A multi-media group with diversified interests (BT)

BackAug 04, 2009

ST poses questions to SPH chairmanTony Tan and CEO Alan Chan

How well has SPH progressed since its inception 25 years ago?

Tony Tan (TT): SPH has grown and developed from a newspaper company to a multi-media organisation with different media platforms ranging from print, online, outdoor to broadcast. We also have diversified into non-media businesses like properties, search engines and directories, and events management.

For our traditional print products, we have constantly revamped and rejuvenated them to reflect the latest trends and be relevant to our readers' ever changing needs.

Today, we are indeed South-east Asia's leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.

What is SPH's biggest challenge today?

TT: Changing media consumption habits, the population's language proficiencies and preferences, and technological advances are just some of the factors affecting the survival and success of a media company like SPH.

This means that our editorial teams need to know their audiences very well and have a very good feel of the ground in order to ensure that their products meet the needs and expectations of their readers. They must continuously deliver credible content reflecting their professionalism.

Our advertising sales teams need to constantly stay on top of the latest marketing trends so that they can help clients achieve a campaign that will maximise results. They are consciously moving towards an integrated marketing approach to achieve the best marketing mix for their clients with SPH's wide spectrum of advertising platforms.

Our business is closely tied to Singapore's economy. The challenge to all staff is to conserve resources in these hard times, and to emerge stronger when the economy recovers.

Diversification has been a part of SPH's business strategy in recent years to reposition itself for the ever-expanding interactive world. What other potential areas of investments do you think SPH can consider down the road?

TT: As a multimedia company, we focus primarily on expanding our portfolio of media on all possible platforms.

We are also interested in relevant or adjacent businesses that can complement and synergise well with our existing products. Our recent acquisitions of and the Straits Times Press are good examples.

Other than that, SPH will also be on the lookout for strategic alliances such as our involvement in the OpenNet consortium which will provide passive fibre grid services for Singapore's Next Generation National Broadband Network. I would say that anything is possible as long as it makes good business sense, and we have the management expertise.

What other plans are on the horizon in this area?

TT: We have every intention to continue to excel in our core media business and other adjacent businesses. We intend to do as well for our online media as we did for our print and publications.

We are investing in the future and embracing changes as they come. This is why we have invested in a lot of innovations and will continue to do so. Our printing and production facilities are among the most advanced in the region, and we revamp our products every now and then to stay updated and refreshed.

Sound investments in new businesses and the latest innovations, as well as continual improvement of our products, will put us in good stead for the future.

Our corporate mission statement is: Inform, Educate, Entertain. After 25 years, SPH's new tagline is: Engaging Minds, Enriching Lives. Has there been a shift in focus or are both the mission statement and new tagline still relevant today?

Alan Chan (AC): Our mission statement to Inform, Educate and Entertain still remains at the heart of what SPH sets out to achieve.

Beyond that, we aspire to connect with our stakeholders across multiple languages and platforms. This is spelt out in our new brand essence and tagline – Engaging Minds, Enriching Lives. This corporate philosophy reminds us to go the extra mile to make ourselves relevant in the lives of every Singaporean.

What changes do you foresee in the next 10 years in the newspaper industry in Singapore? What is your vision for SPH?

AC: Traditional media like newspapers still have a vital role in modern society. The key is to update and refresh ourselves and continuously deliver credible and differentiated content. With the information explosion, people will need to find a trusted source of information that will differentiate it from the noisy new media. I always tell people that our flagship newspapers are the most cost effective news filter in Singapore. For less than a dollar a day, one can get access to the latest happenings and the most trusted opinions on affairs of the world.

SPH has been leveraging on our trusted content, advertiser relationships and financial resources to invest in a variety of new media and businesses. A lot of our new media products would in time gain acceptance and popularity.

How successful has been our diversification into new media and other areas and do you think we can do more or have we achieved what we set out to do?

AC: In the fast-changing world of technological advances, SPH manages to hold its own with a suite of new media products which caters to the diverse needs of various users.

Our news portals, including and are constantly being expanded and improved on and Singaporeans see the value in them. Other sites such as STOMP, ST Razor TV and have all resonated with netizens and are drawing large followings. Statistics from Hitwise and Nielsen etc show that they are growing healthily.

Our marketing portals include the most popular online marketplace, ST701 and Rednano, Singapore's first local search and directory engine. ST701 has consistently led the pack in most professional surveys and polls. Rednano has accumulated for itself several international accolades within the industry for its innovation in the short time since it was launched.

We recognise that there is much more that can be achieved and we are set on reaching greater heights in new media. We take a long term view in our resources invested in new media, and it's an on-going learning process. The fact that we are already beginning to see success in some areas will spur us on to improve on our new media products to strengthen their positions in the market.

What plans have been put in place to attract talent and what kind of talent is being sought?

AC: We are in search of talents with a passion to establish a long-term career in the media business. To achieve this, SPH has in place a comprehensive career package that is competitive with the rest of the market, both within and outside of the media industry.

As a testament to our commitment and efforts towards recruiting and retaining talents, SPH was awarded the Leading HR Practices in Talent Management, Retention & Succession Planning Award by the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) at the Singapore HR Awards in July this year. We also received a Special Mention in Compensation & Rewards Management.

We also believe that increasingly, employees want to work for a company with a heart. SPH has an excellent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme that covers a diverse spectrum of causes, including the arts, education, charity, community, sports and conservation. For our efforts, we have received several CSR awards over the years, ranging from Distinguished Patron of the Arts (NAC), Patron of Heritage (National Heritage Board), Corporate Gold (ComChest) and the most recent HR Advocate Award for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the Singapore HR Awards.