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SPH Media Trust merges Chinese evening dailies as demand for print drops

SPH had been on a digital transformation journey as its print advertising business declined

The SPH Media Trust will merge its Chinese language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao with its counterpart Shin Min Daily News.

The new daily will be under the Shin Min name and will focus on helping elderly readers learn how to use digital devices such as tablets and other technology to read the news.

SPH’s other Chinese language paper Lianhe Zaobao will work on becoming a comprehensive news platform.

“There is a demand for the Singapore perspective because we are a rational, neutral player, and a successful political player in the world,” said Khaw Boon Wan, chairman of SPH Media Trust.

“It is in our interests for Singapore’s views to be understood in the region. It will be good for our businessmen and our professionals working in the region. We have to be mindful of divisive voices and do our best to help bridge, rather than fan, anger and division for the sake of eyeballs. Zaobao is an important partner of the Ministry of Education. We share a common interest to ensure that our young view the Chinese language beyond an examination subject.”

He added: “Elderly readers need guidance to learn to adopt technology, and need time to transition. We must try to help every person, and understand the readers, what they are afraid of, because to change an old habit needs time and is a process.”

Why is Lianhe Wanbao being merged into Shin Min Daily News?

  • There is a limited supply of local talent working in Chinese media.

  • The shrinking market for hard-copy papers is also factor, and both evening papers had increasingly overlapping content.

Why is this important?

  • Shareholders from the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) previously voted in favor of restructuring the organization’s media business to classify as a not-for-profit. The media business is now called SPH Media Trust.

  • SPH had been on a digital transformation journey as its print advertising business declined, but its efforts ultimately failed to pay off as opportunities were left untapped and its focus diverted elsewhere.

  • It decided to hive off its media business as it no longer boasts a profit after slipping into the red, despite the 28 million monthly unique visitors it claims across all its digital assets. It blamed its first-ever loss – down $11.4m for the financial year ending August 31 2020 – on the Covid-19 pandemic and said if not for the Singapore government’s jobs support scheme and its thriving property business, the loss would have been $39.5m.

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