Speaking at the annual Straits Times (ST) Forum Writers’ Dialogue yesterday (11 Sept), editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) English, Malay and Tamil Media Group Warren Fernandez said that new ways to fund quality journalism are needed.
Mr Fernandez’ comments came two months after SPH reported that its third-quarter profits have crashed by a hefty 44.1 per cent, from S$46.91 million in the third quarter last year to S$26.2 million this year.
SPH is Singapore’s largest media group and publishes mainstream newspapers such as The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao and Berita Harian. SPH was once bigger than the New York Times Co. in terms of market capitalisation but the group has lost nearly half, or S$3.2 billion, of its market value and has shrunk in value since the end of 2014.
International publication Bloomberg called SPH “the worst performer on the MSCI Singapore Index,” after shares dropped to their lowest in 25 years. Bloomberg data showed that SPH’s net income is “set for a seventh annual decline in eight” while shares are “set for a fifth yearly decline”.
During the ST forum yesterday, Mr Fernandez said that new ways to fund quality journalism are needed as traditional revenue streams are struggling worldwide. He added that news presentation in the future could evolve as news organisations experiment with different business models to find a sustainable way forward.
On what ST can do to address SPH’s plummeting profits, Mr Fernandez pointed out that ST’s digital content is seeing good growth even as revenue for the traditional print media business is failing.
Noting that “online and digital advertising is growing but it is not growing fast enough or large enough, because it is starting from a very low base,” Fernandez added that is diversifying its revenue streams with paywalls and subscriptions, courses and property investments.
Netizens responding to Mr Fernandez’ latest comments about funding quality journalism responded sarcastically and indicated that SPH’s links to the Government may be the reason why the media group may not be doing well: