No need to get angry; paying digital newspapers will launch
frontierless world without press controls. My own response
is... By Seah Chiang Nee
Feb 28, 2008
amazed that so many people are surprised by the decision
to charge Straits Times online.
warning had appeared last November when SPH (Singapore Press
Holdings) required visitors to AsiaOne.com, its newspapers'
website, to register.
then wrote "Asia
One: Heading for charges" on Nov 8, 2004,
forecasting this. Readers who had followed our postings
would not have been surprised by this or the trend regarding
newspaper editor in Singapore and a long-time correspondent
for some years, I could see the creeping impact of the Internet
on newspaper circulations clearer than most readers.
people are slowly giving up reading newspapers because of
the access to web newspapers and other online news sources.
These trends were in these recent Littlespeck reports:
The future is online, AP chief,
on Nov 14, 2004,
Looming Shadow - losing youths on Oct 2, 2004,
readership on Sept 19, 2004..
charges: Too high
step taken by the 160-year-old Straits Times is recognition
that the future is swinging towards multimedia information.
The print circulation had largely stagnated during the past
10 years despite the population expansion.
vulnerable because it had just raised its print price to
70 cents (for subscribers). If its website remains free,
it will lose more readers switching to AsiaOne.
the costs of printing the Straits Times (newsprint price,
ink, machine maintenance and salaries, etc) will make for
a tremendous saving when that happens.
the production cost per copy is more than its sale price,
and it is the advertisments are what make it hugely profitable.
(Yes, for years, advertisers have been subsidising readers'
means that even though the online price is 30 cents, 40
cents lower than print price, the saving on newsprint will
more than makje up for it.
means that if the more readers stop buying ST and start
reading online, the more circulation profit it will earn.
Nothing, however, is that simple. If it were, other major
newspapers would done that long before the Straits Times.
sells newspapers. Its flagship is the Straits Times that
makes tons of money with a daily circulation of 390,000
copies. The real money-earner is advertising whose rates
are based on this vast monopoly (thus secure) base.
are more than 250,000 Singaporeans with cable access to
the Internet, and the number of registered AsiaOne readers
is 280,000 (some 30,000 from abroad).
large number of its 390,000 readers - say 100,000-150,000
- were to stop buying the newspaper and moving online, its
subscription circulation profit will rise, but advertisers
may leave or demand lower rates.
profits may skid disastrously - unless it can lure more
online readers either locally or from abroad.
is because - monopoly or not - advertisers will not pay
current advertising rates if sales fall by, say 25 per cent.
Many will turn to other media sources, like TV, radio, magazines,
cinemas and, of course, the Internet.
on the Straits Times website, which should increase with
a larger base, will not be able to make up for the print
recent US media seminar, publishers lamented that demand
for Internet advertising was rising, but most online newspapers
simply did not have enough page space or number of pages
to accommodate it.
possibility of vast newspaper defections to its webite is
unlikely in the immediate future. The reason? Out of annoyance,
Singaporeans are liable to refuse to subscribe online.
would I do? Personally I would stop delivery and pay online
for the 50 per cent saving, and I would urge readers who
have unlimited cable to do the same especially if they don't
need the advertisements most of the time.
of boycotting domestic news is not a long term solution.
by buying online, I will be doing my small towards creation
of a new, cross-frontier world of Internet newspapers, in
which the Straits Times is a member.
two choices, print and online, the Straits Times is actually
being forced to take on the world by trying to gain foreign
subscribers. Of course, that would also quickly mean Singaporean
digital newspapers based abroad selling here.
is in a free-trade-agreement mood that must provide for
a borderless Internet media.
Times online permits foreign buyers without outside control
but it would almost mean multi-media publishers to compete
against it on domestic coverage, free of Singapore government
example, the historical adversity that disallows Malaysia
and Singapore print newspapers to enter each other's country,
but the new digital media would make the ban unenforceable.
is rarely created in a day. it has to have a first step,
though. The selling of Straits Times online would be it.
Seah Chiang Nee