World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Publishers work on transforming mindsets and culture, while producing innovative print and digital products

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Publishers work on transforming mindsets and culture, while producing innovative print and digital products

Jayant Bhargava, Vice CEO of Indonesia’s Kompas Gramedia Group noted that while interest in news is increasing, people no longer relied on traditional newspaper publishers for their news, and looked to websites and mobile applications instead.

To thrive, he said legacy publishers need to improve their product awareness, develop high-performing products in digital media and applications, and adopt a service mindset to grow non-advertising revenues, while courting small and medium size businesses and not just readers or advertisers.

While Kompas Gramedia has found it lucrative to venture into new sectors such as logistics, warehousing and courier delivery services to support quality journalism, Mr Bhargava acknowledged that the biggest challenge in transforming Kompas’ newsroom was the cultural change which occurred when more developers and user experience (UX)/user interface (UI) designers were hired to deliver next-gen tech-enabled journalism.

Malaysia’s New Straits Times Press Bhd’s Chief Commercial Officer, Alfian Talib, concurred that successful newsroom transformation requires digitally-savvy people. In converging three newspapers (starting with a successful integrated sports desk launched at the last Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur), NSTP’s editorial teams were unfazed that they were new to a ‘digital first, print follows’ strategy. Mr Alfian encouraged publishers to be courageous and to ‘fail fast, learn fast, and improvise’.

Sharing his company’s plans, Mr Alfian said that NSTP is building a newsroom that leverages state-of-the-art content intelligence and management software to execute a nimble digital-first process informed by real-time data analytics. They are using listening and trending technology to find news topics, educate people and work together to implement a digital mindset, focused on putting digital first. While expanding their digital platforms, they are increasing their understanding of who their readers are, how they consume news, and exploring verticals in education, lifestyle, parenting, food and sports.

Anthony Tan, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, described the listed company’s multi-pronged strategy to raise revenues while upholding quality journalism. He likened the expansion into healthcare services to stabilising a two-legged stool of media and property with a third leg of healthcare. 

SPH’s media initiatives include investing in a digital team to deliver good experiences, reaching out to users through mobile apps, running several niche online marketplaces, and engaging communities on the ground through events like the Straits Times Run, and cross-promoting their digital platforms and radio stations on print. Mr Tan also cited several successful partnerships to provide richer offerings to existing audiences and attract new ones. These included collaborating with the media industry’s ‘frienemies’, Google and Facebook, partnering with telecommunications provider StarHub to offer free data for new audiences, and preloading news product ads on Samsung devices to promote sign-ups. 

Mr Tan concluded by saying that it is important to realise that SPH needs to change, and to figure out what cultural and mental barriers need to be overcome to enable transformation.

Rajiv C. Lochan, Managing Director & CEO of The Hindu Group, eroded psychological barriers with a lot of patience when he raised cover prices in India’s largest English newspaper group which reaches over 100 million readers daily. He quipped that The Hindu’s cover price was comparable to the scrap price of newspapers in some Southeast Asian countries. Hence a series of small price increases every few months allowed readers to adjust without feeling the pinch. The Hindu’s readers, he said, are willing to pay cover prices that are five times more than those of rival daily publications, and a 30 per cent premium over other business publications. THG circulation revenues increased by 12 per cent CAGR over five years while others flatlined.

THG has maintained a strong track record for innovation since its first weekly newspaper was published in 1878 by four law students and two teachers. While most other regional newspapers focused on non-print or non-media revenue expansion, the founders started a print-based consumer-focused initiative by mining their substantial archives. For 100 rupees, readers could retrieve content from as far back as 1881 to running a small print order across a large titles list. Half a million copies of this initiative have been sold so far and they are aiming for five million by 2002.  

In addition to print initiatives, THG also embraced an integrated approach to digital and on-ground activation and advertising partnerships. Participating in the One India alliance extends their reach to 150 million print readers and 200 million digital readers, and running India’s only paid ePaper attracts a thousand new subscriptions every day. THG has also diversified into niche educational online content for children, business undergraduates, working professionals, home buyers and aspirational English Language learners. This highly respected newspaper group in the world’s largest democracy continues to innovate while invoking its mantra, “We are The Hindu Group and we are going against the grain.”

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post has ambitious plans. Its COO, Elsie Cheung, unveiled five major areas to support the transformation of this legacy company inside out from “a regional paper covering the world” to “a global media company with regional expertise” elevating thought and leading the global conversation about China.

To establish a digital, agile, integrated and joyful culture, SCMP has revamped its physical work environment to enhance collaboration, allow reflection and focused work in quiet spaces on one hand, while creating a social buzz, on the other. The newsroom has been restructured with a dedicated printing team that frees 90 per cent of its staff to take care of digital news in real time and repackage content for different audiences through different distribution platforms. The team now includes UX/UI experts and behavioural scientists to understand how people consume news.

SCMP has been reorganised into news, recruitment, and magazines divisions, and created new products for Asia and the US to serve multiple tiers of readers interested in understanding what is happening in China. SCMP has also rejuvenated its brand with a new maritime-inspired logo that symbolises “I want to communicate with you” and visually represents its two-pane balanced approach to news reporting. It is a powerful and apt metaphor for a Hong Kong legend turning a new page to the future.




SCMP’s new logo is an iteration of the international signal flag Kilo, which means “I want to communicate with you.

(Edited by Joon-Nie Lau)




Joon Nie Lau's picture

Joon Nie Lau


2018-06-07 08:20

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