The merits and failings of Singapore Press Holdings’ new digital offering

SPH logoSingapore Press Holdings recently announced the launch of its revamped digital offering, SPH Digital, expanding its capabilities in online video and branded content. But is the Straits Times publisher doing enough to keep up with a changing media market at time when New York Times is struggling with its own digital strategy

In this interview with Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks, Vivian Yeung, the Singapore general manager of media agency MediaCom, talks about the merits and shortcomings of SPH’s new digital offering, how SPH is faring in digital compared to its only local rival MediaCorp, and what her clients want from Singapore’s big media companies.

Singapore Press Holdings has introduced a new branded content arm and has expanded its online video capabilities. What do make of what SPH is now offering on the digital front?

Vivian Yeung

Vivian Yeung

Well, it’s change for the good. They’ve taken a little bit longer to introduce the innovative approaches to digital that agencies and clients have been looking for, but better now than never.

Their biggest play is really about content. There is a desire for advertisers to be able to tap into SPH’s editorial content and resources, and work out how we can create bespoke content pieces for our clients.

The Economist recently expanded its own native advertising offering, and has made clear that a separate editorial team will work on brand content to the core editorial team. In the story about SPH’s new digital strategy on SPH website AsiaOne, it is stated that “experienced journalists work with advertisers to repackage content from SPH archives.” Does this mean that SPH’s core editorial team will work on advertising projects, and if so, what is your view on that?

We’re looking for more clarity on that, and who will be responsible for creating the content. But a bigger question we have is on content rights usage that needs to be defined [according to SPH, brand content will be published across SPH’s digital properties, but media agencies want to know if they can use that content elsewhere too].

What is your view on SPH using archived material to put together content packages for advertisers, do you think that will appeal to clients?

This is just my take on it, but I think SPH will look at using articles and reports that are ever-green, as it were. This could be lighter content, such as helpful lifestyle tips, which has longevity.

So, what do your clients want from SPH’s new digital offering? And what’s your take on the blurring distinction between advertising and editorial that comes with branded content?

For us, we’re looking for content that can be used across many channels, and not just embedded in SPH environments.

In terms of the blurring of lines between editorial and advertising, the angle for brands now is about finding relevant conversations to reach audience groups – and that might not need to be heavily branded. Companies are now more open to not having their brands plastered all over a content piece. They’re keener to take a softer approach.

Do you think that SPH is doing enough in the digital space to offset its losses in print?

There is definitely a white space to continue further along this path. SPH are heading the right direction. But look at the speed at which the wider media market is changing…

How do you think SPH is doing compared to MediaCorp in embracing digital?

I thnk they both have internal structural challenges, but are both looking at how they can innovate their digital propositions and are weighing up their options very carefully.

It’s important to note that they both started off from different specialisms; SPH from print, which in theory is easier to migrate into digital, and MediaCorp in television, which is less easy. So in this sense, I’d say SPH is ahead.

That said, MediaCorp’s big play could be in online video. The big opportunities in digital are increasingly in short form video clips and less around articles on websites.

MediaCorp’s videos do not have an embed code, so cannot be easily shared. What’s your view on sharablity of content in media in Singapore?

As I mentioned, the big issue for Singapore media owners from our perspective is the commercial detail around rights usage and distribution [of content]. MediaCorp are in a deep consideration stage around this issue. But I think it’s a new frontier that is not to taken lightly. There remain many open-ended questions that need to be answered.


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