Defending profit margins through transformation at Singapore Press Holdings

With a profit margin of 35%, many newspaper publishers would consider Singapore Press Holdings to be in an enviable position. But Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of the company’s English and Malay language newspapers, says that guarding that margin is a tough challenge. Daniel was speaking at the opening session of the World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 3, 2013

The company’s flagship English-language paper is The Straits Times. “At The Straits Times we had to make some key decisions,” Daniel said. One of these is how to price digital products. At first, the paper put a very low price at first, of 10SGD/month. When it launched mobile apps, however, the price was upped to equal print, and now, digital pricing is slightly above print.

“What we’ve discovered is that for the digital subscriptions we have regained our pricing power – we can’t raise prices in print but we can online,” Daniel said. The Finanical Times has found the same, he added.

When digital and print subscriptions are combined, the numbers overall are going up, he said. “Readership and the demand for news remain high,” he added.

The problem, of course, is that as readers migrate to digital, the ad revenues can’t support the cost base. Google is dominating online advertising, Daniel noted, and although he said he doesn’t blame Google, “they’ve taken our lunch and more.”

So although, with digital paywalls, Patrick believes that subscription revenue will continue to grow, there is a need for transformation to keep profits high. “We have to built integrated multi-platform newsrooms: newsrooms of the future,” he said. As well as this, it’s necessary to reduce cost bases and add new revenue streams.

“We need a new vision for a different future.”

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