Credible, trustworthy news will always be at core of media business, say news organisation leaders

Singapore Press Holdings needs to find a sustainable path forward, so its newspaper titles can continue to provide a space to inform readers, debate issues and forge consensus, chief executive Ng Yat Chung said.
Singapore Press Holdings needs to find a sustainable path forward, so its newspaper titles can continue to provide a space to inform readers, debate issues and forge consensus, chief executive Ng Yat Chung said. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - As space for civic discourse has become highly fragmented with misinformation and malicious content flooding social media platforms, it is important to have trusted news sources to provide quality and reliable reporting, said Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung.

SPH needs to find a sustainable path forward, so its newspaper titles can continue to provide a space to inform readers, debate issues and forge consensus, he added.

"It is our contribution to help Singapore and Singaporeans succeed and to make sense in this increasingly complex world," said Mr Ng, who was one of two keynote speakers that kicked off discussions at the opening of Publish Asia on Wednesday (May 8).

The event is an annual meeting for media professionals around the region, and is organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).

Mr Ng added that the company is continuing to invest in new digital capabilities to secure the future of the media business, despite shrinking margins in media, as there is future growth in the digital front.

Traditional newspaper businesses have been upended as old business models based on advertising revenue and circulation have been disrupted by the digital revolution. Publishers have to grapple with such challenges and have to revitalise their businesses.

To cope with the challenges, SPH has tapped technology and used a data-driven approach to understand the audience better.

The company has also looked at new ways of selling advertising and are looking for partnerships to cross-distribute content, develop new markets and develop capabilities, said Mr Ng.

 

But SPH faces considerable challenges, a pertinent one being transforming the company culture to be one geared towards a digital world, he added.

Transformation efforts are a work in progress, said Mr Ng, likening the process to "getting an elephant to dance".

"We are not out of the woods, but we are seeing some green shoots," he said.

Fellow keynote speaker Hu Shuli, founder of Chinese media company Caixin Media, also noted that media transformation is not easy.

While Caixin Media is a newer organisation that was founded in 2009, it too has had to be agile in its platforms and steadfast in its mission to provide high-quality news, she said.

"What's the core value of professional media outlets? My answer is: original content and a professional news production process - all conducted by a dedicated news organisation," she said.

"While we are searching for new business models, we shouldn't give up our core value. Not just because that's why we are in this business, it's our mission and our calling, but also because that is our key competitive advantage," she said.

High quality news will always have an important place in society, she added.


Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, speaking at the Wan-Ifra Publish Asia Awards, on May 8, 2019. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

At a separate forum during the event, Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said there will always be great demand for knowledgeable and experienced journalists who can interpret news and tell it well to readers.

Mr Fernandez, who is also the editor of The Straits Times, remains very optimistic about the future of journalism, which he said cannot be fully replaced by technology such as artificial intelligence or robots.

He said: "Technology will come and go, we will just have to change with it."