The Straits Times remains most-read title, with reach across platforms, media study finds

The Straits Times has more than 1.2 million readers consuming its content across all its print, online, and mobile and other platforms. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times continues to be Singapore's most-read news publication, with more than 1.2 million readers consuming its content across all its print, online, mobile and other platforms.

Google Analytics figures showed a close to 40 per cent increase in the number of users in Singapore on ST's online site between June and last month, partly due to the rise in interest in events in Hong Kong, and several local issues.

These findings were made public on Wednesday (Nov 13) by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes ST, in the light of the annual Nielsen Consumer & Media View Study (CMV) that showed a 3.5 per cent fall in ST's overall readership from 32.4 per cent of Singaporeans above 15 years old in 2018 to 28.9 per cent this year. This was largely due to the global trend of people choosing to consume more news online rather than in print.

The Nielsen data, based on interviews done between July 2018 and June this year, did not reflect the recent spike in traffic as well as readers who accessed ST via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition, ST readers also consume content via its many e-mail newsletters, podcasts, videos and radio programmes.

Despite these gaps, Nielsen concluded that over 1.2 million people continue to read ST for credible and trustworthy information as well as good entertainment value. Readers spent, on average, 44 minutes reading The Straits Times and 39 minutes reading The Sunday Times.

The study surveyed about 4,600 people, with results then weighted by age, sex and race to be representative of the Singapore population.

ST and other SPH products remain the only media products Singaporeans are willing to pay for, a trend reflected in the Nielsen report that profiled ST readers as "driven and (those who) want to be seen as successful".

Mr Ignatius Low, SPH's chief commercial officer, media solutions, said that while the Nielsen CMV is the default industry standard, "it is rarely the basis for today's media planning decisions".

"There are well-known gaps in areas like online and outdoor advertising. But more importantly, the CMV headline numbers fail to recognise that not every media consumer is equal in the eyes of advertisers," he said.

"SPH is the only major local news provider with paying customers, delivering a superior audience that is accustomed to paying a premium for quality, credibility and reliability. Running an ad campaign across a variety of SPH platforms - print, online, radio and outdoor - also results in deeper and more lasting consumer engagement.

"This is why SPH's share of the advertising dollar is in reality much larger than what the headline CMV numbers would indicate."

The median age of the ST reader is 41 years, compared to the national median of 43 years, and his median household income is $7,445, against the national median of $5,846. Generally younger, more educated, and earning a higher income than the average population, ST readers are more "willing to pay for luxury and quality", noted Nielsen, which found that more than half of ST readers went on to attend events or buy products after seeing them advertised in ST.

Overall, the study confirmed the perception that more people are moving online to get information, with even those above 60 years old, conforming to the trend. Compared to 19.5 per cent last year, more than one in four Singaporeans above the age of 60 now read online articles for the latest goings-on.

The same upward tick was seen across other age groups, too, with ST recording a huge increase in online readership among Gen Z readers, generally perceived to be less interested in reading the news.

"Recent technology developments and telcos' keenness to stay competitive with cheaper mobile data plans and faster Internet speed will provide a very conducive environment," said executive director for Singapore's branch of Nielsen media Yee Chong Moon, who predicted continued growth in digital consumption in the coming years.

In recent years, news organisations like ST have transformed and are adapting to the digital landscape, from using data analytics tools to training journalists to be more comfortable talking about their stories on camera.

One area that defied the overall switch from print to online was in magazines, with nine in 10 magazine readers choosing to read these in hard copy, Nielsen reported.

There was also a 6.8 per cent increase in those who tuned in to the radio, bringing the total number of listeners to 2.25 million. As for TV, almost eight in 10 Singaporeans tune in to free-to-air channels weekly, with Mandarin channel Channel 8 coming up tops, reaching almost half of Singaporeans.

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