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SPH rising to the online challenge

20 March 2006

  1. Singapore Press Holdings is moving into online classified advertising to augment its position as the clear market leader in print classifieds.
  2. It will build an e-market place, which it will brand under the catchy name of ST701 - to capture in one neat title the strength of the Straits Times brand name and the fact that transactions will take place seven days a week at the one address that matters!
  3. First to open for business on March 24 will be a job website. It is powered by Redmatch, a world leader in online classified technology that has supported more than 500 newspapers globally. It will offer users, both job seekers as well as hiring companies, unmatched capabilities - from resume-building and database management to job tracking and matching, extension to microsites and a whole host of other human resources management activities.
  4. SPH is well aware that growing online classified advertising may affect its print classified business but is confident that developing both platforms will position the company well for future growth. There is no denying the fact that online advertising is growing rapidly. According to the preliminary findings of the third annual global survey of online advertising commissioned by the World Association of Newspapers, revenue from Internet classified is now almost 8 per cent of that for all print classified. More importantly, it grew by 22 per cent last year, compared with just 1 per cent in 2004.
  5. "While the online classified job business in Singapore is worth only a fraction of our existing print business at the moment, it has the potential to grow as Internet penetration goes up and up. We in SPH recognise that," says Ms Elsie Chua, who heads SPH’s Classified Advertising department.
  6. "We cannot roll back technology. Equally, we are not going to lie back and let others eat our lunch. We will leverage on the enormous strengths we have built up all these years in print classified and go to the market with an unbeatable offering that combines the best of print and online - and at prices advertisers will find irresistible.
  7. We have been planning ST701 for months. In fact, our senior management was in Europe last year to look at best practices. It was from that trip that we learnt of a major Scandinavian media group which bit the bullet and went into online classified at the risk of cannibalising its print business.
  8. After staying the course for several years, it is now in the happy position of being able to report combined revenue from both print and online classified for real estate and vehicles, two of the most competitive sectors, in excess of what print alone garnered. We will work to make that happen here too.
  9. ST701 hopes to capture at least 50 per cent of the online job market in five years. The job website will be followed soon by one on properties. Several others are being planned. "Concurrently, even as we work on these, we will explore the option of extending classified via mobile phones," adds Ms Chua, who will oversee ST701 to ensure that there is synergy and cross-selling between print and online classified.
  10. Meanwhile, SPH is also revamping its AsiaOne portal, adding new content and services from its stable of more than 10 newspapers, 70 magazines and two radio stations, complete with podcasts and vodcasts. All its sections, or verticals in Net-speak, will be grouped under the three key activities that everyone does each day - live, work and play. From looking at career options to planning a holiday to the Maldives to selecting a wine or consulting the horoscope, SPH’s vast store of really useful information will be just one click away.
  11. "Inside each section will be hyperlinks to ST701, our e-market place, and the regular newspaper sites like Straits Times Interactive. The idea is to offer visitors looking for, say, good diving spots in the Indian Ocean quick links to travel operators who can help them get there. Or to our newspaper archive service to retrieve articles written on diving at that holiday spot. And vice versa. In short, a one-stop service," says Mr Paul Jansen, who, as head of SPH’s Special Projects Unit, is responsible for developing the portal and its sections. "And of course we will look at making all these accessible via the mobile phone too."
  12. Says SPH Chief Executive Officer Alan Chan: "The name of the game is capturing quality eyeballs. 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.
  13. "In this regard, we are on a constant lookout for partners to roll out cutting edge services, from music and video clips to computer gaming and directory search."
  14. SPH has set aside $10 million in the first instance to invest in building ST701 and all the other Internet-based products, and is prepared to invest more in the years ahead to grow the online business. Says SPH Chairman Dr Tony Tan: "By going into online classified, which may nibble away at our print business, we are taking a significant step forward into the Internet Age.
  15. "As a media company, we aim to have as complete and diversified an array of platforms as possible. 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."

Issued by Singapore Press Holdings Limited
Co. Regn. No: 198402868E

For more information, please contact :

Mr Arnold Gay
Head
Corporate Relations
Singapore Press Holdings
Tel: 6319 1216
Fax: 6319 8150
E-mail: arnold@sph.com.sg

About SPH
Main board listed Singapore Press Holdings Limited is the leading media company in Singapore, in the print, Internet and broadcasting platforms. It publishes 13 newspapers in the four official languages and more than 80 magazine titles. Everyday, 2.8 million individuals, or 88 per cent of the people above 15 years old, read one of the SPH publications. Its Internet Business Unit manages the online editions of SPH’s major newspapers, which enjoy over 100 million pageviews from 6 million unique visitors every month.

SPH also owns a 20% stake in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8, U and TV Mobile, and a 40% stake in MediaCorp Press Pte Ltd, which publishes free sheet Today. SPH has a 70% stake in UnionWorks which operates two entertainment radio channels, UFM 100.3 FM in Chinese and WKRZ 91.3 FM in English, and owns an 80% stake in SPH MediaBoxOffice Pte Ltd, Singapore´s largest LED network media company.

For more information about SPH, please log on to www.sph.com.sg