Magazines growing despite challenge from Internet - Dec 11, 2007 (ST)

BackDec 11, 2007

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

Magazines growing despite challenge from Internet

Big trade event hears of challenges as well as opportunities for magazines.

By Chua Hian Hou
Dec 11, 2007
The Straits Times

THESE days, time-starved people may have less time to sit down and read, but many are still picking up their favourite magazines.

In fact, the magazine industry is growing. Magazine advertising expenditure last year grew by 26 per cent, the highest increase among all media types including newspapers, television and cinema.

The two-day Worldwide Magazine Marketplace (WMM), a magazine trade event, which kicked off yesterday at the Suntec Convention Centre, also drew an unprecedented 450 participants and exhibitors.

The WMM has always been held in London, but event organiser International Federation of the Periodical Press (IFPP) decided to hold this year's event - its seventh - here.

The decision reflected the 'growing importance of the magazine industry in the region', said IFPP chairman Pierre Lamuniere.

Singapore alone boasts more than 3,000 publishing and printing firms, of which 700 publish books, journals, magazines and other products.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Dr Lee Boon Yang, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, noted that the Internet may be competing with magazines for readership and advertising, but the online world also offers magazine publishers tremendous opportunities.

They include branding and marketing, and new ways to make money such as selling access to archived stories.

Dr Lee added that even as the magazine industry here grows, it faces an increasing challenge from 'rapid digital media developments and the Internet'.

Developments in the online world, from YouTube to Facebook, 'will pose strong competition for the consumer's time and money...(and) for a share of the advertising dollar'.

But the Internet also offers publishers opportunities in terms of promoting their publications to an online audience, he said. Publishers can also use the Internet to make money from say, selling access to its old stories or selling other on-demand content, he said.

Publishers can also use different mediums to cater to users with different needs, said SPH Magazines chief executive officer Loh Yew Seng.

SPH Magazines, which publishes 90 magazines here including Her World and Home & Decor, has a booth at the WMM, and one of its executives is a moderator at one of the events.

Print allows for a 'touch and feel' experience, while online publications cater to those with 'urgent requirements, instant needs', said Mr Loh.

So, having both print and online publications allows a publisher to meet the needs of all of its readers and advertisers, he added.

Another publishing group, The Lexicon Group, is also revamping the websites of its stable of titles such as Wine & Dine, Smart Investor and New Man.

Previously, all it had were 'static websites' that duplicated online what it had in print.

The sites are now all down for a revamp, said its president for Singapore publications, Mr Azhar Khalid.

When completed in January, readers can look forward to 'a lot more interactivity', he promised.

Magazine Publishers Association of Singapore (MPAS) president Ho Sum Kwong said that 'magazines will have no choice but to engage the Internet platform if they want to move forward and not backwards'.

As an industry association, the MPAS is working on helping publishers in Singapore to exploit the Internet by offering them training and other resources, he said.

It wants to make sure that every magazine here will 'at least have a website', he added.