Expanding ST online with blogs and breaking news - Aug 04, 2008 (ST)

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The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

Expanding ST online with blogs and breaking news

The Straits Times is improving and expanding its online offerings in a big way.

By Sumathi V. Selvaretnam
Aug 04, 2008
The Straits Times

THE Straits Times is improving and expanding its online offerings in a big way to draw more readers who spend a lot of time on the Internet.

BUZZ FROM BEIJING: Sports correspondents Rohit Brijnath (left) and Marc Lim, together with the China Bureau, will be bringing ST readers the tales of triumph and defeat at the Beijing Games, along with stories outside the sporting arena. They will also blog on their observations in the new Olympics blog that the free ST website is launching. -- ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIM

The newspaper is undergoing several changes this Friday in a revamp that will see the print edition getting a new design, complete with a new masthead, changes in headline and text fonts, and new content in all sections.

For readers who go to the Internet for news updates, the new and improved website will deliver more breaking news free of charge at throughout the day.

From Friday, the free ST Breaking News site will deliver more content, and journalists at the paper will also post their blogs on news and other events.

ST editor Han Fook Kwang said the improvements to ST Breaking News reflect efforts to deliver the news in as many different ways as readers want, in a changing media landscape.

'We aim to excel in our print product, which is read daily by 1.3 million readers. We also want to reach out and interact in new ways with many more through our new online offerings,' he said. 'We want to serve all our readers better, on all platforms.'

Leading the online news effort are editor Joanne Lee and Breaking News editor Irene Ngoo, who have been getting the newsroom geared to think 'online first' throughout the day.

'Our journalists are filing news reports for online as it happens. We want to be the place readers turn to for accurate breaking news, just as readers have come to trust The Straits Times for its stories in print,' said Ms Lee.

'We know that readers are changing, and more of them spend a lot of time online every day. We want them to get the news from us, and participate by giving their views, talking to our news bloggers and contributing content.'

A survey conducted by the Research, Analysis and Planning Department at Singapore Press Holdings on Online Media Consumption and Habits in May showed that significantly more readers in the 25 to 34 age group are reading news online regularly.

Four in 10 of them read the news online daily.

Apart from local, world and regional news, they also sought entertainment, sports and crime news.

To give online readers the latest, the ST Breaking News site will have ST journalists filing from the field.

With a phone call or text message from the reporter at the scene to the newsroom, online readers will get updates as the story unfolds.

ST photographers will be doing the same with pictures.

'Filing for online news has injected a buzz into the daily reporting routine as the pace is a lot quicker,' said Breaking News editor Irene Ngoo.

'Reporters have to be more agile, nimble and work faster and smarter to get their breaking news story in, especially if it's a running story as they have to provide updates too,' she said.

Reporters like Jermyn Chow have been bringing online readers the very latest in news developments like the exorcism trial of Madam Amutha Valli Krishnan.

'In the midst of the trial I sent SMSes on the exchanges that were taking place in the courtroom. During breaks, I would call in with a fuller update,' said Mr Chow, 26.

His work day and that of the 300 reporters across the paper has changed since breaking news updates have become a big feature of the free site since last September.

Reporters will file a summary of the story for online news before working on the print version for the next day.

The online story will also be updated throughout the day.

Deadlines for filing online stories are now part of the daily news schedule, said Ms Ngoo.

In addition to local news, she also tracks contributions from ST foreign correspondents and the news wires closely to ensure that regional and international breaking news on the website is up-to-the-minute.

Readers in turn can post their views immediately for greater interactivity.

For a different take on the news, they can also turn to the news blogs, which will also be part of the free site.

Four main blogs are planned - on Singapore news, on regional and international news from the paper's foreign correspondents, on editorial action in the newsroom and the Beijing Olympics.

Sports correspondents Marc Lim and Rohit Brijnath will anchor the Olympics blog, supported by ST's foreign correspondents from the China Bureau.

Singapore Olympians, past and present will also share their experiences and views.

'The blog will give you a flavour of everyday moments at the Games - things that you won't normally see on TV or in news reports,' said Mr Lim, 32.

For online subscribers, the revamped site will offer them more exclusive content and a choice of accessing ST Digital through any one of three options.

The package will include an e-paper which will show the actual page layouts, an e-reader which can be downloaded for reading on-the-go and a full HTML site.

Subscription costs for the enhanced package will remain the same at $60 for 12 months for print subscribers and $120 for non-print subscribers.

To register, go to the home page.