SPH Media Trust Chairman Khaw Boon Wan Aims to Accelerate Digital Transformation in Newsrooms, Singapore News & Top Stories


Accelerating the digital transformation of newsrooms is a priority for SPH Media Trust, which will take over the media operations of Singapore Press Holdings.

“We challenge ourselves to innovate, design and deliver a richer reading experience, taking full advantage of the capabilities of digital technology,” said Khaw Boon Wan, chairman of the trust.

Newsrooms have already embarked on the digital switchover, he noted. “We are not starting from scratch. My job is to give them a bigger push, with clear direction and serious financial support.”

Newsrooms will be bolstered with more talent and resources, especially in creating digital media, he said in an interview with The Straits Times.

“Years of cost reduction have weakened our editorial staff; we are going to rebuild them systematically. We will consolidate resources, in favor of digital media, ”he said.

“I have urged newsrooms to aim high and focus on aggressively growing digital subscriptions.”

SPH Media Trust, a limited liability company (CLG), will take over the media activities of SPH in December. The CLG is a for-profit commercial enterprise with profits reinvested in the business.

In May, motherboard-listed SPH announced that it was planning to divest its media business to a CLG as part of a company-wide strategic review.

Mr Khaw, the former coordinating minister of infrastructure and transport who retired from politics in June last year, has been appointed chairman of the CLG. Former deputy managing director of SPH, Patrick Daniel, has been appointed interim managing director.

On September 10, SPH shareholders approved the plan. Details of the transfer to CLG are being worked out.

SPH Media Trust will host more than eight news titles in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, including The Straits Times, The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu.

SPH Media Trust Chairman Khaw Boon Wan said in an interview that newsrooms would be strengthened with more talent and resources, especially in the creation of digital media. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Mr Khaw said he has spent the past few months learning more about the media industry and talking and listening to employees in different divisions.

Delisting from SPH’s media business is not a silver bullet, he said.

“But this is a critical first step, without which newsrooms will continue to shrink, ultimately failing in their mission to produce quality journalism,” he said.

“We do not underestimate the challenges, as the digital disruption of the media industry continues unabated and we have wasted precious time. We have a lot to catch up with and we are determined to close the gap. There will be resource constraints. We will have to prioritize and focus our efforts. “

He outlined three major initiatives for English-speaking editorial staff.

First, the resources of the Straits Times newsroom will be extensive.

“We are going to make it a fully multimedia information operation that delivers content on all platforms for our audience throughout the day,” he said.

Second, The New Paper will be fully digital, with a revamped website launching on October 25 and its final print edition on December 10.

Launched in 1988, TNP began as a lunchtime newspaper on sports, crime, and entertainment, and also famous for its TNP Big Walk event. It became a free sheet in 2016, targeting the commuter crowd.

Going digital will allow SPH Media Trust to better serve TNP readers, he said.

Third, the CLG will accelerate the Business Times (BT) digital transformation.

“BT’s newsroom will be digitally driven, with new processes and a new culture of collaboration, across editorial, technology, data and product development,” he said. BT’s transformation will pave the way for larger CLG newsrooms to do the same next year, he added.

At the same time, said Khaw, the CLG will work tirelessly to improve the digital customer interface and customer experience, and to make its content more engaging and relevant to its digital audience.

The resources of the Straits Times newsroom will be extensive. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Talent is the key, he noted. “We invite talent to join our mission in all fields – those who care about the future of journalism in Singapore; who want to work on difficult problem statements; and experiment with new ways of digital storytelling. “

But changes and improvements will take time, given the legacy issues. “We are looking for the understanding and patience of our subscribers and colleagues,” he said.

Mr. Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of SPH’s English / Malay / Tamil Media Group, said: “The transition to CLG offers our newsrooms a hopeful new opportunity to get things done. This allows us to stay focused on our core business. mission – to deliver quality information that people feel they can trust and trust, across all of our platforms. “


Mr. Lim Han Ming, editor-in-chief of The New Paper, said the NPT team will focus its resources on delivering content of human interest and heart that is lively and engaging on its website – tnp .sg – in order to better serve its readers and maximize its readership.

BT Editor-in-Chief, Wong Wei Kong, looks forward to the challenge of advancing BT as a digitally-driven newsroom, “not just in products but also in culture, processes and cross-functional work. , and this in a sustainable manner “.

SPH restructuring – the backdrop

SPH Press Center in Toa Payoh. SPH Media Trust’s move would allow the media industry to focus on quality journalism and invest in talent and new technologies to strengthen its digital capabilities.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

On September 10, 97.55% of the shareholders of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) voted in favor of a plan of the company to separate from its media activities, paving the way for the formation of a limited liability company. by guarantee (CLG) called SPH Media. Confidence.

The plan was first announced by SPH on May 6 as part of a strategic review of the group’s activities, which include real estate, shopping centers and student accommodation.

Explaining the reasons for the move, SPH said the media industry has faced unprecedented disruption in recent years, with SPH’s operating revenues halving over the past five years, largely due to due to lower revenues from print advertising and print subscriptions.

SPH’s media business recorded its first-ever loss of $ 11.4 million for the fiscal year ended August 31 of last year.

The transfer would allow the media sector to focus on quality journalism and invest in talent and new technologies to strengthen its digital capabilities.

As part of the restructuring, all media-related companies, including affected subsidiaries, employees, the Press Center and Print Center and their respective leases, and all intellectual property and technology assets of related information, will be transferred to SPH Media Trust.

The CLG will operate as a revenue-raising business, but all profits will be reinvested in media operations rather than distributed to shareholders. Examples of such businesses in Singapore include universities, The Esplanade, and Gardens by the Bay.

The structure of the CLG will also enable it to seek funding from public and private sources. The government has said it is ready to support the CLG with funds for initiatives such as digital innovation and capacity development.

The new CLG will initially receive financial support from SPH, comprising $ 80 million in cash and $ 30 million in shares.

With the split in the media sector, SPH will no longer be subject to the provisions of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act (NPPA), which limits each stake to just 5 percent.

Keppel Corp, meanwhile, offered to acquire SPH via a privatization offer after the media business was split. The offer, which values ​​SPH at $ 3.4 billion, will see SPH delisted and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Keppel. Keppel’s share of the deal is around $ 2.2 billion.

As part of the offer, shareholders of SPH will receive 66.8 cents in cash per share, as well as 0.596 units of Keppel Reit and 0.782 units of SPH Reit per share. SPH shareholders are expected to vote on it next month or in November.

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