curated print content, or long-form analytical pieces. SPH Media remains collected in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape, with added emphasis on virtual events and visual content to boost their digital subscription base. As the new content direction takes its shape, Murali shares that multimedia journalists, video presenters and editors, marketing, events, and PR practitioners will be the immediate areas they are looking to fill in. The outlook remains positive as Warren and Murali see the joining of hands between talents and technology for the future branding of SPH Media as an audience-first media outlet.
The new business outlook anticipates exciting content in the pipeline, driven by audience’s interest. Key areas that SPH Media will focus on in the upcoming months include content across Asia, an invest section, lifestyle content and COP26.
Food, tech, and climate programmes
Influenced largely by trending topics, Warren shares that audience can look forward to a food show hosted by a prominent figure in the media industry, a video series on sustainability and climate change, a tech show and dialogue forums. He reiterates that SPH Media remains committed to creating engaging and relevant content.
Business news and strategy
Murali shared on the upcoming plans and strategy for business news, which will also be a key focus for SPH Media. SPH Media has a dedicated business publication, The Business Times, which has also launched new products in the digital space. Murali also added that The Straits Times has a strong business and investment section, and they intend to expand its business insights across the region. Expanding on the subject, Warren explains the difference between The Business Times and The Straits Times. The former will focus on corporate industry, business, and industry trends, while the latter will be consumer-driven with focus on the macroeconomy, such as career, investing, savings and retirement.
SPH Media will continue to work across the newsroom as they evolve structurally from a primarily print and editorial media title to a multimedia platform. They strive to make progress in storytelling across the board as they adapt to the audience’s changing demands and developments. Moving forward, despite the proliferation of editorial and online media titles in the market, SPH Media remains hopeful of its competitive edge as the brand that people know and trust.