SPH and Google join forces to grow subscriptions and ad revenue

Both parties hope the partnership will boost the programmatic ecosystem.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Google have created a joint business plan to grow digital advertising revenue, hunt for subscription audiences in new platforms and develop their digital video content business.

The publisher, despite being one of the largest media owners in Singapore, has been unable to compete with Google and its fellow ad giant Facebook on a global and local scale, as advertisers turn to the two platforms for speed and scale of innovation.

That saw SPH’s advertising revenue fall by $103 million and circulation revenue drop by $8.7m in 2017, leading to job cuts across the company and diversification.

While SPH has seen a 5.5% rise in net profit to $31.3 million and operating revenue 1.8% higher at $227.5m for its 2020 second-quarter financial results, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the publisher.

Revenue in its media segment took a hit in the first half, declining 14.3% to $253.9m and its newspaper print ad revenue was down 20.4%. Its priority now is to conserve cash to sustain its businesses and continue with the digital transformation of the media segment.

Google, meanwhile, is facing pressure from authorities in Australia to pay news media for use of their content, to advise news media in advance of algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, to favour original source news content in search page results and to share data with media companies.

Both parties hope the partnership will boost the programmatic ecosystem and expand advertisers’ budgets to buy programmatic ads directly from SPH and Google.

SPH and Google are also keen to reduce churn and friction to create unique news experiences through videos and podcasts on the subscriptions front.

Talent, innovation culture building and industry thought leaders will also be areas of focus for the partnership. They will tap on Google training, like design thinking training and certifications.

“The Covid-19 crisis has brought on new challenges and will require us to adapt to new business and audience requirements and expectations. The Joint Business Plan between SPH and Google reflects the commitment of both companies to deepen our collaboration in identified areas of mutual interests,” said Anthony Tan, the deputy chief executive of SPH.

“Besides potential positive business outcomes, a transforming SPH will stand to benefit from enhanced technology and product innovation capabilities through working with Google. This will further strengthen the sustainability of the digital advertising and news publishing ecosystem where both companies are key stakeholders.”

As newsrooms globally find ways to innovate quickly around being the most useful media company for their audiences, Google has been trying to provide support for local and small newsrooms.

It previously created a journalism emergency relief fund to provide support, waive ad serving fees for news publishers globally on its Ad Manager for five months and helping publishers in Asia with real-time data.

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