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No price hike for new-look Business Times but buyers question lack of native ad offering

Business Times

The new-look Business Times

Singapore Press Holdings-owned business newspaper Business Times has undergone a significant revamp without raising prices for advertisers and has lowered the paywall for some of its content online, but media buyers have questioned why native advertising remains absent from SPH’s offering.

A revamp to the newspaper sees coverage by geography scrapped in favour of business verticals, and a news snapshot section called ‘Daily Digest’ added to the cover, which international rival Wall Street Journal has long had in place.

The paper’s masthead has been redesigned to more closely resemble that of Straits Times, SPH’s flagship newspaper.

The online version of the paper, Businesstimes.com.sg, has switched to a ‘freemium’ model, now giving readers non-exclusive breaking news and blogs for free – previously readers must subscribe after reading a few free articles.

Exclusive news, opinion and analysis pieces, infographics and special feature packages must be paid for through subscription for the print, online and mobile products, with a bundled package available for S$28.65 (US$22.52).

Business Times pricing model

Business Times pricing model

The title is running a promotion that will give the first 500 first-time subscribers to any one-year subscription plan a Ermenegildo Zegna tie worth $310.

Shrivathsa Raghunathan, a media buyer at Zenith Optimedia, welcomed the revamp, saying that the switch to a freemium model will mean that users are more likely to stay on the site for longer – which is good news for advertisers.

The changes to the paper, particularly the introduction of a ‘Top Stories’ section and the move to make the title more visually appealing, are a clear reflection that SPH has taken learnings from last year’s revamp of Straits Times, Raghunathan said.

He also said while there had been no price increase for advertisers, a hike was “likely” in the near future. “It’s a matter of when,” he said.

Raghunathan said that he has been asking SPH about the potential for native advertising for the “last six years”, but the company has made no move in that direction yet. Hong Kong English-language broadcast the South China Morning Post introduced a native ad offering last month.

A buyer at IPG Mediabrands Singapore also raised the question of native advertising on Business Times and other SPH properties, and noted that given the lack of a local competitor for BT in Singapore meant that “the only issue is pricing.”

SPH had not responded to Mumbrella’s questions about a ratecard increase for advertisers or plans to introduce native advertising.

In a press release, Alvin Tay, editor of The Business Times, said that the new format will also offer “more focused opportunities” for advertisers.

Business Times was the only newspaper in the Singapore Press Holdings stable to see print circulation hold firm in annual report last year, while The Straits Times and The New Paper took sizeable hits.

A press release detailing all of the changes to Business Times can be read here.

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