Zaobao remains top Chinese paper in Singapore, 95 years on

(From left) Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao editor Goh Sin Teck, Singapore Press Holdings deputy chief executive Anthony Tan, SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung, SPH's Chinese Media Group head
(From left) Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao editor Goh Sin Teck, Singapore Press Holdings deputy chief executive Anthony Tan, SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung, SPH's Chinese Media Group head Lee Huay Leng and Chinese Media Group NewsHub editor Han Yong May at Lianhe Zaobao's 95th anniversary dinner last night. The Chinese-language newspaper's readership increased to 471,000 last year, an annual growth of 5.4 per cent.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The readership of Lianhe Zaobao grew to 471,000 last year, an annual growth of 5.4 per cent.

"This is a significant achievement, considering the growing threat posed by disruptive innovations such as social media and free news content," Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) chairman Lee Boon Yang said last night.

SPH is Zaobao's parent company.

Dr Lee was speaking at the 95th anniversary dinner of the Chinese-language newspaper, which was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was the guest of honour, several Cabinet ministers, MPs and top SPH executives.

Dr Lee said that despite the challenging environment for traditional media, Zaobao remains the top Chinese-language newspaper in Singapore. Since August last year, it has had a combined daily circulation of 197,500 copies in print and online.

He also cited last year's Nielsen report on Singapore media, which found that Zaobao has a combined daily readership of 14.7 per cent among Chinese Singaporeans.

Lianhe Zaobao can trace its roots to Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau, which published its first issue in Singapore on Sept 6, 1923.

In 1983, it merged with another Chinese newspaper - Sin Chew Jit Poh, which was started by "Tiger Balm King" Aw Boon Haw in 1929 - to become today's morning broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao and evening paper Lianhe Wanbao.

 

Zaobao and its predecessors have weathered many storms in the past 95 years, said Dr Lee, adding that the latest is the digital revolution.

Back in 1995, he said, Zaobao was the first Chinese newspaper in the world to go online. But the advent of social media has changed the way that news is disseminated and consumed.

"These disruptive technologies and developments have made news a commodity, easily circulated and very often for free," Dr Lee said.

"There is also fierce competition between traditional media and new media as a news source, with the latter attracting more readers with sensational headlines, breaking news and in some instances, even fake news."

Even so, Dr Lee assured his audience, the paper is "well equipped and determined" to face these new challenges.

For example, said Ms Ang Yiting, who is editor of SPH's Chinese Media Group Digital, Zaobao has gone big on videos of every stripe to appeal to younger audiences. These are not limited to daily news, but include live videos, lifestyle features and animated content, she added.

One of its big hits is an animated series about a young boy who learns about Chinese culture and traditions. Another series, called Live Your Dream, focuses on helping people fulfil their hopes.

"For example, we had an old man whose wife had dementia, and he wanted to retake their wedding photos in the hope that she would remember," said Ms Ang, who oversees Zaobao.sg

She added: "We look at interactive formats that help us to capture new audiences as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2018, with the headline 'Zaobao remains top Chinese paper in S'pore, 95 years on'. Print Edition | Subscribe