It has been waiting for Apple to come up with a better policy for publishers
By FELDA CHAY
THE renewed popularity of tablet PCs presents a lifeline for the newspaper industry to survive in the digital age, but key to the equation is ensuring that the content provided remains compelling and unique, said Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of the English and Malay newspaper division of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).
Mr Daniel: 'Success in the digital space will not be easy, but we can look forward to a challenging and exciting future'
Speaking at the division's annual awards ceremony yesterday, he revealed that SPH would soon be launching products for Apple's iPad. The group will also introduce applications for the iPhone, and is looking to launch Android products using Google's OnePass scheme.
'I'm excited . . . tablets are an ideal form to engage a younger, more sophisticated audience. The key will again be the quality and uniqueness of our content, as well as the way we bundle our print and digital products in a winning strategy,' said Mr Daniel.
While many newspapers across the globe had quickly launched iPhone and iPad editions of their products following the popularity of these gadgets, SPH had refrained from doing so, preferring to wait until Apple came up with a better policy for publishers, he said.
'We are clear that we won't give our products away for free. We want to sell subscriptions, not applications at US$1.99 a pop, and we want to bundle it with print,' he added.
That dream can now come true. Apple recently rolled out a new subscription service to all publishers of content-based applications that allows them to set the price and length of subscription for their products.
Apple also made clear that publishers will be able to sell content outside the application store - which will allow publications to bundle their print, iPad and iPhone products.
Part of the reason that SPH could afford to be patient was that its print business is still alive and kicking, unlike that of many of its counterparts in the US and Europe. The print business continues to be the main profit and dividend generator for SPH.
Last year, total revenues from the group's newspaper and magazine segment rose by almost 10 per cent from a year earlier to $974 million, accounting for 71 per cent of the group's overall turnover.
'The sun has not yet set on us,' said Mr Daniel.
Still, there is no doubt that in an increasingly digital world, newspaper companies need to have a presence - and a strong one at that - outside the print medium.
On top of launching applications for tablet PCs and the iPhone, SPH will also be relaunching its online products, said Mr Daniel.
The Straits Times, for one, will integrate citizen journalism website Stomp (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) and online television service provider RazorTV under a revamped website.
The Business Times, too, will freshen up its website and launch a financial portal that will see it ride on synergies with stock portal shareinvestor.com - a subsidiary of SPH.
'Success in the digital space will not be easy, but we can look forward to a challenging and exciting future,' said Mr Daniel.
Well, looks like my prediction is coming true. SPH is finally pushing out content for the iPad. Better still, the company is focusing on more profitable subscriptions, not apps at cheap prices. I must also thank Apple for creating this better subscription service for publishers.
I also predicted that SPH will gradually focus more on web-based, digital news. The company did something better than my prediction. STOMP and RazorTV will be merged. Business Times and shareinvestor.com will be merged into a financial portal.
SPH is trying hard to diversify its revenue sources even though the print business is still doing fine. As a shareholder, I am assured that the company is moving in the right direction and it is well-prepared for future challenges.