SPH to launch online classified ads on Friday - Mar 21, 2006 (BT)

BackMar 21, 2006

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

SPH to launch online classified ads on Friday

First will be jobs site; property and others in pipeline.

By Wong Wei Kong
Mar 21, 2006
The Business Times

(SINGAPORE) Media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is launching online classified advertising to build on the power of its dominant print products.

Advertisers will be able to use the new Internet service on a stand-alone basis - or bundled with SPH's existing print ads to gain the widest market reach.

The service kicks off this Friday with a job site. And other offerings are already in the pipeline - including property advertising.

SPH will spend an initial $10 million to get the classified project off the ground and to boost the Internet news and information services it already operates under the AsiaOne banner.

'By going into online classifieds, which may nibble away at our print business, we are taking a significant step forward into the Internet Age,' SPH chairman Tony Tan said yesterday.

'We have to position ourselves for the day when technology changes radically the way we consume media. We will not be caught unprepared when that day comes. And our investment today will have paid off.'

According to a survey by the World Association of Newspapers, revenue from online classified grew 22 per cent last year - up from a mere one per cent in 2004 - and has now reached almost 8 per cent of revenue from print classified.

SPH chief executive Alan Chan said in response to media queries that the group does not expect online advertising to cannibalise its print classified business to a noticeable extent. He cited the experience of a major Scandinavian media group that launched online classified ads - after a few years, combined revenue from online and print classifieds exceeded what print alone generated.

'It is a very powerful medium, combining online and print. There are a lot of cross-refrences that we can make,' Mr Chan said.

SPH will build an e-market place called ST701 - denoting transactions seven days a week at one market place - and leveraging on The Straits Times brand.

First to open for business this Friday will be a job website powered by Redmatch, a global leader in online classified technology. Unlike other job sites, the service will offer capabilities such as resume-building, database management, job-tracking and matching and other value-added human resource management tools.

SPH's head of classified advertising Elsie Chua said the group hopes to capture at least 50 per cent of the online job market, worth about $8 million, in five years. Hiring companies will be offered packages that bundle online and print classified advertisements at competitive prices, or can sign up for online-only advertising. Access will be free for job seekers.

The job website will be followed soon by one on property. 'This is only the beginning. There will be many initiatives we will add over time,' Mr Chan said.

At the same time, SPH is revamping its AsiaOne portal by adding new content and services from its stable of more than 10 newspapers, 70 magazines and two radio stations, together with podcasts and vodcasts. All content will be regrouped under three key activities - work, live, and play. The sections will contain Internet links to the ST701 online classified site.

'The name of the game is capturing quality eyeballs,' said Mr Chan. 'SPH has succeeded in the print media and we aim to replicate this across as many platforms as possible. In this way, we and our advertisers can reach our audience on their preferred platform.'

SPH shares closed two cents down at $4.42 yesterday. Since the start of the year, the stock has risen 2.8 per cent, compared with a 7 per cent gain by the benchmark Straits Times Index.