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Singapore Press Holdings

In: Business and Management

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Singapore Press Holding

A Case Study

GROUP 6

Special Group Project

S P Jain Center of Management
Singapore

Amit Ambardekar Apoorv Babel
GMBA07F261 GMBA07F278

Manu Gupta Parul Nagpal
GMBA07D169 GMBA07D240

Preface

S P Jain Center of Management has the academic support of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's. S P Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai is ranked among the Top Ten Business Schools in Asia and India. In order to replicate its success and achievements in management education in the global arena, S P Jain decided to established centers of excellence in different parts of the world. The first international campus of S P Jain was established at the prestigious Knowledge Village in Dubai in the year 2004. and the 2nd international campus in the city of Singapore.

Global MBA program of the S P Jain Center of Management is designed to train individuals to work in the new global economy. With over 900 teaching hours, the course is equal to most two-year MBA programs. The program is conducted jointly at S P Jain’s Dubai and Singapore campuses.

As a part of the curriculum, students are required to do a “Special Group Project” based mainly on the Industry Research.

We, for this, have taken up a project on Singapore Press Holdings.

The project is a case study which looks into:

a). History of SPH
b). SPH foray into internet - AsiaOne
c). AsiaOne, Journey
d). ST.com
e). Print to Online Journey of various Media Houses

Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge the opportunity provided to us by the Management of SPCM.

We appreciate the fact that Dr.Vijay Sethi, Dean SPJCM, trusted us and encouraged us to study comprehensively Singapore Press Holding and its internet arm AsiaOne. We are grateful to him for mentoring us all the way and also providing his valuable inputs. No words of thanks will suffice the undying support extended by Mr. Mohammad Yousouf, who as the SGP Mentor helped us in every way possible. His timely guidance, concerns and personal involvement at every level of project helped to shape and reshape the broader aspect of the project.

Amit Ambardekar Apoorv Babel
Manu Gupta Parul Nagpal

Prologue

The case study encompasses the history brief and study of various businesses of Singapore Press Holding along with details of AsiaOne and Straitstimes.com, the internet arms of Singapore SPH. SPH is a main board listed leading media organization in Singapore.

The required details resulted from intensive research of past news paper articles, websites and various databases from NLB.

To venture into online services SPH started its internet arm AsiaOne in 1995. Listed on Singapore Stock Exchange in 2001, AsiaOne was delisted in 2002 and again taken over by SPH. Since its inception AsiaOne has undergone numerous changes and developments in order to increase its consumer base and revenues and sustain competition. Major events since AsiaOne’s launch are being studied and discussed. Also changes in business model of AsiaOne throughout its life span have been studied.

SPH has also started Straitstimes.com – an online news paper. In 2006 straits times started STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) its web 2.0 service to interact with readers. Details of STOMP including its inception, features and business model have being looked into the study.

STOMP is facing major competition from MOCCA.com. MOCCA stands for MediaCorp Online Communities and Classifieds Advertisements. The website, launched on July 26, 2007 is the brainchild of MediaCorp, Singapore’s leading media group. Various competitive platforms between the two are studied.

Overview about the journey of publishing house from “print to online” are covered with advantages and disadvantages faced by going online.

Study of Value Chain of publishing industry and impact of internet on various sections is studied.

Research Méthodology

Table of Contents

Background and History of Singapore Press Holding (SPH) 9
SPH-Singapore's leading media organisation 10
Various Businesses of SPH 10
Core products -- Newspapers and magazines 11 SPH’S Foray into the Internet 14
AsiaOne Products 15
Advantages of Being Online 16
Reasons for SPH going Online through AsiaOne 17
Business Model of AsiaOne 18 AsiaOne Advertising Options 19
Business Development 21 AsiaOne Goes for IPO 34
AsiaOne Going IPO 35
General Advantages and Disadvantages of going Public 36
Details of IPO and Financial Situation of AsiaOne Ltd. 37
After The Launch 39 SPH buys-back Asia1 42 SPH and AsiaOne after buyback 46
SPH battles tough times 47
Television Arm of SPH Spells Uncertainty 48

Privatization
49
Competition for AsiaOne 50
The Growth Story of AsiaOne 51 Straits Times Interactive goes for paid subscription 55
The birth and growth of Straits Times Interactive 56
Change in Charging Policy 59
STI Market Image 60
Differences between Asia One and Straitstimes.com 61 Launch of STOMP 64
What is STOMP? 65
Various Features of STOMP 66
What led to the launch of STOMP? 67
STOMP’S Business Model 68
Success Story 69 Mocca.com as a Competitor 71
The launch of Mocca.com 72
Business/ Marketing Model and features for Users 72
Uniqueness of Mocca.com compared to other classifieds sites 73
How does one place an advertisement on Mocca.com? 74
What lies ahead? 74
Competition with ST.com 75
Response of Strait Times: Revamp of ST701.Com 75
Online Advertising in ST701 76

From Print to Online 78
Why has the journey been so tumultuous for SPH in the last decade? 79
Main stages in the evolution of SPH Internet Arm 79
New York Times 81
Wall Street Journal 82
What had made the SPH journey so unique? 83
Comparison with online publishing ventures in India 84
Advantages and Disadvantages of going online 88
Value-chain of the publishing business 89
How will the changes evolve in the next 3 years and Murdoch’s business 92

ANALYSIS 96
KEY LEARNING FROM THIS CASE STUDY 100
APPENDIX 102
REFERENCES 107

Background and History of Singapore Press Holding (SPH)

SPH-Singapore's leading media organisation
Main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH) is the leading media organisation in Singapore, with one of the region's most advanced printing assets. It is licensed to publish 14 newspapers in four languages in Singapore and together, these have a circulation of more than one million copies a day. SPH also publishes and distributes more than 90 periodicals in Singapore and the region. In addition, it owns a 40 percent stake in MediaCorp Press Pte Ltd, which publishes free newspaper today. Every day, SPH newspapers are read by 2.7 million individuals, or 83 percent of persons above 15 years old. The oldest and the largest publication of SPH has been Strait times which was launched in the year 1845.
Various Businesses
Apart from its core business as a newspaper and magazine publisher, SPH also provides Internet portal services with online news and e-commerce facilities through its Internet arm, the SPH Internet Business Unit.
SPH operates two radio stations, Radio 100.3 FM in Mandarin and Radio 91.3 FM in English, under an 80 percent-owned joint venture company, SPH UnionWorks Pte Ltd, with NTUC Media. SPH also maintains a business interest in free-to-air television through a 20 percent shareholding in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates channels 5, 8, U and TV Mobile.
On the property front, SPH acquired shopping malls Paragon and Promenade and amalgamated them into a single development, Paragon – a prime retail and office complex in the heart of Orchard Road, Singapore's main shopping belt. SPH is also developing Sky@eleven, a 43-storey up-market residential condominium on its former Times Industrial Building site at Thomson Road.
SPH has also ventured into outdoor advertising through its wholly-owned subsidiary, SPH MediaBoxOffice Pte Ltd, Singapore’s largest outdoor motion display advertising network Media Company by owing five large LED screens at strategic locations, 400 plasma & LCD screens island wide and large-format billboards at the heart of the city. In addition, SPH

invested in a strategic 35 percent stake in TOM Outdoor Media Group, a leading outdoor advertising company in China.
Core products -- Newspapers and magazines
With some 1,000 journalists, including correspondents operating in 20 cities around the world, SPH is well-equipped with the talent and network to deliver quality news and information that covers both domestic and international markets. Its stable of 14 broadsheets and tabloids caters to the wide-ranging demographics of Singapore's multi-ethnic population, while its numerous periodicals appeal to the lifestyle needs of the people in Singapore as well as the region.
The 14 newspapers published by SPH are:
The Straits Times The Sunday Times The Business Times The New Paper
The New Paper on Sunday Lianhe Zaobao (Chinese) Lianhe Wanbao (Chinese) My Paper (Chinese)
Shin Min Daily News (Chinese) Friday Weekly (Chinese) Thumbs Up (Chinese) Berita Harian (Malay)
Berita Minggu (Malay) Tamil Murasu (Tamil)

The key magazines, among its stable of more than 90 titles, include:
Citta Bella (Chinese) Female Female Brides Female Business
FiRST! GameAxis Her World Her World Brides
Home and Décor HWM Icon (Chinese) Maxim
Men's Health NuYou NuYou Time People At The Peak
PHOTOVIDEOi Seventeen Shape Simply Her
The Peak Torque UW (Chinese) Young Parents

Through its comprehensive range of newspapers and magazines, SPH enjoys continued dominance in the Singapore advertising market, holding about 50 percent share of total advertising expenditure. Circulation of SPH newspapers continues to show growth despite the increasing popularity of the Internet.
The success of SPH is built on the strong history of its two flagship newspapers: The Straits Times, the English-language daily which has been in publication for more than 160 years, and Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese-language daily started in 1983 from the merger of Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh, which dates back to 1923. Lianhe Zaobao is trusted as the authoritative source of news and information for the Chinese-speaking community. Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu remains the staple for Malay and Indian readers respectively. Over the years, SPH editors and journalists have continued to upgrade and re-design the newspapers to meet the dynamic lifestyle changes of readers and introducing supplements such as Digital Life, Urban and Mind Your Body to complement The Straits Times as well as IN and Little Red Dot to cater to young readers in schools.
A new chapter for SPH started in 2002 when for the first time, the English/Malay and Chinese newspaper units moved in together under one roof at SPH's new headquarters, the News Centre at Toa Payoh North. This unprecedented move drives the integration of content creation and synergises the delivery of SPH's premier news and information across multiple media platforms.
SPH Print Centre
The SPH Print Centre located in western Singapore houses one of the most advanced and state-of-the-art printing facilities worth more than S$500 million. With a total area of 11 hectares, the Print Centre delivers more than one million copies of SPH newspapers in quality print each day.
The Colorliner presses started operation at the Print Centre in 1997 and is capable of producing 32 broadsheet pages in full colour and 20 spot colour broadsheet pages with a maximum speed of 80,000 copies per hour at a cruising speed of 72,000 copies per hour. This computerised printing giant is highly efficient, with the ability to do everything from printing

and cutting to folding, up to the stage when the complete set of newspaper is ready for distribution.
SPH is constantly exploring ways to leverage on the latest in technology. On October 27, 2000, the Group signed a S$123 million deal with the Koenig & Bauer Group to purchase four KBA Commander presses, to be housed in a new S$139 million plant and other facilities at the Print Centre. Besides matching the capabilities of the Colorliner presses, the KBA Commander presses can print up to 112 broadsheet pages in full colour. The new presses started operations in 2003.
At the Print Centre, the newspaper printing system is complemented by a modern mailroom facility which includes a conveyor system with a maximum speed of 80,000 copies of newspapers per hour. The mailroom system has the capacity to mechanically count, stack, bundle and convey the print-complete newspapers to vendors for distribution to readers.
In addition to the SPH stable of 14 newspaper titles, regional editions of international newspapers like Asahi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune are also printed by SPH.

SPH’S Foray into the Internet
Asia1.com.sg

AsiaOne
AsiaOne is the internet arm of Singapore Press Holding. It is a leading news, lifestyle and business portal. It is a free-access, one-stop information mall which serves users’ news, business and lifestyle needs. Within the all-encompassing portal are unique communities where users congregate online for their various interests. Besides accessing news and infotainment from Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) suite of newspapers, AsiaOne users can engage in special interest sites which cover finance, motoring, technology, health and various lifestyle topics.
With its strong profile of readers who are Professionals, Managers, Executives and Businessmen (PMEB), AsiaOne connects marketers to a desirable demographic that represents the cream of online audiences.

AsiaOne Products

AsiaOne Business AsiaOne Digital AsiaOne Health AsiaOne Just Woman
AsiaOne Motoring AsiaOne Travel AsiaOne Auctions AsiaOne Multimedia
AsiaOne Wine, Dine & Unwind

Straits Times Interactive The Electric New Paper STOMP Berita Harian
Business Times Online Tamil Murasu My Paper Zaobao.com

Advantages of Being Online
SPH decided to enter into the internet space through AsiaOne to capture the vast advantages of Online News offering:
• Your message is available to consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.
• Due to the Net's interactive elements, consumers can respond immediately to your ad.
• Enhances and reinforces messages from advertising in other media.
• Ease of instantly updating the advertising message.
• The Internet allows the building of one-to-one customer relationships like no other medium can.
• There is a global reach for your products & services. SPH initially wanted to provide news to Singaporeans settled in other countries immediately.

Reasons for SPH going Online through AsiaOne
The government’s grand proclamation in 1992 that Singapore would become the ‘intelligent island-state’ of the Asia-Pacific region by 2000 led many Singaporeans to readily embrace new media technologies .With 99% of households and businesses connected to a nationwide broadband network and more than 66% of the population computer-literate, Singaporeans are deemed more tech-savvy than Americans, Britons or Australians. Not only are Singaporeans known to be one of the most ardent Internet users in the world, a recently published survey even found ‘non-users’ of the Internet in Singapore to be supportive of Internet use and development. In addition, with few regulatory restraints compared to offline media, the ‘openness’ of the Internet has enabled individuals and groups to set up websites to publicise their own interests and agendas.
Singapore’s Internet connectivity and computer literacy can be gauged from the fact that three of the world's most prestigious portals have developed Singapore-specific sites.
1. Yahoo (sg.yahoo.com)
2. Microsoft Network www.msn.com.sg[http://www.msn.com.sg/]) and
3. Lycos (www.lycosasia.com.sg[http://www.lycosasia.com.sg/]) had localised their vast Internet-site directories.
Each of these was a valuable source for anyone curious about any aspect of Singapore.

To provide better information about Singapore and develop closer-to-home feeling, Singapore Press Holding's AsiaOne (www.asiaone.com[http://www.asiaone.com/]) and Internet mogul-in-the-making, Mr Patrick Grove's Catcha.com (catcha.com.sg) developed similar portals with perhaps an even stronger Singaporean flavour.

SPH aimed through this news outlet to build ‘soft power’ resources to propagate Singapore news globally, with one of its key target audience being the ever-increasing pool of Singaporeans residing overseas.
The availability of ‘reliable’ online news can thus be interpreted as a pro-active measure to anchor Singaporeans, especially those based offshore, to Singapore – if not physically, then

ideologically. This is what DPM Lee was probably alluding to when he reiterated that the media should “play a constructive role in nation building”.
Business Model of Asia1
A business model is a conceptual tool that contains a big set of elements and their relationships and allows expressing the business logic of a specific firm. It is a description of the value a company offers to one or several segments of customers and of the architecture of the firm and its network of partners for creating, marketing, and delivering this value and relationship capital, to generate profitable and sustainable revenue streams.
— Osterwalder, Pigneur and Tucci (2005)
The author's conceptualization describes a business model as consisting of nine related business model building blocks,

Above Business model when applied to AsiaOne gives following results:
• Core Capabilities: Technical Expertise, Web Space, Easy Accessibility, Tie Ups with other networks, Advertising etc
• Partner Network: SPH Suite of news paper
• Value Configuration: Online news, Information and advertisement
• Cost Structure: Salaries , Rent and other expenses

• Value Proposition: News, Information on Finance, motoring, technology, health and other life style products etc.
• Customer Relationship: Customer could provide Feedback through online portal and other sources and also AsiaOne continually updated portal with new information, features and better site design to make a mark on its readers.
• Distribution Channels: Online Web portal
• Target Customer: Professionals, Mangers, Executives and Businessmen (PMEB)
• Revenue Stream: Various Advertising Options – Initially the revenue source was only advertising later on it ventured into e-commerce with the help of Various Tie-Ups and also started charging some membership fees for archiving some news.

AsiaOne Advertising Options

AsiaOne offers a choice of advertising packages to suit different promotional goal; advertisers can tap on our reach to meet their marketing objectives. It can be from building brand awareness, increase own site’s traffic, create customer loyalty and relationships or to influence preference. Advertiser can be sure that AsiaOne will have the suitable package to satisfy their needs. The packages are:

Run of AsiaOne Network (RON)
Advertise across all AsiaOne sites so Advertisers’ ads appear anywhere within the AsiaOne network.

Run of AsiaOne Sites (ROS)
Advertise on specific sites like Straits Times Interactive or Business Times Online and ads will only appear within these individual sites.

Weekly Banners
Tile banners, skyscrapers and tower banners on the homepages of the main publications, sold on a weekly basis.

Cost Per Thousand (CPM)
CPM is the standard web advertising cost model. It is used by Internet marketers to price ad banners. Sites that sell advertising will guarantee an advertiser a certain number of impressions (number of times an ad banner is downloaded and presumably seen by visitors.), then set a rate based on that guarantee times the CPM rate. Interactive Message Unit (IMU)
300x250 pixels flash creative. Highly interactive with information tabs and multi-media capabilities. Runs in Article pages only.

Rich Media
Various DHTML ad formats.

Microsite
Mini websites (usually less than 5 pages), ideal for featuring or promoting new products or services. Advertorials
Content-driven ad on site masthead. Lead in from tile banner or text link (on tile banner) on homepage. Poll
Find out what your customer thinks. Use this interactive tool to elicit feedback from AsiaOne surfers. Electronic Direct Marketing (eDM)
Dedicated email blast to Asia One’s base of more than 550,000 registered users. Sponsorship
Integrates an advertiser's message with content on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Identified by "Brought to you by..." or "Sponsored by..." messages.

AsiaOne looking to expand its sales network world-wide to get more advertisers
Since AsiaOne's launch in June 1995, the website's popularity has been growing from strength-to-strength. To date, AsiaOne draws over 110 million page views a month from 7 million unique audiences, giving their advertisers the reach to their target audience.
With AsiaOne's advertising potential set to take off, it is now looking to expand its international sales network. AsiaOne is looking to invite innovative sales-oriented companies based overseas to join their team of international sales agencies who will market and sell advertising space on AsiaOne's web pages in their respective countries.

Business Development

Over its journey from its launch on 15th June 1995 to date AsiaOne has undergone numerous of changes with development in various areas, summary of these developments in chronological order are as given below:

The Year 1995

Initial offerings on AsiaOne on the World Wide Web included “Business Times Online”, giving news and analysis from SPH's business daily.Business Times On-line offered almost all of BT's Asian news reports, opinion columns and features. With this, BT hoped to add an international readership.Stories from BT's weekend Executive Lifestyle pages, including those on arts, entertainment and leisure were also available. Users could access published material from archives, but only for the preceding week. It was free at the time of launch and the company thought of keeping some subscription charges ahead.

Asia One’s pages initially included "Internet showcase", a selection of products and services available on the Net. It lets Net users order anything from company information and

multimedia magazine subscriptions to kimchi mix and curry powder. Users could also use AsiaOne to reach an On-line bookstore which sells books in English, French and German.
On 7th August 1995 Business Times' daily transport section, “Shipping Times “was put on the Internet. This service offered news reports, features on personalities, reports of important court cases relating to the shipping industry and updated information such as port conditions around the world to avoid costly delays. The Shipping Guide, which lists sailing destinations and shipping information of voyages from Singapore to more than 400 ports, was available.
During Mid August of this year AsiaOne launched the on-line version of “Lianhe Zaobao” making it the first online Chinese Newspaper on the Net. It was decided to keep both Strait Times and Lianhe Zaobao free for a specific period and later on put subscription charges.
Moving ahead BT launched its Electronic business directory on 23rd November 1995. The BT Business Directory had the addresses and contact numbers of businesses and companies in Singapore by industry and sub-sector. Some of the sectors covered in the directory included banking and finance, government, property and technology. There was also a bulletin board where foreign companies seeking Singapore business contacts can post messages.
In order to increase its revenue generation AsiaOne started a "presence hosting" service to create and maintain home pages for companies and organizations. For a start-up fee of S$650, and a S$100 monthly charge, AsiaOne would design and run a World Wide Web home page for customers, and provide monthly reports of the number of accesses to their home page.
On 18th Sept 10995 a free service called “BT Stock Watch” which provided real time-prices, summaries and indices from SGX was launched. This facility was extended by starting a new service “Personal Stock Watch” on 10th Oct 1995. This facility would help investors to get every three minutes update for 30 stocks selected by them and this service was offered free of cost to users.
Advertising response for online system was very strong. There were four sponsors - Nikkei Telecom, Nokia Asia, UOB Bank, and Construction Industry Development Board - on BT

Online, while Pacific Century on the AsiaOne home page and Sun Microsystems on Computer Times.
To provide more information to readers AsiaOne added “Business Day”- the Thai English language business daily to its list of online services on 31st October 1995. Also from 9th November 1995 Singapore Flight Schedules were available on AsiaOne. The information available weeks ahead would be updated every five minutes .The estimated accesses per week were 300,000 hits.
After the addition of Business Day, AsiaOne added another national Daily “Straits Times interactive” on 1st December 1995. The key features were updates on breaking stories. Advertisers had already shown interest, with computer company Digital Equipment having bought ad space for the entire duration of the Lesson trial. Sun Microsystems and United Overseas Bank were other advertisers. Through Straits Times Interactive people could also do online shopping at various major stores.
On 15th December 1995 AsiaOne launched one more page “AsiaOne Travel” this page gave information on Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam in addition to Singapore. The new page had tips on food, souvenir hunting, hotels, happenings and other information about the countries
While AsiaOne was increasing its services since its launch, there was a tremendous increase in number of hits it was receiving. In December 1995 it was accessed one million times every week which was considerable increase from 100,000 hits per week in September. This increase was because of continuous improvements undertaken by AsiaOne.
The Year 1996
Continuing its innovation AsiaOne expanded its range of products by providing China based newspaper “Guangzhou Ribao” from 3rd January 1996 online. Guangzhou Ribao was the first non-SPH newspaper to join the AsiaOne stable. It was however the second Chinese-language daily available on AsiaOne after Lianhe Zaobao.

On 13th February 1995 BT added US markets to its stock price service on Internet. This service allowed users to get stock quotes and other information from New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market via BT Stock watch.
In response to requests from readers who had heard about The Straits Times Interactive’s daily reports or special news packages but could not read them the day they were published , AsiaOne launched Electronic Archive for last 7 days news on 7th March 1996.
In order to increase readership AsiaOne underwent major Revamp in March 1996. It was jazzed up with vibrant, colour-coordinated icons and graphics and crisp, succinct text. A key difference of the new improved AsiaOne was its visual appeal - where there used to be a screenful of text of the list of electronic newspapers and information services available, there was now a giant blue and yellow globe to greet users. Dotted across it were six colourful icons representing different categories of information and services. By clicking the icons, users can access categories like:
• The News Stand: It contained news reports and feature articles of Singapore's dailies on the Net, like The Straits Times, Business Times, the New Paper, and more recently, Berita Harian.
• The Business Centre: It consists of sub-sections which include The News Room with business publications, The Trading Room with stock information, Reference Room listing of Singapore businesses, Bulletin Board for users to paste messages and Executive Club for leisure.
• Lifestyle: It reviews movies, music, sports, is a source of free software, and even has a Chinese horoscope for fun predictions.
• The Classroom: It provides information on Singapore schools, with links to the web pages of top schools, education news and the latest rankings of schools here.
• Travel: It features tips on shopping, food, and facts on destinations like South Korea, New Zealand, India and the Philippines.
• The Meeting Place: It contains AsiaOne's links with other associations like Mensa.
The AsiaOne also started a new feature called a ticker tape, Running news headlines across the top of the screen to draw attention to important information.

After undergoing a Major Revamp, AsiaOne included another feature “TimesNet Asia” on 29th March 1996. This was published by Far East Trade Press a subsidiary of Times Publishing in Hong Kong, it consisted of live and archived news from Asian Business, Cargo news Asia, Cargo news China and Travel news Asia.
In order to reach worldwide potential audience Singapore Festival of Arts was put online through AsiaOne on 11th April 1996. This new website would give synopses of shows and details on ticketing and venues.

In order to enhance its online news series AsiaOne started “AsiaOne Hot Series” on 20th May 1996 which would identify the best read stories on the online versions of The Business Times, The Straits Times and The New paper.

While continuing its development AsiaOne added 4 new publications to its existing list on 1st August 1996:
• The Borneo Bulletin, the English language national paper of Brunei.
• Business World, English language daily newspaper from the Philippines.
• Sin Chew Jit Poh, a leading Chinese language daily newspaper in Malaysia.
• Property Link, a bi-monthly magazine from Singapore focusing on Asian properties.
Looking at growing number of Unit Trust investors, AsiaOne launched Singapore’s first website dedicated to Unit Trust Industry on 7th August 1996. This site would provide comprehensive information on the fund management industry. In addition to news and features on unit trusts, the site had daily updates of unit trust prices as well as a directory of major fund management companies in Singapore authorized to sell their funds locally.
AsiaOne Started a paid service called GCE O Level English Online Lessons with a subscription fee of S$120 per programme on 9th August 1996. The programme was spread over 14 weeks, with lessons every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribers to the programme will know how they fare as marking is done electronically after each lesson. At the end of each week, a Report Card shows their performance in relation to the rest in the group

AsiaOne also started new “FaxMailer Service” on 13th Sept 1996 and “PostOne” on 7th October 1996. FaxMailer Service was a paid service with a facility of sending Fax anywhere in world and PostOne would give a unique address to the user which would act as a permanent post office box and any emails coming to this address are transferred to the attached email address of user.

On 27th November 1996 AsiaOne replaced its existing service BT Business Directory by a new service “SingaporeConect”. This new service would help companies and investors to find prospective foreign and local business partners by searching this comprehensive database. Initially Singapore's 230,000 were registered and within a month’s time some 500 companies showed their interest in establishing partnerships and business collaborations in SingaporeConect.

The Year 1997
While AsiaOne was adding more and more services to its list it was lacking in entertainment services and to overcome this they started new service “SoundNet” on 15th March 1997. SoundNet users could access two of Rediffusion’s broadcast channels: the Gold channel “live” which features mandarin programmes and Silver Channel “live”, which featured English programmes.

In order to cash on increasing investments in real estate AsiaOne launched new paid service “REALink” on 29th March 1997. REALink would give access to database for residential, Commercial and industrial properties.

Considering a lot of development and to provide fresh look to site, AsiaOne again underwent major Revamp in April 1997.This revamp was in light of AsiaOne’s move towards e-commerce.
The new changes and features includes include:
• A "video wall", which would allow surfers an easier way to browse the site.
• There were more features such as "electronic commerce" to be available later. This would enable user to buy goods and services over the Internet.

• Idea was to get Orchard Road on CyberSpace. A study by the United States Department of Commerce which concluded that electronic commerce was worth US$200 million (S$280 million) in 1995, and will hit US$5 billion in 1998 in the US alone.
• AsiaOne's revenue was largely advertising-generated and there were plans to now charge fee per user of around 100S$. The Management was confident that even by charging they won’t lose the customers as the info on AsiaOne can’t be found anywhere else.
After revamping the site completely AsiaOne launched its e-commerce service “AsiaOne Commerce” on 17th October 1997. At the time of launch AsiaOne signed up nine business partners offering over 400 products. Consumers could make purchases and pay for their transactions by credit card on the website.
Group general manager of SPH's multimedia division Low Huan Ping said in the statement that “AsiaOne Commerce hoped to have over 100 merchants and 20,000 products online. This site was opened to provide ease and convenience to the customers”.
The Year 1998
As a part of its e-commerce service AsiaOne on 13th May 1998 launched a new website named as “DataShop” which would help businessmen, researchers and investors around the world to access Singapore’s official statistics. Users can buy and download statistical reports and data series by credit card payment through a secured electronic environment.
The Year 1999
Along with doing new developments and improvements in various features of AsiaOne SPH made an Initial Investment of $10 million to make AsiaOne as a separate company, AsiaOne Internet Pte. Ltd. This new company would take over operations of the group’s existing multimedia division and run the internet business independently. This move was basically for more accountability and better corporate governance. SPH shares slipped 50 cents to end at S$28 on 572,000 shares on 31st August 1999. There were also plans to double the AsiaOne Workforce of 50.

SPH’s executive vice-president Low Huan Ping was appointed head of the group's newly set up Internet business AsiaOne Internet Pte. Ltd on 31st August 1999.
In order to help Chinese business’s seeking to expand AsiaOne launched new website “World Chinese Business Network (WCBN)” on 5th October 1999. This site was designed in consultation with Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI).
The Year 2000
To cater to Tamil Population AsiaOne provided link for Tamil Language Daily “TAMIL Murasu” from 15th January 2000. The Internet edition of the newspaper, which styles itself as the "Voice of the Tamil net Community" offered a platform for showcasing Tamil culture, language, literature and arts.
“Strait Times classified”, the advertisement section of Straits Times was made online on 26th Jan 2000.
Also on 26th January 2000 AsiaOne again Relaunched its site with new line of services, these services included,
• Now, visitors to the site were offered a free e-mail account with 10MB of space to store messages.
• Besides the extra space, AsiaOne.com's e-mail service was likely to be faster. This was because its mail servers were locally-based, so download times were shorter than overseas services.
• The revamped site also offered e-auctions and e-classifieds. For e-auctions, the site could monitor and bid for users up to a pre-set maximum value, so users do not have to monitor the site themselves.
The developments till now resulted in more number of hits on AsiaOne’s Portal. However few things were still remaining. Some of the key plus points and improvements needed are listed below:

PLUS POINTS
• Comprehensive news coverage of Singapore and the region
• Currency converter
• Online Straits Times Classifieds
• Useful array of links to Singapore-related sites
• Online auctions
• Regional weather forecasts
• Easy navigation
• Online poll
• Popular stocks watch

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED
• Customisation not yet available
• Drab-looking Singapore weather forecasts.
To develop its business AsiaOne went into joint venture with many entities and started new websites and portals. Details of all these new joint ventures are as given below,
WAP on Mi World: On 27th March 2000 AsiaOne signed as agreement with M1 to launch WAP on Mi World. This facility allowed M1 customers with WAP enabled phones to access whole information including e-commerce from AsiaOne.com.
FantasticOne: In May 2000 AsiaOne launched a company FantasticOne as joint venture with The Fantastic Corp (a public internet solution company). Fantastic One was Asia’s first complete broadband multimedia solution provider for mass-market content. SPH AsiaOne holds 40 % and Fantastic Corp holds 60% of new company.
AsiaOne Quicken: While other publishers had mainly put the old-economy content on the Web, AsiaOne was starting to look like a real portal adding new and innovative features to their portal. It had an auction site and launched a financial portal with U.S. personal finance powerhouse Quicken.com named AsiaOne Quicken which provided the world's best-selling

financial management software. AsiaOne also had BT Online and according to AsiaOne content director Margaret Thomas, there were more than 30,000 users of the My Stocks portfolio service, while the BT Stocks Web site received 7 million to 8 million page-views a month. This demonstrated a strong position of AsiaOne.
AsiaOne Health Answers: On 6th May 2000, AsiaOne signed a broad content partnership agreement with HealthAnswers to expand its portal to include a Web site on healthcare. The co-branded AsiaOne HealthAnswers was to provide, among other things, up-to-date information on local and regional health issues, personalised question & answer sessions with community health experts and a comprehensive directory of over 3,000 local medical and health-related organisations. The health-conscious could make use of the various health tools available, such as calculators to measure body mass index, calorie level and heart rate, as well as pick up some useful tips on diet, pregnancy and prescription drugs.
"As more people are turning to the Internet for credible and reliable health information, we need to ensure that AsiaOne will be the one-stop shop for families and health professionals. This is part of our commitment to expand our lifestyle content and service offering on our portal," said Low Huan Ping, chief executive officer of AsiaOne.
AsiaOne HealthAnswers also leveraged on its business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-commerce capabilities to offer access to online and offline medical products. HealthAnswers (Singapore) Pte Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of HealthAnswers Asia, the Asian arm of HealthAnswers Incorporated.
On 9th May 2000 AsiaOne added another service – “AsiaOne Careers” to its bagful of content-rich lifestyle offerings such as auctions and shopping. AsiaOne Careers promised to be a one-stop shop for career management and would offer individual customised alerts for both job seekers and employers. Job seekers can enjoy services such as the posting and storing of resumes online, job search and email alerts when a suitable job is found. Other tools include personality analysis and career planning. On the other hand, employers can make use of the Internet to post their job openings and company's profile online, conduct resume research and receive weekly news summaries on recruitment and employment issues. Pre-interview analysis and screening will also be introduced in the second phase.

"The AsiaOne Careers is the perfect platform for both young job seekers and professionals to find their ideal job though an informative and reliable source. We want to deliver value to them by matching their job search and their experiences with what employers are looking for. In addition, in a tight labour market like in Singapore, employers and human resource professionals need to find quality candidates quickly and effectively." said AsiaOne's chief executive officer Low Huan Ping.
After the IPO of AsiaOne in May 2000, it planned to expand in all directions - horizontally, vertically and geographically. The company said it intends to broaden the range and depth of service and products offered at its Web site.
In terms of services, AsiaOne was improving its e-commerce platform by investing in new software called IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite. In addition, it also developed new payment gateways to ease payment for goods and services.
Vertically, AsiaOne started investing in businesses that offered content, technology and distribution capabilities as well as marketing, e-commerce and cross-promotional opportunities through joint ventures, strategic alliances and investments. Geographically, it started efforts to make its presence felt in the region and China, and to build its brand names internationally.
On 26th May 2000 AsiaOne was the Web site for Singapore's first charity e-auction, one of the highlights of Great Singapore Sale (GSS). The AsiaOne Charity E-Auction, which also signals GSS's venture into cyberspace, saw over S$12,000 worth of sponsored products put up for bids. The sponsors included Gateway Computers, Robinsons, Safe Superstore, Hewlett Packard and Royal Scandinavia. Proceeds from the e-auction were donated to the Singapore Millennial Trust in aid of the Youth and the Environment Support. In the three months after the launch, the AsiaOne Auction site drew more than 16,000 members and saw an active trading in all of its 23 product categories, which featured over 4,000 products.
On 31st August 2000 BT and AsiaOne, expanded their stock service. A new website, called AsiaOneMarkets was launched officially as the financial portal of AsiaOne.

While the BT Stocks site was to be retained, AsiaOneMarkets offered a much expanded and more sophisticated service, covering not just Singapore but also regional markets. The site offered - for free - a one-stop service covering stocks, futures, investment funds, commodities and currencies. At this time Mr Low Huan Ping, AsiaOne's chief executive officer, said: "We will also be able to push critical market-sensitive information into WAP phones through text to voice technologies and wireless communications devices."
AsiaOne.com Ltd declared on 18th Sept 2000 that it would invest S$1.4 million in Fundsupermart Holdings Pte Ltd, whose Internet subsidiary had received a dealer's licence for unit trust distribution. AsiaOne said in a statement it would pay the amount for a 19.9 percent stake in Fundsupermart, with an option to raise it to 23.5 percent through the conversion of convertible loan. Other shareholders included DMG & Partners Securities Pte Ltd, an associate company of the Deutsche Bank Group, with a 17 percent stake.
In October, 2000 AsiaOne launched NewAsiaWoman.com .Designed to meet the needs and interests of Net-savvy women in Asia and around the globe. This new website had a dozen sections including Beauty & Hair, Fashion & Accessories, Money & Sense, Ms Gadget and The Job Cafe. It also had news, views, information, advice and tools to educate, entertain, engage and energise Asian women. Women could interact with each other through message boards, e-mail and instant messaging and chat tools. They could also share ideas and experiences, exchange information and explore jobs and business opportunities.
Mr Low Huan Ping, CEO of AsiaOne, said that the new website will fill a gap as there are few sites catering specifically for women, who comprise 45 per cent of Net surfers here.
"We know we are on the right track and we're confident Asian women will find it an essential tool in their daily lives," he says.
On 15th November 2000 AsiaOne launched its travel site “AsiaOne Travel “in partnership with travel company Chan Brothers Travel. The site, which was part of AsiaOne's efforts to beef up its lifestyle offerings, helped surfers’ book tour packages, accommodation, air tickets, car rentals and buy travel insurance. It also had information on tour destinations. The site was free and easy travellers as well as corporate travellers.

AsiaOne chief executive Low Huan Ping said, "We welcome all industry players like airlines, travel agents, travel insurance companies, hotels, resorts, and advertisers to partner us. We believe that consumers will enjoy the one-stop shop that AsiaOne provides for their travel needs. We will turn this portal into a mega travel mall."
Chan Brothers already had $30 million sales through the Internet. More than 25,000 of its customers have bought their holiday packages via the Internet.
In December 2000 AsiaOne, launched an online subscription motoring magazine “AsiaOne AutoSpeed” and appointed Paul Meyers as chief operating officer of FantasticOne, a newly formed joint venture broadband company.
It signed an agreement with AutoSpeed, an online Australian automotive magazine, to start AsiaOne-AutoSpeed. AutoSpeed is a weekly online automotive magazine by Australian publisher Web Publications Pty Ltd launched in 1998. It has a readership of more than 65,000. AsiaOne became the Singapore operations for AutoSpeed, handling the marketing and promotions for the site, and localising the content to suit Asian and local tastes. Some of the content at autospeed.asiaone.com.sg is free, while feature articles are charged a subscription of S$18 for six months.
The Year 2001
On 1st May 2001 AsiaOne launched new website Zaobao.com. This internet platform was aimed to promote investor relations in Chinese communities in Singapore and other parts of Asia Pacific region. It also provided services such as website creation, hosting and online promotion for companies.

On 21st June 2001 AsiaOne announced that it will launch virtual “career eFair” early 2002. This eFair would bring together companies, job-seekers and students for cyber tours and online interation. The virtual booths will be presented in the form of “Micro-Sites”.

AsiaOne Goes for IPO

AsiaOne Going IPO
The financial year 1999-2000 was good to Asia's newspaper publishers, with potentially lucrative online spin-offs driving stock prices sky-high. But the market corrections during initial period of year 2000-01 made several major players nervous. This triggered them race for getting their dotcom subsidiaries listed before things get really nasty on NASDAQ. The first one out of the gates looked to be Singapore Press Holdings which planned to list its internet arm AsiaOne in June 2000. The listing would have helped it beat out counterparts like Hong Kong's scmp.com and Malaysia's iStara.
On 2nd May 2000 Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) obtained in-principle approval for listing it’s Internet arm SPH AsiaOne Ltd on the main board of the Singapore Exchange.
SPH thought that the listing would
• Enhance the public image of the firm and enable it to raise funds from the capital markets to finance its business expansion.
• Provide its employees, business associates and the general public with a chance to participate in its growth. It was declared that no preferential offer will be made to the shareholders of parent company SPH. It was also said that the listing will have no significant impact on SPH's consolidated net tangible assets or net profit after taxation for the financial year ending August 31, 2000.
Citicorp Investment Bank (Singapore) was appointed as the manager of the initial public offering.
AsiaOne was the first in Singapore to set aside some shares for online applicants. It offered four tranches of shares: Internet offer, public offer, reserved tranche and placement tranche. The company had a pre-flotation capital base of one billion shares.
AsiaOne CEO Low Huan Ping said on 2nd May 2000 said that the IPO would be launched "as quickly as possible".

"We would try to choose the best time to launch the IPO but I must say that, no matter what, we are confident of our product."
As for the pricing of the issue, he said:
"We have some idea but it is best that we do not disclose them at the moment."
After the announcement of approval for listing AsiaOne , Shares of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) fell in moderate trade on 03rd May 2000 by S$1.60 or almost five percent at S$31.00. Volume traded was 372,000 units. Analysts said that there was no fundamental reason for SPH's weakness in the last two days and that AsiaOne's initial public offer announced on 2nd May was already well anticipated.
Michael Sia, analyst at SG Securities, said SPH's fair value was between S$32 to S$36, depending on the valuations given to its Internet arm.
"AsiaOne is a small part of their business and it only generated revenue of S$6 million after five years," Sia said.
Many analysts, including Sia, estimated that AsiaOne was worth between S$2.00 to S$2.50 a share to SPH while the group's core newspaper business was valued at between S$25 to S$27.
SPH AsiaOne Ltd launched the international roadshow for its initial public offering on 15th May 2000.It kicked off its roadshow and book-building exercise in Hong Kong on Monday and continued to London and other cities in Europe before returning to Singapore on May 22

General Advantages and Disadvantages of going Public
Advantages
• Company gets access to new capital to develop the business
• A float makes it easier for company and other investors to realize investment

• Company can offer employees extra incentives by granting share options
• Being a public company can provide customers and suppliers with added reassurance
• Company may gain a higher public profile, which can be good for business
• Having own traded shares gives you greater potential for acquiring other businesses, because company can offer shares as well as cash
• Personal guarantees of directors are not usually required for borrowings
Disadvantages
• Business may become vulnerable to market fluctuations, which are outside your control.
• If market conditions change during the floatation Process Company may have to abandon the float.
• The costs of floatation can be substantial and there are also ongoing costs such as higher professional fees.
• Company will have to consider shareholders interests when running the company - which may differ from their own objectives.
• Company may have to give up some management control of the business and ultimately there's a risk that the company could be taken over.
• Public companies have to comply with a wide range of additional regulatory requirements and meet accepted standards of corporate governance
• Managers could be distracted from running the business by the demands of the floatation process, and by dealing with investors afterwards

Details of IPO and Financial Situation of AsiaOne Ltd.
AsiaOne was expected to offer up to 15 percent of the capital of the company and shares were likely to be priced below S$1 each. Company had one billion shares of par value S$0.05 each that have been issued and paid up. The IPO was launched on May 23. Funds raised from the IPO, were expected to be around S$100 million if market conditions were favourable.

It was also said that in effect from March 1 2000, parent SPH would charge royalty and licensing fees for its online newspapers, which currently form a substantial portion of AsiaOne's content, and the unit would in turn charge a hosting fee. The prospectus said the hosting fee would be S$10,000 a month, while SPH's licensing fee would be a percentage based on AsiaOne's gross revenue.
Revenue for AsiaOne Ltd. for the six months ended February 29, 2000 was about S$2.79 million compared with S$1.7 million in the corresponding six month period last year .Of this amount, 39 per cent came from Audiotex services, 37 per cent from content and other services and 24 per cent from advertising. High cost of revenues and operating expenses, however, landed the company a S$2.1 million loss. It expected the losses to continue in the foreseeable future
Staff costs were expected to rise as the average headcount increased four-fold and the company expected to invest heavily in advertising and promotion of its AsiaOne.com and Zaobao.com brand names.
On 22nd May SPH AsiaOne Ltd fixed its initial public offer price at S$0.60 a share. The price was at the bottom end of its book building range of S$0.60-S$0.80.
"The market is very weak at the moment, so it is not surprising, especially with the sentiment towards Internet stocks," a broker with a Singapore firm said.
SPH, a stock widely-held by funds because of its near monopoly on newspaper publishing in Singapore, was expected to hold more than 85 percent of AsiaOne after the floatation of the company.
AsiaOne's pricing at the low end had an impact on SPH shares.SPH was down five percent or S$1.50 at S$27.70 soon in moderately active dealings. SPH AsiaOne Ltd's public offer drew a subscription of 1.7 times when it closed on 1st June 2000. It placement tranche did better with applicants seeking three times the number of shares available.
AsiaOne had offered a total of 148 million shares at S$0.60 a piece, comprising 59.2 million shares for the public (including 37 million through the Internet), 74 million through

placements and 14.8 million reserved shares. AsiaOne declared in a statement made on 2nd June 2000 that it received 16,737 applications from the public seeking 98.7 million shares. All the 1,709 Internet applicants were successful and were allotted about 11.5 million shares i.e. 30 per cent of the 37 million shares were offered over the Net.
After The Launch
On 5th June 2000 SPH AsiaOne Ltd. made a lacklustre debut, closing markedly lower than its offer price as investors deemed the issue overvalued. AsiaOne ended at 53 Singapore cents (30.8 US cents), down from its offer price of 60 cents, despite a sharp rise in the Singapore market in the wake of previous week's strong showing of the technology-led US NASDAQ market.
Analysts said they found AsiaOne too expensive, and preferred to pick up oversold but defensive blue chip companies. A dealer with a domestic brokerage said AsiaOne's aggressive pricing dragged it below its offer price. However, the stock's early performance was still "above expectations" even as most investors avoided the stock. Some analysts quoted as follows :
"People were expecting it to fall by about 3.0 percent. Some were even thinking it would fall to about 40 to 45 cents. I won't disagree (with these estimates) but as it turned out, it's not falling as much the market had expected,"
"I'm very encouraged (with the stock's performance) but I don't think people will jump in and pick it up at these prices." Initial support for the stock is likely to be 50 cents.
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) shares also fell on the same day ahead of an announcement, widely-expected at the end of day that MediaCorp of Singapore would venture into newspaper publishing, breaking the SPH monopoly.
SPH, which shed 12 percent week earlier on expectations of the announcement, slid further to a low of S$25.70. Volume traded was a moderately active 1.19 million shares. AsiaOne, which saw a weak debut on 5th June 2000, trading mostly below its initial public offer price of S$0.60, also dampened sentiment for SPH.

On 7th June 2000, SPH AsiaOne reversed part of its debut losses, closing up 8.5 per cent at S$0.575 cents compared with its IPO price of S$0.60. Trade was heavy at 20 million shares.
On 16th August 2000, SPH AsiaOne shares fell as much as 3.4 per cent to a record low, on concern that earnings will be hurt as the online publishing industry faces increasing costs. The online arm of Singapore's monopoly newspaper publisher, Singapore Press Holdings, dropped 1.5 Singapore cents, or 3.4 per cent, to 42.5 Singapore cents in recent trading. It is down nearly 20 per cent since its first trading day on June 5.
On 25th August 2000 BANKER Ernest Wong, who was appointed chairman of AsiaOne in May, a month ahead of its listing was tipped to join government-owned broadcaster MediaCorp as chief executive, and stepped down as chairman of AsiaOne. It was thought that his stepping down from AsiaOne will avoid a conflict of interests with his duties at MediaCorp. Hence, on 18th Sept 2000 Ernest resigned as chairman of its Board of Directors and Audit Committee. Koh Boon Hwee appointed acting chairman Soon Tit Koon, as chairman of the Audit Committee.
On 4th October Net Research Asia said Bargain hunters should avoid buying SPH AsiaOne.com Ltd for now, although the internet portal operator's shares are trading at half their initial public offer (IPO) price. AsiaOne was being traded at S$0.28 compared to its June IPO price of S$0.60 a share. "Investors should note that the bottom line loss of S$15 million was larger than any of the published forecasts from analysts," said the Internet-based research firm. Because of the loss declared by AsiaOne, Net Research cited high valuations and concerns over the company's inability to monetise its user base and break out of the domestic market as reasons not to buy the stock yet.
However Net Research said AsiaOne's cash reserve of S$105 million was enough to last the group almost six years at the current monthly burn rate of S$1.5 million.
On 31st January 2001 Mr Cheng Jue Hiang was appointed as chairman of the board of directors of AsiaOne with effect from 01st February 2001 .Cheng was the country managing partner of Accenture Singapore, formerly known as Andersen Consulting. Also effective 1st

Feb 2001, Koh Boon Hwee stepped down as SPH AsiaOne's acting chairman, but remained a director of the company, SPH AsiaOne.

SPH buys-back Asia1
AsiaOne Internet Pte. Ltd Delisted

Changes in Financial Condition of AsiaOne which led to its Buyback

On 3 October 2000, AsiaOne Pte. Ltd declared its net loss for the year ended on Aug. 31 2000 as $15.10 million compared to a S$538,000 loss in the year-ago. Low Huan Ping, chief executive of SPH AsiaOne, told a news conference

“Losses were expected to peak this current financial year and losses would be only slightly more than last year”.

Its revenue for the period rose 34% to S$5.5 million compared with S$4.1 million in the previous year. Also the firm's burn rate went down to S$1.5 million per month from S$2.2 million per month last year with a cash reserve of S$105 million. Analysts said the results for AsiaOne, floated in June, were worse than expected.

"The top and bottom line seems to be below market expectations," said Steven Chan, analyst at Merrill Lynch who had a neutral rating on the stock.

"The numbers don't look very good. They are supposed to be a high growth company and they launched a number of new initiatives since their listing, but monthly revenues were pretty flat," said Arthur Chai of independent research firm NetResearch-Asia.

However, AsiaOne’s performance was lifted by strong growth in advertising revenue, which rose by 32% to S$804 million in the year just ended. AsiaOne said it expects revenue to increase this year on improved economic growth in the region. However, due to investment required in the expansion of its services and establishing itself, it will continue to incur losses in the current financial year.

At this time the AsiaOne shares closed at a new low of S$0.295.The company saw its market capitalisation wiped out by half, or S$344 million, since its initial public offer at S$0.60 a share in June 2000. This compared with the Straits Times Index , which has been flat over the same period.

Asian newspaper giants seeking to expand beyond the printed word were advised to focus on their core strengths, US brokerage house Salomon Smith Barney said. Falling circulation, rising newsprint costs and greater competition for advertising revenues were putting pressure on newspapers to diversify but such investments must be well-chosen, it said in a report.

On 28 Sep 2001, SPH Asiaone, reported its second consecutive full year loss and said it expected to remain unprofitable in 2002 as well. The loss for the period ended August 31 2001 was S$14.9 million, little changed from last year's loss of S$15.1 million. During the year under review, revenue more than doubled to S$9.63 million due to higher online sales and web publishing. But operating expenses jumped 26 percent to S$22.2 million as a result of higher staff costs and depreciation. SPH Asiaone shares ended at S$0.115.AsiaOne said that it expected to remain unprofitable in the year 2002 as well.

Due to the continuing losses, on 3 Oct 2001, SPH decided to restructure by taking Asiaone Private. The Proposal put forward was:

• SPH will pay S$45 million ($25.3 million) in cash.
• Offer S$0.30 per share for all of the stock though the floated rate at the launch was S$0.60 per share.
• The S$0.30 price was a 160 percent premium to AsiaOne's close at $0.13.

The buyback price was reached after considering the price of the stock over the past 12 months and the net tangible asset per share of 9.2 Singapore cents as of Aug. 31, 2001. The delisting exercise costed the company S$45 million.SPH gave the following as the main reasons for Delisting AsiaOne:

• "The local economic climate, already fragile, has turned for the worse since the Sept. 11 attack in America. AsiaOne will take longer to break even, and even longer to turn in a sizable profit commensurate with investors' expectations," Willie Cheng, chairman of AsiaOne, said.
• The Internet environment has changed drastically in the past year and hasn't turned out to be what was originally envisioned."While the industry is still growing, it is at a

much slower pace and monetizing Internet traffic has proven to be a very slow and difficult process," SPH said.
• AsiaOne's ability to carry out its plans to achieve sustainable rapid growth was badly affected.

Commenting on this Buyback SPH group President, Tjong Yik Min, said “If minority shareholders accepted the buyback offer, the unit will be delisted and revamped “. Describing the offer as fair, he said “It will help AsiaOne to ride out the difficult market conditions and enjoy greater integration and synergy with the parent”. He also said, "It will certainly be used to complement and supplement all the platforms that we have. Be it print television or Internet."

SPH and AsiaOne after buyback

SPH battles tough times
Because of the slowing economy SPH decided to take tough measures. On 5 Oct 2001, it closed a Sydney-based sub-editing office to cut costs as falling advertising revenues from a slowing economy and high spending in new areas such as broadcasting put pressure on SPH to consolidate resources. It also shut down its tabloid and Internet publication Project Eyeball in June after less than a year in operation.

On privatising AsiaOne, SPH said "It would be easier for SPH to manage its businesses as a fully integrated part of SPH business, with greater flexibility to streamline resources and consolidate operations where appropriate. This will allow SPH and AsiaOne to achieve greater efficiency and synergies to enhance their competitiveness in the media industry”.

Group president Tjong Yik Min at that time said, “It was too early to say anything about the fate of AsiaOne's 123 employees as the offer was subject to approval by AsiaOne's minority shareholders.

"Privatisation does not mean the closure of AsiaOne. We will continue to maintain our presence in the Internet and strive to better our readers and customers through the print, TV, radio and Internet platforms," Tjong said in a statement.

The delisting would trim its NTA (Net Tangible Assets) by 8.3 cents per share and raise its EPS by 10 cents for the year ended August 31, 2002. SPH said the plan will result in goodwill of about $30.8 million that will be written off against its consolidated income statement for the year ending August 31, 2002. The scheme would also result in the realisation, in the same financial year, of about $67.8 million of capital reserves arising from AsiaOne's initial public offering in 2000.

The following reasons were mainly cited for the growing tensions for SPH:

• Media companies throughout the world have seen advertising revenue shrink dramatically in recent months amid the current global economic slowdown.

• SPH's newspaper advertising revenue, which accounts for three-quarters of its total group revenue, fell 18.3% on year in July, compared with a decline of 6% and 3% in June and May, respectively.
• The picture could get worse in the months ahead, analysts warn, especially in the aftermath of U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan.
• In addition, the expected decline in newspaper advertising expenditure could further worsen if rival 'Today' newspaper - published by MediaCorp., the state-owned television and radio broadcasting company - begins eating into SPH's market share.

Television Arm of SPH Spells Uncertainty
What spelled more uncertainty over SPH's future earnings were its newly established English and Chinese television channels set up in May. The two TV channels faced tough competition from those of MediaCorp,

While some speculative investors hoped that a selling of SPH's non-core assets may provide fresh catalysts for the stock, "The declining stock market and weak economic conditions have made sales of these assets more difficult," said SG's Security Analyst Rahman. SPH's major non-core assets included a 35% stake in MobileOne Asia Pte. Ltd., Singapore's second-largest mobile phone operator, a 26.7% stake in Singapore Cable Vision, its Internet unit SPH AsiaOne Ltd., and some properties. How AsiaOne being a part of SPH fare after the buyback

On 17 October 2001, SPH trimmed wages to save jobs. It announced a broad salary cut that trimmed its wage bill by $8 million without having to shed any jobs. About two-thirds of its 4,300 employees were affected.

The company said employees who earn above $3,000 per month and who received salary increases in 2001 will give up half the total increments they received, starting next month. Those who did not receive any increment in 2001 will have their salaries reduced by 3 per cent. Staff earning $3,000 or less per month will have their salaries frozen. The wage cut will

trim 6 per cent off SPH's executive payroll and 4 per cent off the whole company's payroll, said group president Tjong Yik Min at a press conference.
However on 9 November 2001, SPH cut jobs at its listed Internet and television broadcast units. SPH decided lay off 23 of 111 employees at the soon-to-be-delisted SPH AsiaOne Ltd and 73 of 380 jobs from its television broadcast unit, Media Works. The troubled Internet unit incurred a one-time cost of S$340,000 due to the layoffs. SPH added that in light of the weak advertising market, it will merge the English-based TVWorks into the more successful Chinese-language Channel U.

Privatization
On 3 January 2002, SPH decided to take AsiaOne private on Jan 23.SPH said its proposed plan to take private its Internet portal unit, SPH AsiaOne Ltd. is expected to become effective on or around 23 Jan. Shareholders of both companies voted in favour of the deal. The last day of trading was Jan 16, 2002.

On 18 January 2002, SPH cut its asset management team from 6 to 2 staff. It said the work of these two staff will now be just to perform largely treasury activities. Its asset management team managed some S$1.4 billion of surplus funds as at the end of August last year, but these funds dwindled significantly, as SPH actively returned surplus cash to shareholders. This included forking out S$140 million for final dividends, S$93 million for capital reduction and S$45 million for privatisation of SPH AsiaOne. SPH also expected to inject up to S$200 million into its newly spun off Times Properties. In addition, there were also some outstanding capital expenditure commitments of about S$200 million for its new printing presses and new headquarters in Toa Payoh North at this time.

On 24 January 2002, SPH further Laid-off staff from Internet arm. 17 staff were laid off and 55 transferred to other departments after Singapore Press Holdings (SPH)'s Internet business arm AsiaOne was delisted from the local stock exchange.

On 19 April 2002, SPH again fired 65 employees in its latest round of cuts. The layoffs affected staff from the production, administration and information technology division, and included seven executives.

Competition for AsiaOne
Even though SPH was holding the monopoly in Singapore's newspaper market, AsiaOne was facing fierce competition from other portals operating there. They included Lycos Asia, Yahoo Singapore and Pacfusion - Pacific Internet's portal. But AsiaOne's biggest headache was a regional player called Catcha.com. Catcha had built local portals in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. While it was still lagging far behind AsiaOne in page views, it was among the most aggressive portals in the region.

On 5th June 2000 there was an announcement that MediaCorp of Singapore would venture into newspaper publishing, breaking the SPH monopoly. As a result SPH, which shed 12 percent week earlier on expectations of the announcement, slid further to a low of S$25.70.
MediaCorp, the state-owned television outfit, said in a statement that it would be on a joint venture with government-owned mass rapid transit rail company SMRT Investments Pte Ltd, bus operator Delgro Corp and SingTel Yellow Pages Pte Ltd.

After the announcement Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. (SPH) reacted cautiously to a government offer to grant it broadcasting licenses. Executive Chairman Lim Kim San said in a statement.

"SPH would evaluate this new business opportunity in broadcasting with the focus on delivering a good return on investment and will also consider how this new business contributes strategically to the long-term growth and profitability of SPH in our aim to maintain our position as the leading media group in the region."

On the other hand within hours after the announcement, Media Corp. announced plans to form a joint venture to launch a Free commuter newspaper that will compete directly with SPH publications such as the Straits Times. The new newspaper will be distributed at bus and metro stations and in offices. Media Corp. was the biggest shareholder in the joint venture, with a 45% stake; followed by SMRT Investments, with 30%; DelGro, with 15%; and SingTel Yellow Pages, with 10%. The partners invested initial capital of between $10 million Singapore dollars and S$20 million. The venture expected revenue to reach S$75 million within five years and to break even on the fifth year.

Lately during March 2006, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) started facing a lurking threat from online advertising as Internet usage became more entrenched with increased broadband penetration, global investment banking giant and securities house Goldman Sachs said in a research report.

"We estimate that classifieds account for about 25 per cent of SPH's earnings before interest and tax and that websites have captured about 10 per cent of Singapore's employment and automobile classified advertising," wrote the brokerage.

Broadband penetration in Singapore, which creates an environment conducive to the growth of SPH's online rivals for the classified advertising pie, is likely to reach 80 per cent in 2007 due to the Government's financial support. Broadband penetration has jumped from 13 per cent in 2001 to 51 per cent last year.

"Local websites such as Jobstreet, JobsDB, and singaporecarsonline are capturing much of the growth in the classifieds categories with lower pricing, yet are profitable," the report noted.

In response to such threats, SPH is likely to invest more in online domains including its own AsiaOne site, since it has the cash to do so, Goldman wrote.

The Growth Story of AsiaOne

The year 2004
On 19th March 2004, “ZUJI”, the Asia-Pacific region's leading online travel company, entered into an alliance partnership with AsiaOne as well as MSN, to capture a larger slice of the online travel market. These two alliances mean that AsiaOne's and MSN's travel channels will allow visitors direct access to Zuji's online travel portal.

Motoring.asiaone.com.sg - AsiaOne's newly revamped site for petrolheads gave exciting reviews about new cars.

Shopping Intelligence Network or SIN was now accessible via the AsiaOne portal which combined the best shopping- related content.

To create customer interest the AsiaOne surfers were asked to contribute their own scoops and experiences and each month, the best scoop won a prize.

The year 2005
On 17 January 2005, AsiaOne started offering investor relations (IR) websites in both English and Chinese for listed companies to reach out to shareholders and investors. The English site is known as IR@AsiaOne.com while the Chinese site is known as IR@Zaobao.

Onwards March 15, 2005, the 10-year-old free-access website, the Straits Time Interactive became a paid site, joining the ranks of the websites of newspapers such as The Times of London and the Wall Street Journal. A subscription fee of S$72 for six months was charged.

During the same time SPH also Relaunched its AsiaOne.com portal to carry a selection of news from its stable of newspapers. However AsiaOne site remained free.
It continued to feature selected stories from newspapers like Lianhe Zaobao, Business Times and The New Paper each day, but now carried only 20 news stories from The Straits Times. In addition, round-the-clock news updates from the Associated Press news wire were made available, as well as regular favourites like AsiaOne Motoring, Food And Entertainment, and wireless games were made 24*7. There were also news video clips and interactive slide shows for specific news articles.

The vice-president of SPH's Internet business unit, Mr Dicky Goh: 'This is an additional channel for Internet readers to access local and regional news. With the new layout and presentation, we hope to attract more people to read our stories.'

The year 2006
On 10th February, four awards for SPH online ventures were announced. Zaobao Net edition was rated top news website. Two of AsiaOne’s websites won awards for its wine and dine.

Singapore’s first news podcast won top honours in the entertainment and multimedia category.
On 21st March 2006, SPH said it would be sinking at least $10 million in a renewed push to capture eyeballs on the Internet. It decided to move into online job advertising, offering another platform for those looking for job openings, besides the classified advertisement pages across its 13 newspapers.

Called ST701, to reflect how a user can go seven days a week to one address for transactions, this e-marketplace was supposed to run head to head with rivals such as Jobstreet.com. Its edge was that the advertisers can choose to use the print or online platforms, or both. It also has a search engine which promised to match employers and job seekers more effectively.

Till now SPH had traditionally been wary of putting its classifieds online, for fear of cannibalising print revenue. SPH chairman Tony Tan said:

'By going into online classifieds, which may nibble away at our print business, we are taking a significant step forward into the Internet age. We have to position ourselves for the day when technology changes radically the way we consume media. We will not be caught unprepared when that day comes. Our investment today will have paid off.'

The ST701 jobs website was expected to capture 50 per cent of the online job market, said to be worth about $8 million, in five years.

On 24th March AsiaOne launched an Online video news service, with car rental brand Hertz unveiling its new ad campaign via the medium. AsiaOne Video News offers free access to clips from news sources such as Reuters, Associated Press and AsiaOne itself. Hertz Asia-Pacific MD Wong Soon Hwa said:
“The service would assist the company in communicating with its target audience of travel-savvy upwardly mobile families”

Raymond Teoh, senior manager at SPH's Internet Business Unit said,

“Users who click on the videos are likely to be those who actively seek out the news. Advertisers can enjoy the undivided attention of the users who are waiting for the video news to play."
Orchard Road Business Association on 23rd August announced the start of an online magazine about shopping in Orchard Road. Orchardroad.com.sg - produced in partnership with AsiaOne was a one-stop Orchard Road guide.

On 27 September 2006, AsiaOne got a New look with user-friendly features. Some of these newly added features were:

• Besides being dressed up in brighter colours, it was easier to navigate.
• It became more interactive - articles included a space at the end for the reader to offer his comments. Readers could also see the most read stories in each section ranked.
• It continued to be free and featured selected reports from the company's 14 newspapers, some 80 magazines and breaking news from wire agency The Associated Press.
• Changes to make the site more user-friendly included colour-coded sections labelled 'Work', 'Live' and 'Play'; while useful tools such as a calculator and a search engine were a click away.
• The Health section now offered a calorie counter, where the number of calories downed in a meal - and the amount of exercise needed to work it off - could be easily calculated.
• In the Digital section, a reader could see product reviews and be able to 'walk through' a virtual home fitted with gadgets in its rooms.
• Sections given more verve included Wine & Dine, which had a new segment called Unwind, covering the arts, entertainment, leisure and gardening

Straits Times Interactive goes for Paid Subscription

Straits Times Interactive

The Straits Times Interactive (STI) is the World Wide Web version of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) broadsheet flagship publication. Straits Times interactive was launched in1995. The site was free of charge and granted access to all sections and articles found in the print edition for a long period. The link for the same was available on AsiaOne.com.

On 15th March 2005, the online version of Straits Times began requiring registration and after a short period became a paid- access only site. Currently only people who subscribe to the online edition can read all the articles on the Internet, including the frequently-updated "Latest News" section. A free section, featuring a selection of news stories, is currently available at the site. Regular podcasts, vodcasts and twice-daily (midday and evening updates) radio news bulletins are also available for free online.

The Straits Times' decision to make its online edition almost entirely subscription-funded is in contrast to other traditional newspapers' online editions, which often only charge for certain sections (such as archives) or for digital editions. However, the latest AC Nielsen Net Ratings figures show that Straits Times Interactive has attracted about five million page views a month since May 2006, making it the top online daily in the country which is read by more than 4% of the adult population monthly, largely professionals and executives.

The birth and growth of Straits Times Interactive

STI (http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg) is prominently displayed as the second hyperlink on the left of AsiaOne's videowall of advertisements. SPH Executive Chairman Lim Kim San, launched the online paper on 30 November 1995, SPH led with its core newspapers onto AsiaOne with The Business Times (June 1995) followed successively by Lianhe Zaobao (August 1995), Computer Times (September 1995), The Straits Times (November 1995), The New Paper (December 1995) and Berita Harian (March 1996).

The Strategic launch and Evolution

Work on developing the Straits Time e-paper began in September 1995 and AsiaOne aimed to launch the paper later in the year. The team slowly expanded to include staff with specific skills - a backbencher (sub-editor), two IT personnel and a layout artist joined the team. Jansen, STI’s Pioneer editor recalls the days when the team had to learn HTML from scratch, 'we invested in S$1,000 worth of books and spent time to learn the basic tags to manually code the stories. We didn't have WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get) HTML editors then' (ibid).

On 29 November 1995, Nick Leeson the Barings trader was arrested and he was to be brought to trial the day after. Leeson single-handedly bankrupted the London merchant bank overnight.

Jansen received a call from Executive Director Tjong Yik Min asking, 'Are you ready to run? This was a great time to launch STI with a bang. The next day, STI was launched with a quick press conference and led with the Nick Leeson story. From its inception, STI stuck to its vision of being an interactive newspaper. Two journalists were based in Court, providing a blow by blow account of the proceedings as an artist sketched his in-court impression. The story was updated around 24 - 25 times that day. ‘They were as competitive as a wire agency but more so as they had pictures as well,' said Jansen.

Leeson surprised everyone when he pleaded guilty and the case was heard the next day (in most instances, a case is held over for a week awaiting further mention). This was an important international story and because ST was online, they could distribute their URL and the foreign press could run stories based on their information. Otherwise it would have taken them a few days just to fly over. They received e-mails thanking them for their coverage and the most memorable was one from Belgium saying 'Thank God for you guys, we couldn't get our journalists there on time. It was almost like being there, thanks to STI’.

During Jansen's editorship from 1995 - 1998 (he is currently Straits Times' Money Editor), STI experimented with a number of web techniques. On June 7 1996, STI for the first time

webcasted Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's; 'Will there be a Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew?' speech at a Singapore Press Club/Foreign Correspondents Association Lunch at Raffles Hotel. STI took the plunge of taking up something new. Audio streaming was virtually unheard of then, there definitely weren't any webcasts by newspapers and no one in South-east Asia used it till years later. This was a technological and psychological challenge which STI embraced and came out successful.

Other milestone includes the first Live 'combi' webcast of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's National Day Rally speech. Cleverly avoiding the high bandwidth required for a video webcast, STI transmitted PM Goh's speech live via RealAudio (an audio streaming software), showed pictures as he spoke, and displayed text of his speech as he completed it. There were special sections to landmark important news events such as the Hong Kong handover in 1997, the South-east Asia Games, the launch of Lee Kuan Yew's book, 'Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and his ideas', and the SilkAir plane crash in Indonesia. The SilkAir plane crash tested their journalistic prowess. They provided 24-hour up to the minute news, on the latest in the rescue mission and recorded hits from around the world. Distressed readers emailed and rang the STI office to find out the well being of loved ones. They ran passengers lists, help hotline numbers and worked till the odd hours of the morning. One weeping reader who couldn't locate a spouse expressed her gratitude to STI via e-mail for their detailed coverage.

STI was the only English language paper under the SPH group to have a full-time editor. The other online papers were led by staff who juggled their print newsroom responsibilities alongside managing the online editions. Margaret Thomas led the Business Times Online, Ivan Fernandez took charge of the Electric New Paper. Lianhe Zaobao Online, was the only other non-English paper to have a full-time editor as well.

STI together with its other online newspapers were amalgamated under the New Media Unit in early 1998. It decided to re-structure and move away from producing original content and re-focus on transferring its core print paper online well.

Since 1998, STI experienced a switch in editorial policy. It reverted to the basic transfer of print content online rather than novel content with regular updates. Vertical sections in the form of IT@AsiaOne and Food@AsiaOne were developed. The latter focuses on food,

restaurant and wine reviews repackaged into a column from content originally used in the various print editions. Besides being an IT portal, IT@AsiaOne carried a fortnightly column written by the various New Media Unit journalists, discussing trends and events in the IT scene. More such columns emerged over the next few months.

STI journalists also used to scan the wire services to pick up any interesting stories that could fit on the Breaking News section. STI also has an understanding with Reuters and carries a live Reuters Asian News Feed on its main page. The newspaper was launched everyday at 12 noon on the web.

Change in Charging Policy

On 15th March 2005, the online version of Straits Times began requiring registration and after a short period became a paid- access only site. Currently only people who subscribe to the online edition can read all the articles on the Internet, including the frequently-updated "Latest News" section.

The Straits Times offered a one-month subscription for S$15 (US$9.20), a six-month subscription for S$72 and an annual subscription for S$120. They believe that they had a good and valuable product that users would want to pay for. The reason for this change was that they believed that it was also not a tenable business model to charge for the print edition of the newspaper and not for its online edition.

A free section, featuring a selection of news stories, is currently available at the site. Regular podcasts, vodcasts and twice-daily (midday and evening updates) radio news bulletins are also available for free online.

The Straits Times' decision to make its online edition almost entirely subscription-funded is in contrast to other traditional newspapers' online editions, which often only charge for certain sections (such as archives) or for digital editions. However, the latest AC Nielsen Net Ratings figures show that Straits Times Interactive has attracted about five million page

views a month since May 2006, making it the top online daily in the country which is read by more than 4% of the adult population monthly, largely professionals and executives.

On May 29, 2006 it was announced that visitors to The Straits Times' (ST) website will not have to pay to read the latest breaking news from Singapore and the world. They can also post their views in real time on the reports they read.

There was another major change that the site will drop its 12-year-old name, The Straits Times Interactive, or STI, and go with the cleaner 'straitstimes.com'. Since becoming a subscription site in 2005, it has been offering only a small buffet of material for free:

• ST's online forum letters
• Multimedia features, such as video news reports and podcasts
• A restricted selection of 20 reports from the print edition

Explaining the move to open up more free-access content, ST editor Han Fook Kwang said: 'There's a great deal more we can do in the website to leverage on the award-winning talent in The Straits Times newsroom of writers, photographers, artists and designers. I think we've a good product and we want to make it available to more people in cyberspace, and to use the technology available on the web to make it an even better product.'

STI Market Image

Collectively, STI and other SPH online websites draw a total page-view of 100 million with six million unique visitors monthly, with recent STI advertisers being Shangri-La, NTUC Income Car Co-op and E-Bay.com.sg to name a few.

In line with its focus on the local market, STI possessed more mindshare with the locals, accruing eight times more votes from local respondents than from foreign respondents. STI was ranked either 1st or 2nd by the majority of local respondents who voted for it, suggesting not only that it was trusted more by locals, but also that it possessed top-of-the-mind recall with them.

By industry group, STI accumulated the highest number of votes from respondents from public relations agencies, followed by those from consumer products sector. That STI should capture high number of votes from public relations agencies makes sense, for it is no secret that relationships between public relations consultants and journalists - even the online ones - are often well-established.
Differences between Asia One and Straitstimes.com

The two initiatives of SPH, AsiaOne and Straittimes.com were started with different objectives in mind and hence display different designs, formats and orientation. Following is a parametric illustration of the contrast or shade differences in the two:

Coverage and Reach: With its strong profile of readers who are professionals, mangers, executives and businessmen (PMEB), AsiaOne connects marketers to a desirable demographic that represents the cream of online audiences. Since AsiaOne's launch in June 1995, the website's popularity has been growing from strength-to-strength. To date, AsiaOne draws over 110 million page views a month from 7 million unique audiences,

The Straits Times functions with 16 bureaus and special correspondents in major cities worldwide. The paper itself is published in three sections: the main section focuses on Asian and international news, with subsections of columns and editorials. The "Home" section focuses on local news, together with the Forum (letters to the press), sports and finance pages. A separate lifestyle, entertainment and the arts section is titled Life!

Currently, the newspaper publishes three weekly pull-outs ("Digital Life," "Mind Your Body," and "Urban," on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively). All three pull-outs are printed in tabloid format. The Straits Times is the only English-language newspaper with an active Internet forum in Singapore. A separate edition, The Sunday Times, is published on Sundays. All these papers are available online on straitstime.com.

The Strait times achieves about five million page views a month since May 2006, making it the top online daily in the country which is read by more than 4% of the adult population monthly, largely professionals and executives.

Content: AsiaOne is a free-access, one-stop information mall which serves users’ news, business and lifestyle needs. Within the all-encompassing portal are unique communities where users congregate online for their various interests. Besides accessing news and infotainment from Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) suite of newspapers, AsiaOne users can engage in special interest sites which cover finance, motoring, technology, health and various lifestyle topics.
The Straits Times Online on the other hand is a reliable source of the latest business and political news and information for professionals across industries. The site is well structured and classified into Premier News, Latest news and Print Edition section which prioritize the various news items according to the readers’ preferences. Another important facet is the all famous Straits Times index. The Straits Times Index (STI) is a market value-weighted stock market index based on the stocks of 50 representative companies listed on the Singapore Exchange.

Advertising Model: Online advertising and interactive marketing opportunities at AsiaOne include: banner advertising, mobile advertising, electronic direct mailer, viral marketing gateway, sponsorship and these can be integrated with SPH’s other media platforms.
Kind of creative services provided by AsiaOne are:
• Banner creation - they can create eye-catching and exciting banners for customers.
• Web publishing - their experienced team of web designers can also help customers establish a web presence and thus help you compete in the New Economy.
• Internet marketing consultancy - a dedicated team has the necessary expertise to help customers create the most effective marketing campaign to maximize their investments. Users can keep track of how their advertising campaign is faring by using their sophisticated ad management software Adserver, which keeps track of the number of times a banner is viewed, the number of click through and the click through rate. Users are given a login and password where they can track your campaign online daily. AsiaOne’s dedicated sales people also closely monitor the results and help users optimize their campaign.

The Straits Times Online does not focus on the advertising model as their main revenue generator. Most of the advertising comes from the ST701, the classified branch of SPH or display advertisements. Unlike AsiaOne there are no specialized services for user looking to place their advertisements. The main revenue is generated through subscriptions.

Launch of STOMP

What is STOMP?

STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) is an integration of internet, mobile and print media using Web 2.0 service that aims to integrate content and activities in the three platforms. This enables STOMP to interact and engage with Singaporeans in exciting new ways. It is a two way communication portal that brings Singaporeans of various communities together on the basis of shared interest and discussions. STOMP began operations 15 June 2006. Its aim was to enable The Straits Times to interact with its readers using the latest web technologies available.

STOMP made an immediate impact and soon established itself as a site to discuss issues that mattered to those living in Singapore. Its citizen journalism feature, first called Snapshots and now called Singapore Seen, resonated with the community as they felt empowered and heard.

Video plays a big role in STOMP. While user-generated videos are highlighted in Singapore Seen and DIY Video, STOMP is also very proud of the videos produced in-house. Found mainly in STOMPcast, they reflect the high production values found in many cutting-edge productions.

STOMP also played on the average Singaporean's love for contests and has hosted a wide range. The 'Hot Teacher' Award and the very popular 'MMSing' contest which sees participants use the camera phone to record and submit their songs, are two anchor contests which STOMP intends to run yearly.

Members of the STOMP community call themselves 'STOMPers', a name a group of them came up with on their own. The community is the backbone of all the features on the website. Singapore Seen and Talkback are platforms for the community to express itself. DIY Video taps into the community's desire to 'shoot and share'. Love-In blossoms as the community strives to connect online and offline. STOMP represents a milestone in the evolution of the 161-year-old newspaper into a medium beyond paper.

Various Features of STOMP

Singapore Seen
This is a platform for readers to generate their own content, make reports, upload self shot pictures and video of whatever issues they feel need to be shared with their fellow STOMPers. These issues may range from something as light as an amusing animal act to something as serious as an ethics and law and order issue.

Talk Back
Readers here speak their mind, voice their concerns, or just hang out. These are the STOMPing grounds where they make some noise by selecting any of the Talk Back rooms.

Reallife.sg
This section captures the real life of the Singaporeans. On this, members can upload and view videos of some important events happening in Singapore.

DIY Video
This is STOMPers’ own space to showcase their videos, be it their pet poodle's nifty tricks or grandma's 70th birthday celebration. Members are encouraged to shoot anything under sun and share it with Singapore and the world. Stomp offers a Sony DCR-DVD808E DVD Handycam each month for the Stomp Editors' choice of the best and most impactful video.

Club Stomp
This is the latest initiative of Stomp.com and has been promoted as a primary place to ‘chill out’. It features reading blogs, pictures various personality contests, selected user profiles, video guides to pubs, controversial photographs sharing and much more. It develops a sense of pride amongst the STOMPers by a issuing a special privilege Club STOMP Card which entitles privileges from pre-sale exclusive invites at your favourite retail brands, to priority entry at your regular clubbing spots.

Getai A-Go-Go
This aims to bring the popular Getai fans together on the portal. Members can reach out their favourite Getai stars, watch video, join fan clubs, vote for their favourite stars etc.
STOMP ebay
This is an initiative to connect the sellers and buyers of Singapore to the world. It offers the following advantages to the sellers:
• Makes items available to the largest possible buyer base, over 233 million users worldwide
• Helps Expands business
• Gets better prices on items
• Helps earn extra pocket money
To facilitate the above and help their members use it effectively, STOMP provides various selling tools, online international trainings, classes and seminars and phone based consulting.
Apart from these there are various other initiatives like Love-In, Foodies Club, Media Club, STOMP Cast etc.

What led to the launch of STOMP?
STOMP was set up for the Straits Times to connect, interact and engage with their readers, both present and future. Readers were not passive; but could comment on news sent in by members of the community. They were, in short, content providers themselves.
The main objective of SPH behind launch STOMP was to increase their readership i.e. acquire new customers. They aimed to accomplish this by offering various genres and sections in their website so as to appeal to readers across all ages.
Secondly, they aimed to strengthen their relationship with the existing users. It was started to inculcate a community feeling amongst their readers. The idea took off so well that people themselves started identifying with each other and hence started calling themselves STOMPers.
STOMP also aimed at giving their readers a lifestyle appeal, which was the need of the hour. It was also known that the expression over press was much more limited due to the political

restrictions and hence it was deemed necessary to have a platform to discuss various sensitive issues and facilitate interaction amongst Singaporeans.

STOMP’S Business Model
STOMP is a free access web portal charges its customers only for the SMS and MMS, on normal telecom usage charges. Contributors post their entries via email and MMS/SMS, where their stories are checked and re-checked for accuracies. These stories are then posted online on STOMP, and can be read on various sections like Singapore Seen, Talkback or even English as it is Broken. MMS/SMS messages are sent via the short code 75557.
Contributions are not confined to news; take English as it is Broken for instance.
Here, poorly-used examples of English are highlighted by the STOMPers, who send in pictures of the offending articles, or queries about the usage of the language. Users are generally between the ages of 13 to 40 years of age. STOMP is meant to both attract new customer segments, who are not print readers, as well as existing customers of the paper.
There are two kinds of advertisements on STOMP:
• The Speak Good English movement sponsors banner space in the English as it is Broken micro site so that the use of good English is encouraged. In fact, a book "English as It Is Broken" has just been published, where the examples of poor English usage as submitted by STOMPers have been collated and corrected. All proceeds will go to the Straits Times Pocket Money Fund, for underprivileged children.
• There are other commercial advertisers as well such as Nokia and eBay ( the global online company ) , which tied up with Singapore Seen for about several months
The Editor and the Deputy Editor of The Straits Times are the main drivers of STOMP. They started a new editorial unit called STOMP. The STOMP staffers are behind with the setting up of the communities under the direct supervision of the Deputy Editor.
The different media channels, essentially online and print, work closely with each other because STOMP is a unit of The Straits Times. STOMP staffers sit within the print

newsroom and attend the daily print editorial meetings. Here, postings from STOMP are highlighted for publication in the newspaper, and relevant print stories are highlighted for multimedia treatment.
To celebrate the launch of STOMP and to encourage visitors to www.stomp.com.sg and use 75557, an Opel Astra 1.6 was being offered as the grand prize for STOMP's launch promotion. A total of $75557 worth of prizes was offered to be won. The more users interact on STOMP's many exciting platforms, the more chances they stood to win the Opel Astra and other prizes.
Success Story
STOMP turned a year old in mid-June 2007 and already it was averaging 6.5 million page views a month. The success of STOMP as a platform for citizen journalism has been phenomenal. Each story is checked and rechecked, thus improving the credibility of the citizen reports. The community also knows that their reports are closely followed by the authorities, and that change can be effected. STOMP also occupies an important space in the minds of those living in Singapore in moments of collective experience. Few examples of the same are listed below,
• When a giant water spout was spotted off the East Coast of Singapore on 25/5/07, many witnesses seemed to share one thought - I must get this to Stomp. All previous records for reader reaction at Stomp were shattered, with 150 SMSes, MMSes and e-mails streaming in within 10 minutes. That's one alert every four seconds.
• As a social networking platform, STOMP came up trumps, with the community turning out in full force to congregate and meet. 247 STOMPers turned up at Powerhouse Club at St James on 16 June 07. The first Singles Bash drew 30 pairs of male and female participants, while the second had 100 STOMPers turning up.
• Club STOMP saw its number of members grow from strength to strength, with more than 350 members signing up to post their profiles online within a week of its launch.
• Contests such as the 'Hot Teacher' award and 'MMSing' also allow Stompers to showcase their love for their teachers, and for singing, which STOMP intends to run yearly

Marketing and Advertising Media
Stomp relies on the following media channels to make itself known. There is a heavy reliance on viral marketing techniques wherein they monitor their propagation by various existing users over the internet and control the information sent.
• Newspapers
• Web TV/ video
• Book(s)
• Events
• Online
Following are some other ways that STOMP has recently adopted to market and reinforce it:
• STOMP celebrated with a range of activities for the community. Reporters and photographers are invited to cover the events.
• The best of STOMP in the past year was on show in an exhibition open to all to help people check out the best photos, most memorable contests and events organized by STOMP. A major highlight was the inaugural STOMP Awards which recognizes the most impactful and quirkiest contributions from the community.
• The Golden Village cinema hall at VicoCity was booked exclusively for a STOMPers-only screening of Oceans 13 where 50 pairs of STOMPers were treated to drinks, popcorn and a goodie bag.
• STOMP unveiled the MINI Cooper S as its official car. The car was spotted at some of Singapore's coolest and trendiest nightspots. STOMPers who spot the car could send a picture of it to STOMP and stand to win prizes in an MMS Spot-The-Car contest.
• There was Peranakan Buffet Feast organized for 100 STOMPers and family. The chefs demonstrated various recipies. There was also an ice-kachang making competition.

Mocca.com as a Competitor

MOCCA.com

MOCCA.com is an online portal which boasts of the ability to provide an interface to “Search, Buy, Sell, and connect”. It is a medium through which users can place advertisements on a personalized web-space in order to expand their respective businesses. Registered users of Mocca.com are provided the aid of the audio-visual medium to host the advertisement for their products. Mooca.com, in essence acts as just an intermediary to introduce the buyer to the seller and vice-versa. The actual exchange of funds and product takes place outside the scope of this particular interface and thus, Mocca.com does not face any liability or obligation in case there is a default from either the buyer or the seller.

The launch of Mocca.com
Mocca stands for MediaCorp Online Communities and Classifieds advertisements. The website was launched on July 26, 2007 and is the brainchild of MediaCorp, Singapore’s leading media group. The site had a clear objective—buying and selling of properties and cars and just about anything under the sun in Singapore through an easy-to-use online interface. Mocca .com currently has 40,000 registered user and 13000 listings per day. Since the launch, the site has been attracting up to seven million page views per month, making it the leader in the market.

As per Mr Timothy Goh, the VP of New Media Businesses at MediaCorp, “the website hopes to redefine the way in which goods are bought and sold through classifieds”.

MediaCorp's wide range of broadcast channels and publications means it serves many different audiences and communities. Mocca.com gives MediaCorp a convenient, consolidated platform for reaching these communities and meeting their information and other needs.

Business/ Marketing Model and features for Users

Mocca.com looks at generating revenues through the medium of charging the registered users to use the services in advertising. However, currently being in the launch promotion phase,

the website provides free space to users for hosting their advertisements for a period of 14 days absolutely free (the trial period decided during the initial launch was 7-days. It was later extended to 14 days) of charge beyond which the user needs to purchase a package if the user wishes to introduce additional features to the ads. If not, then he can simply renew the ad. For sellers of properties and cars and those who want more than "plain vanilla" listings, a nominal fee is charged ($15 for each 14-day listing). This lets the advertiser upload up to five images, a video link with each ad and include a description of 800 characters of text. Advertisers in the other categories can also buy this enhancement package if they want. The basic objective of MediaCorp behind creating this sort of a distinction at the introductory phase was, to enable users to be encouraged to explore the site, and to learn how to use mocca.com to maximum advantage, without facing any additional financial burden.

In order to market the website, MediaCorp currently is advertising through the television media. Mocca.com plans to continue with these advertisements at least through a 10 month time frame. The creative television advertisements have impacted the tech-savvy Singaporeans in a big way which is evident from the fact that “the beefy man who flexed his muscles to sell his house” has become one of the main talking points between the residents of Singapore.

Uniqueness of Mocca.com compared to other classifieds sites

One distinctive feature of mocca.com is the 14-day expiration of ads. Advertisers can edit or completely change an ad whenever they want during the 14 days. At the end of the 14 days, they can easily renew the listing.
The 14-day time limit for listings has been set to ensure that ads on mocca.com are current. Most other online classified advertising sites have lengthy expiration periods or none at all, which creates the illusion of a high volume of ads.
Another unique feature of mocca.com is MediaCorp's unparalleled marketing reach. With its many broadcast channels and publications, MediaCorp will be able to

publicise mocca.com across all of Singapore and draw attention to the ads that have been posted.
Mocca.com also provides links on the portal to view its television ads at leisure. In addition the unique jingles and music pieces from the television ads can be captured on a user’s cell phone through the medium of ringtones that are exclusively available on the Mocha site.

How does one place an advertisement on Mocca.com?

The procedure for placing an ad on Mocca is made highly simple with the user-friendly interface provided by Mocca. A person (buyer or seller) wishing to have his/her ad listed would first need to register on the website (absolutely free). This is mainly done to ensure that the feedback received from potential buyers (or sellers) of the product can be communicated via email to the registered user. Moreover, as the placed ads would need to be renewed beyond a 14-day period, the alerts and notifications for the same can be communicated to the user via email.

The categories under which a user can place the ads are:

Property Vehicle Travel Entertainment
Pets Healthcare Education Fashion and Beauty
Home Services Fitness and Sports Personal Services Professional Services
Professional Services Buy and Sell Wedding Services Announcements

What lies ahead?
Currently, Mocca.com is in its first leg of going live. Additional features such as advanced search functions will progressively be added to mocca.com. These will be followed by the launch of online communities, with a host of features and services.

Feedback from users will be studied and wherever possible, suggestions for improvements and additional services will be incorporated in the development of mocca.com.

Competition with ST.com

SPH and MediaCorp are two of the biggest names in the media industry. STOMP, the community portal of Strait Times boasts of an average of 6.5 million page views a month. To beat this humongous traffic on STOMP, MediaCorp’s Mocca.com seems to have done the trick.

The recently launched Mooca.com has registered up to 7 million page views per month in its introductory phase itself.

Response of Strait Times: Revamp of ST701.Com

SPH had launched a similar online classifieds site called ST701.com in March 2006. The catch phrase for this site is “7 Days a week, Search for the 01 place that matters”. ST701, however, does not cover the entire range of categories that Mocca.com has under its belt. To keep up with the Mocca competition, they decided to revamp their model to reinforce their position in the classified genre.

Experts at Hitwise say that while classified websites account for only 0.2 percent of internet visits in Singapore, it’s around 1.1 percent in the US, so there is still a lot of room to grow. But of course, Singapore does not have the demographics nor the population and size of the US. So only time will tell whether online classifieds are needed as much as the hype is, especially locally within Singapore.

In October, 2007 ST701 which initially focussed on job listings took on a new looks with the addition of the cars, property and shops verticals:
• ST701 Cars: Round-the-clock virtual showroom

• ST701 Property: The real deal in real estate
• ST701 Shops: Retail therapy at a click

Each of the verticals on ST701 provides a focused environment for a specific target audience. This means greater clarity for the car or property buyer who is able to zoom in directly to find what they want. Both advertising and editorial content clearly relates to users' needs.
The website has an appealing user-friendly design that has great search functionalities as well as interactivity. This includes a question and answer guide to help new buyers of cars and properties.

ST701 has the pedigree brand of CATS behind it. It is a product trusted by advertisers as the authentic classified marketplace. The addition of the 3 verticals signifies CATS' commitment to innovate and maintain its leadership in both print and online Classified business, and continue to grow and thrive along with its advertisers. It is part of CATS Classified’s philosophy to embrace change, seize new opportunities, improve their products and have a brand presence that is strong in both print and online platforms. Consumers and advertisers’ trust the CATS Classified brand, and they can continue to expect the same experience with ST701

As part of SPH, ST701 also benefits from the various links and online traffic that will be redirected from other SPH online sites such as AsiaOne, STOMP, HardwareZone, and straitstimes.com.

Online Advertising on ST701

Each of the three new verticals caters to a specific market. From the advertisers’ point of view, they can reach out to the desired market in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Advertisement rates are attractively priced as well. Managing Director of CarTimes and Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 nominee Mr Eddie Loo recognises the value of integrated marketing, advertising with CATS classified in the print and online. He said:

“It’s good that ST701 presents very reasonable marketing tools for us to utilise. Selling on ST701 is going to be a must-have in future. The website is attractive and with the rise of the use of Internet in Singapore households, we are reaching out to the correct crowd.”

People have faith in ST701 as they have always had a good experience working with CATS Classified in print. They have to think of unbiased information on each of their products, without the pressure to purchase of new ways to attract potential clients to the properties they are selling and going online proves to be a good way to reach out to another group of people, especially foreigners thinking of moving to Singapore.

Advertisers advertise on ST701 because they want to reach the increasing numbers of consumers who do their research online before actually going out to purchase their goods. ST701 provides the consumers with the necessary needs as if they were to enter a normal retail shop.

With the addition of the 3 new verticals, ST701 is set to take online Classified to a higher level and be the e-marketplace of choice for both users and advertisers ahead.

What more can ST.com do?

However, MediaCorp is the free-to-air television monopoly within Singapore. So, Mocca in essence, has the television media at its disposal. With the various creative ads aired from the MediaCorp stable, it obviously does have a better reach and appeal within Singapore compared to ST701. Moreover, unless ST701 does expand its offerings, Mocca would definitely continue to remain as the top-most inline classifieds site in Singapore.

From Print to Online

An analysis on general media Industry worldwide

Why has the journey been so tumultuous for SPH in the last decade?

Advent of Internet presented fierce competition to SPH in order to sustain its popularity, revenues and continue its growth.

During the IT boom SPH started its Internet arm AsiaOne in 1995 which was listed on stock exchange in 2000. The portal was one of its kinds in the entire region at the time of launch and continued to gain popularity which was clearly evident with the growing number of hits the website recorded with each passing day. AsiaOne went public in 2000 but the Dot com crash led to continuous decrease in its share prices. The share price of AsiaOne never crossed 60 cents mark, the price at which the IPO was launched. In view of this AsiaOne was delisted in 2001and again came under the umbrella of SPH. This was a major setback for AsiaOne.

Further to this AsiaOne received continuous competition from other online portals like lycos.com, Mocca.com etc. There was split of advertisement revenues between various online portals. This further added to the worries of AsiaOne as their profits reduced further. However SPH always was on a look out for new ways to reach its readers and advertisers by continuously revamping its website. Some other good initiatives that they took were launch of Stomp, ST701 to fight back the competition.

Main stages in the evolution of SPH Internet Arm and comparison with other ventures, newspapers like NYT or the WSJ

The main stages in the evolution of SPH Straits Time from print to online were:
• Launch of web portal “AsiaOne” in 1995
• Revamping of AsiaOne in 1997 and 2000
• E-commerce introduced as major part of revenue generation
• “AsiaOne” listed on stock exchange in 2000
• Incurred losses and reduced work force
• “AsiaOne” privatised 2001
• SPH – 5 for 1 share split in 2004
• Launch of paid site Straits Times Interactive 2005

• Launch of STOMP 2006
• Continuous site upgrades and addition of new features

Almost a similar pattern of evolution was observed in other online news portals including that of New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Some such patterns are:

• Launch at the same time
The online portals for these newspapers were launched at the same time (1995-1996) when the dot-com boom arrived and there was an effort to move information to the internet.
• Similar kind of revamp and new addition of features
 Initially various newspapers started with posting primary news on their web portals and slowly started moving to other business areas like travel and tourism , stock market watch with detailed analysis , Online shopping , Blogs , real estate and much more.
 Also there were continual efforts to revamp the websites and make them much more user friendly.
• Reducing work force
There was a general trend (from 2000) amongst all the newspaper companies to downsize the number of workers due to dipping profits.
• Subscription fees for online edition
As we researched on different online news portals, we found that some of them are free but some like Straits time and Wall Street Journal Charge a subscription fees to access their news and /or archives. These portals have experimented with keeping both subscription fees and making access free and depending upon their business model they strike a choice as to what to do. The Straits times online subscription is 200 S$ per year while that of Wall Street Journal is 99 US $ as on Nov 2007.
• Dip in stock prices
A general fall in stock prices of almost all online newspapers and their parent group can be observed after year 2000. This is mainly accounted due to reduced profits.
John Battelle, a co-founder of Wired and other magazines and Web sites said : “The business model that seems to justify the expense of producing quality journalism is the

one that isn't growing, and the one that is growing -- the Internet -- isn't producing enough revenue to produce journalism of the same quality “
Let us look a little more into the evolution pattern of New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

New York Times

New York Times is a daily newspaper published from New York City by New York Times Company. It was founded in 1851 and today it trails in US circulation to USA Today and Wall Street Journal.
New York Times was launched on the internet in 1995 (same year when AsiaOne.com was launched).Today it is number One newspaper site and had 555 million page views in March, 2005. By September 2007 New York Times had 13 million unique visitors per month. The site which charged a subscription fees of about 50$ per year from 2005 was made free on 18th Sep 2007.The entire site was open to the readers. Also the archives of news from 1851-1922 and 1985 till date were available free online or on public domain. The news from 1922-1985 could be obtained on public domain by paying a minimum fee (not for all articles though).

Such a move was made by the New York Times because they observed that the growth for paid subscribers was low as compared to growth for online advertisements. So they hoped to get more money from the advertisements than by keeping any subscription and losing customers. By making free they also attracted large number of indirect customers coming from links on other websites or search engines. Analysts said that although the hybrid model where subscription is charged and also advertisements are attracted has some potential but in the long term the advertising side will dominate.
Times did yet another special thing which not many online news portals did. They were very effective at using information it collects about its online readers to aim ads specifically to them thereby increasing the value of advertisements.

Although opinion columns and pages devoted to health and technology are unlikely to generate much ad revenue but they can attract huge traffic. This was another trick used to increase traffic.

Like Strait times online and AsiaOne , The New York Times also started adding more and more information on its portal with time like Market Watch , Real Estate , Auto , Jobs , Blogs , Online shopping and ,much more.

The stocks for NYT Company were traded in New York Stock Exchange since 1967. As is observed with the shares of SPH, the share prices of NYT Company also declined sharply in the years from 2002 to 2007. The stock price on 16th Nov 2007 was 18.85 $ as against a price of 40 $ on 9th Jan 2005 and 54$ during mid 2002. The main reason for such a drop was reduced profits as more people were moving to online newspapers especially students from print media. The daily newspaper circulation was down by an average of 2.5 % and on Sundays by 3.5 %.

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal is owned and published by Dow Jones and Company and was incepted in 1889. The online version for the same was launched in 1996 a year after SPH’s AsiaOne was launched. By mid 2007 Wall Street Journal had 1 million paying online readers, generating revenue of US$65 million. A present subscription fee of US$ 99 per annum is charged and US$49 is charged from people who have subscribed to the printed newspaper too.

Wall Street Journal is the largest paid subscription news website on the Web. Since starting they are charging a subscription fees for their products. Their business model derives a good amount of revenue from subscriptions in addition to advertisements. This is unlike the New York Times model where revenues are all advertisement driven. More than half a million people who signed in 1996 still remain online Journal Subscribers.

In 2007 the Wall Street Journal launched a massive expansion of its website to include major foreign language editions. What makes this portal so special is the fact that every day around 1000 new stories are added .The portal provides comprehensive analysis of about 30,000 stocks trading in 25 global exchanges.

With the changing times Wall Street Journal online also explored new areas and features like video centre, blogs, pod cads, email alerts etc. They also offer a free 30 days searchable archive.
The stock price for Dow Jones and Company was also not showing great improvements in 2000’s like other publishing house. On May 2, 2007, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. made an unsolicited takeover bid for Dow Jones, offering US$60 a share for stock that had been selling for US$33 a share. As a result the stock jumped $19.87, or nearly 55 percent, to $56.20. The deal added The Wall Street Journal to the media tycoon's news empire, which already included Fox News Channel, the New York Post, and London's The Times.

What had made the SPH journey so unique? Being in Asia or in Singapore – has it mattered? Has it done things differently?

SPH is involved with publishing news paper and magazines, providing online web portal services, operating FM radio, property and outdoor advertising in Singapore. SPH is the biggest player in publishing industry in Singapore. Being in Singapore has certainly helped SPH in a number of ways .

The media of Singapore play an important role in Singapore, one of the key strategic media centers in the Asia-Pacific region. This is in line with the government's aggressive push to establish Singapore as a media hub in the world under the Media 21 plan launched in 2002. Comprising of the publishing, print, broadcasting, film, music, digital and IT media sectors, the media industry collectively employed about 38,000 people and contributed 1.56% to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001 with an annual turnover of S$10 billion. The industry grew at an average rate of 7.7% annually from 1990 to 2000, and the government seeks to increase its GDP contribution to 3% by 2012.

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts is the government's regulatory body that imposes and enforces regulation over locally-produced media content. It also decides on the availability of published media from abroad.

These extensive regulations are deemed to be overly-oppressive by some. In its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2004, Reporters without Borders ranked Singapore 147 out of 167. Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm Temasek Holdings, and are often perceived as pro-government. While there are relatively little signs of direct state intervention in media content, it is believed that self-censorship by the media exert a greater influence.

SPH journey in comparison with online publishing ventures in India?

Publishing Business in India

To compare Publishing Business in India we have under taken example of “The Times Group”. The reason behind considering The Times Group is that it is one of the largest media services conglomerates in India.

Details of The Times Group which is headed by brothers Sahu Samir Jain and Sahu Vineet Jain of the Sahu family are as given below. They have :

• 11 publishing centers
• 15 printing centers
• 55 sales offices
• Over 7000 employees
• 5 dailies including two of the largest in the country with approximate 4.3 million copies circulated daily
• 2 lead magazines
• 29 niche magazines
• Reaching 2468 cities and towns
• Turnover in excess of USD 500 million

Various Business’s of the Times Group

Its Major brands include:
• The Times of India, India’s (and the world’s largest English broad sheet daily)
• The Economic Times, India’s largest Financial daily and world’s second largest after The Wall Street Journal.
• Navprabhat Times the largest Hindi Daily in Delhi and Bombay
• Mumbai Mirror India’s largest circulated compact newspaper, it comes with Times of India and separately
• Bangalore Mirror, Bangalore’s first morning compact daily
• The Times of India – Kannada
Its Subsidiary Companies include:
• Times Infotainment Media Limited & Entertainment Network India Limited that together control:
 Radio Mirchi – National Network of Private FM Stations
 360 Degrees Events
 Times Outdoors

• Times Internet Limited which has
 Indiatimes Portal
 TimesofMoney Ltd – an Online payment portal specializing in remitting money to India

• Times Global Broadcasting Limited which has Times Now an English News Channel
• Times Business Solutions which owns
 Times Jobs
 Simply Marry
 Magic Bricks

Brief History of Times

• The First Edition was published on November 3, 1838, Known as The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce. The News Paper was published twice a week under Editor J.E. Brennan. It is basically a city paper reflecting the interest of Bombay’s business community.
• In 1846 Dr. George Buist was appointed the new editor. In 1850 Shareholders decided to increase the share capital and the paper was converted into a daily.
• The Times of India was created by amalgamation of The Bombay Times, Bombay Standard and The Bombay Telegraph and Courier in 1861.
• Editor Henry Curwen buys The Times of India in partnership with Charles Kane in 1890. Following the death of Henry Curwen, T.J. Bennett became the editor and entered into a partnership with F.M. Colemen to form a joints stock company- Bennett Colemen & Co. Ltd (BCCL)
• For the first time, the paper transferred to Indian ownership. Ramakrishna Dalmia buys out Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd for Rs. 2 crores in 1946.
• In 1948 Sahu Jain Group became the owners of the company. Shanti Prasad Jain was the first chairman of the group.
• Filmfare launched in 1952
• Femina was launched in 1959
• The Economic Times was launched in 1961
• BCCL started production of television software in 1993.
• The Times of India crossed 1 million mark in circulation in 1996.
• BCCL entered into music market with Times Music in 1998.
• Indiatimes web portal launched in 1999; BCCL entered music retailing business with Planet M.
• The Times of India crossed the 2 million mark in circulation in 2000.
• TimesofMoney – Joint venture with Citibank in 2000.
• Radio Mirchi - Nationwide Private FM Broadcasting started in 2001.
• 360 Degrees - Event Management Arm launched in 2001.
• Times Outdoor - Outdoor Advertising & Billboard Marketing started in 2002.

• Times Classifieds - http://www.timesclassifieds.com/ Classifieds site catering to web audiences, the group publications and also publications from other countries like Sri Lanka launched in 2003.
• The Jobs portal Times Jobs http://www.timesjobs.com/ . Television Business launched with the launch of a lifestyle and entertainment channel called z00m in 2004.
• Matrimonials website TimesMatri http://www.TimesMatri.com/ launched in 2005
• Television news Channel called Times Now http://www.timesnow.tv/ launched in collaboration with Reuters in 2006.
• Radio Mirchi holding company ENIL (Entertainment Network India Limited) listed on the Indian stock markets in 2006. It was the first Times Group Company to List on the bourses.
• Property services Portal Magic Bricks http://www.magicbricks.com/ launched in 2006 and TimesMatri is rebranded as Simply Marry .
• A new holding company by the name of Times Business Solutions was created in 2006. This company controls the brands TimesJobs, SimplyMarry (earlier called TimesMatri) and MagicBricks
• Remit2Home launched by TimesofMoney in 2006, to cater to Global Remittance Market

After looking into the details of The Times Group in India it can be observed that journey of The Times group is almost in same lines as that of SPH in Singapore. Be it Expansion of business’s, adding new features, starting of web portal and various online services, venturing into radio etc, all are almost same as that of SPH. Even though The Times Group has also started web portal “Indiatimes” like AsiaOne started by SPH however it was never listed on stock exchange unlike AsiaOne which was listed in the year 2000.

Also the competition faced by Times in India is much more intense compared to SPH in Singapore because of more number of publishing houses present in India.

Advantages and Disadvantages existing companies have in publishing when they go online
Advantages
The prime objective of a publishing house in going online is to enhance their reach and to build stronger bonds with their existing readers. However there are many more advantages offered in going online. An account of the same is as follows:
• Since the existing company already has an established brand name in the print media it takes them less effort to market themselves to customers and advertisers when they go online.
• The company can come up with packaged subscriptions for print and online newspaper which adds more customers and revenues to the company.
• Internet provides the readers a way to contribute their views and get their message across to their peers. The DIY (Do it yourself) format that e-papers provide gives a thrill factor to the users.
• An online newspaper has a more global appeal and reach.
• The target audience can be divided effectively into small interest groups and can be serviced better
• Users can easily access archives if they want news about something arcane or obscure
• In case of news snippets which are dynamic in nature, the publishers can easily provide a minute to minute update which keeps the users informed about the latest (till last minute) happenings all over the world
• It is easier to personalize and localize the online content, in ways such as the social networking becomes more effective
• There are relatively less restrictions on the content and candidness of information over the net as compared to newspapers
• The news is available to consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
• Advertisements are more effectively responded to as due to the internet’s interactive elements, consumers can respond immediately to the ads. Also, it is easier for the ad owner to instantly update the advertising message and the reach of advertisement is enhanced

• The Internet allows the building of one-to-one customer relationships like no other medium can
• The internet journalism model provides more financial benefits in terms of profit margins for the publishing houses
Disadvantages
Apart from the above, however there are some key disadvantages of an online edition of newspapers. An account of the same follows:
• A recent study from the University of Notre Dame says news stories survive on the Web for an average of 36 hours before half of their eventual readers have read them. This is in contrast with traditional print newspapers that -- since most are published on a daily basis -- are typically read by half their readers in 24 hours or less. This is a disadvantage as in newspapers, news gets out of the way at the end of each day, leaving room for more news. On the Internet, a news about safe landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery is talked about over 48 hours after it happened
• Internet news also tends to be serial. The New York Times, for example, has an average of 25 stories each day in its business section and every one of those stories can be read online. But only a handful are presented as headlines in the Times web edition. So unless the reader is very diligent about ferreting it out, at least 75 percent of the Times' business content is invisible and unread online.
• Print on demand is not yet able to provide the economies of scale of traditional print runs (the unit cost of a print run of one book is the same as for 10,000)

Value-chain of the publishing business

Stakeholders involved with Publishing industry Value chain

Value chains are simply maps that show how value is moving from the source of value to the value consumer. Various Stakeholders involved with Publishing Business are depicted in chart below:

• Publisher: Publisher is the person or an entity which produces and disseminates literature or information – the activity of making information available for public view.

• Print Service Provider: The entity which provides printing support to the publisher. In most cases publisher would also have their own print facility.

• Journalist: A journalist is a person who practices journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people. Reporters are one type of journalist. They create reports as a profession for broadcast or publication in mass media such as newspapers, television, radio, magazines, documentary film, and the Internet.Depending on the context, the term journalist also

includes various types of editors and visual journalists, such as photographers, graphic artists, and page designers etc.

• Distributors: Distributor is the entity which will form a link between publisher and end reader / customer. Distributor will help publisher to reach out to broad range of customers.

• Advertisers: Advertiser is any individual, entity, company, profit / nonprofit making organization who wants to advertise about their product/Service etc. Advertiser will use various publication for advertising based on their requirement. Advertisers are main source of revenues for most of the publishers.

• Government Agencies: Government agencies keep regulations on publishing business in order to prevent them from bringing any sensitive topics to public.

• Reader/ Customer: Reader is the person who reads the published articles, stories, news etc. to gain knowledge about world, current affairs and for entertainment. Reader is the end point of publishing Business value chain and is the originator of need for publishing.

Impact of internet on different parts (stakeholders) of publishing industry

• Internet has increased the level of competition faced by Publisher. After the advent of internet publishers have to invent new ways to attract readers for printed materials. Publisher’s now have to provide information quickly.
• Internet would reduce business for printing industry.
• Considering the competition faced by Internet, journalists will have to work under different pressures and demands. In internet era journalist first need to write a short summary of the news for publishing on the internet whenever they cover any story.
• The effect of internet on print industry will also affect distributors adversely.

• Internet has given new platform for advertisers to advertise; this will also help them reach to broad range of audiences/ customers.
• Government’s task to keep check on published articles and regulate the publishing industry has become difficult with arrival of internet.
• Internet has been beneficial to readers/ customers because it has given them different option and enabled them to get information all across the globe.

How will the changes evolve in the next 3 years? Will it be the same for such publishing empires as Murdoch’s business?

Changes are inevitable and nothing can remain constant. Looking at the trend and changes occurring in publishing industry and revolution in technology and internet, the industry will undergo drastic change in next three years. The publishing industry will not only have to provide latest and accurate news but also they will have to provide in more user friendly form.

Looking at the increasing level of internet penetration all across and increasing computer literacy, most of the readers would browse the online news channels and web portals and demand for printed version will go down.

However readers will want additional attributes to be provided along with news, the news and information would be secondary object which every other publisher is providing, the features attached along with news would be distinguishing factors between various web portals and news channels available.

There would be revolution in the way news are published, because anyone will be in a position to post the news on their own at various web sites available.

In view of this publisher’s will have to diversify their business with additional features like community websites, interactive sections, blog sections, games and entertainments also they will have to do joint ventures with other entities to start new businesses. This would help in increasing its reader base and also sustain existing readers.

They will also have to venture into different business for example TV news channels, event management, outdoor advertising so that they can tap users in all segments and also will be in a position to provide full advertising package to the potential advertisers at optimum rates and with sufficient readers/ viewers watching it.

Also the business diversification will help in covering up losses from one segment by other segment in case any segment undergoes losses.

The above changes will affect the overall publishing industry all over the world, however the publishing empires like Murdoch’s would be least affected because they have already diversified their business. Murdoch’s empire is having its presence in Australia, US, Asia with businesses ranging from News channel, news papers, other television channels, community websites, ownership in events like National Rugby League (Australia), music record company etc. Due to its wide presence Murdoch’s empire would be least affected by changes due to its stakes in variety of businesses and futuristic approach of venturing into new businesses

Murdoch’s Business

News Corporation is a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Australian Stock Exchange and as a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange. Formerly incorporated in Adelaide, Australia, the company was re-incorporated in the United States state of Delaware after a majority of shareholders approved the move on November 12, 2004.

News Corp made its first acquisition in the United States in 1973, when it purchased the San Antonio Express-News. Soon afterwards it founded the National Star, a supermarket tabloid, and in 1976 it purchased the New York Post. In 1981 News Corp bought half the movie studio 20th Century Fox, buying the other half in 1984. In 1985 News Corp announced it was buying the Metromedia group of stations, setting the stage for the launch of a fourth U.S. broadcast network. On September 4, 1985, Murdoch became a naturalized citizen to satisfy the legal requirement that only United States citizens could own American television stations. In 1986, the Metromedia deal closed, and the Fox Broadcasting Company was launched. This network, known on-screen as "Fox", can now be picked up in over 96% of U.S. households.

In 1987 News Corp bought The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. in Australia. By 1991, News Corp had amassed huge debts, which forced it to sell many of the American magazine interests it had acquired in the mid-1980s. Much of this debt came from its stake in the Sky Television satellite network in the UK, which incurred massive losses in its early years of operation, which (like many of its business interests) was heavily subsidized with profits from its other holdings until it was able to force rival satellite operator British Satellite Broadcasting to accept a merger on its terms in 1990. The merged company, BSkyB has dominated the British pay-TV market since.

In 1995, News Corp announced a deal with MCI Communications to develop a major news website as well as funding a conservative news magazine, The Weekly Standard. In the same year, News Corp launched the Foxtel pay television network in Australia in a partnership with Telstra and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited.

In 1996, Fox established the Fox News Channel, a 24-hour cable news station. In 1997, News Corp began Super League (Australia), a rival rugby league competition to the ARL. Due to the thin spread of crowd attendances, tv audiences and sponsorship the two competitions merged to form the National Rugby League, of which News Corp owns 50%.

In 1999, News Corp significantly expanded its music holdings in Australia by acquiring the controlling share in a leading Australian based label, Michael Gudinski's Mushroom Records; merging it with already held Festival Records to create Festival Mushroom Records (FMR). In late 2003, News Corp acquired a 34% stake in Hughes DirecTV, from General Motors for Electronics, operator of the largest American satellite TV system, US$6 billion.

This year, 2007, News Corporation reached an agreement to purchase Dow Jones, publishers of the Wall Street Journal for an estimated $5.6 billion. The corporation on 15 October 2007 spun off a business news channel from Fox News - Fox Business News.

Expansion in Asia

Murdoch acquired Star TV from a Hong Kong company in 1993 STAR TV (Asia) and created offices for it throughout Asia, including Singapore, China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc. It is one of the biggest satellite TV networks in Asia.

On July 20, 2005, News Corp. bought Intermix Media Inc., which held MySpace.com and other popular social networking-themed websites for $580 million USD. On September 11, 2005, News Corp announced that it would buy IGN Entertainment for $650 million (USD).

Analysis

SPH’s vision and foresightedness

IT boom Stared in 1995 and SPH was immediate and quick to start its own web portal “AsiaOne” in response to the IT boom. This demonstrated that company has clear understanding of the business and revolutions which may happen in future in publishing industry.

After Launching online web portal “AsiaOne” went on adding new features regularly to attract more and more users. Also company after observing the increase in interest of Singaporeans in Real Estate investment launched a link which was dedicated to information about Real Estate and a link for information about unit trust was launched in response to peoples increasing interest in unit trust investments. This indicates that SPH has been quite responsive to changing needs of the customers and has worked in order to tap those customers by fulfilling the needs.

In order to improve its revenue generation capability SPH started e-commerce services on AsiaOne. E-commerce was in its initial phase during that period. Before starting e-commerce all the required changes were made on the web site.

The access to AsiaOne has always been free, which is positive point for AsiaOne, this will help AsiaOne retain its customers.

AsiaOne IPO

SPH launched IPO of AsiaOne in May 2000, this period was starting of DOT com crash also AsiaOne had made losses in the previous year. These two things affected the IPO adversely and on the day of listing itself the share price closed lower then its IPO offer.

Later on even though the burn rate of AsiaOne was reducing, the economic slow down and the DOT com crash affected share price of AsiaOne adversely and it went on decreasing up to lowest price on 11.5 cents.

The fall in share price of AsiaOne also had an adverse effect on SPH share price along with the economic slow down. In the end company had to again privatise AsiaOne by coming up with a share buy back scheme.

Looking at the whole scenario, we feel that the company could have actually launched its IPO much earlier when there was DOT com boom going on, this would have helped in share price increase even it were making losses.

However in 2000, after understanding the market condition start in downfall of DOT com companies and share prices of dot com companies the company should have postponed its IPO and then waited for effect to get over.

Straits Times Interactive

Straits Time was an Integral part of AsiaOne since 1995 and it was a free access news paper with facility to read all the section which appears in printed Straits Times.
The availability of online copy of Straits Times would have helped AsiaOne to increase its popularity and number of hits because Straits Times is a very popular daily in Singapore for almost one and half century. This was a good move to increase the customer base for AsiaOne.

In March 2005 online version of Straits Times was made paid, which does not seem to be a good move considering the situation where there are already lot of web sites existing which provide all the global news free of costs. As of today also the annual subscription cost for online version of Straits Times is S$200, which seems to be quite high when compared to Wall Street journals online subscription of US$99. The only reason SPH and AsiaOne are in a position to keep online subscription of Straits Times paid is that government of Singapore is very supportive to publishing industry and there strict rules related because of which it is not possible for any foreign company to enter into publishing business in Singapore. This turns out as a big advantage to Straits Times. However SPH should consider the increasing competition and threat it might have from foreign companies in view of increasing globalization and opening of economy and should think about changing its stance of charging

for Straits Times. SPH should concentrate on generating revenues from Advertisements in Straits Times and other services it is offering instead of charging for online Straits Times. This move would help SPH to be prepared against any competition which might occur in near future due to relaxation in government policies.

Media Corp. old competitor of SPH and AsiaOne has already launched MOCCA.com in competition to STOMP and ST701 of Straits Times. Even though recently ST701 was revamped so as to include features like buying and selling of cars, property etc in addition to its classified services so as to fight against MOCCA.com, there lies bigger threat ahead as MOCCA.com is recently launched and is in development stage and has future plans to extend its services. In view of this STOMP and ST701 might face great deal of competition in coming future. Hence Straits Times (SPH) should add more and more features to STOMP and ST701, also it should try and make online subscription of Straits Times free.

Key Learning’s from this Study

• Understanding of publishing industry in Singapore and its evolution over last decade.
• Effect of various factors like internet, slowdown in economy and dot com crash on overall market.
• Changes done in business Model of publishing industry based on competition and technological development so as to earn more revenue and reach out to masses.
• Trend observed globally in publishing industry.
• Importance of doing changes in business with addition of different services and business expansion to survive changing scenarios.
• Last but not the least use of various sources of information like online databases, journals and other aids to get the required data.

Appendix 1
Current Organization Chart of SPH

Appendix 2
Advertisement Rate Charts across various AsiaOne pages :

Appendix 3
Growth in Users
1) After 9 days of launch there were more than 130,000 "hits" or page accesses. Nearly half of these were from outside Asia. The bulk of the hits were for Business Times Online, the first major product on offer on AsiaOne. At that time there were 60,000 net users in Singapore. There
2) In the six weeks since AsiaOne was launched on June 15, it received on average each week of nearly 95,000 hits, or requests for files. The bulk of these hits were for BT Online reports.
3) 250,000 hits a week as on 10th Oct 1995
4) 300,000 hits a week as on 9th Nov 1995
5) 500,000 hits a week, 60 per cent from outside Singapore as on 1st dec 1995
6) 1 Million hits per week as on 16th dec 1995
7) 2.25 Million Hits per week as on 20th May 1996
8) 14 million hits per month as on 7th Aug 1996
9) 20 million hits a month, with 70 per cent from overseas as on 25th dec 1996
10) 31 million hits per month as on 16th April 1997
11) Hit data of various offerings after 2 yrs of launch
a. BT Online: 5 million per month
b. Most Popular BT Stock Watch: 10 million per month
c. Singapore Connect: Since Launch 200,000 searches have been run (half by overseas users). About 1,000 Singapore firms have entered data in Partners Programme
d. REALink: Nearly 5,000 people have registered to use and 130,000 searches have been done
12) 45 million hits per month as on 17th Oct 1997
13) By early March 1999, visits to BT Stocks Web pages doubled from around 70,000 page accesses a day to about 160,000 a day
14) 1st Feb 2000 After relaunch on 26th Jan 2000

Traffic shot up after the website's relaunch, with users signing up for new services such as free e-mail .SINGAPORE Press Holdings' revamped Internet portal, AsiaOne, is attracting heavier traffic. Its page-views - the number of times the website's pages were accessed by readers - have leapt 15 per cent to 1.15 million a day since it was relaunched last Tuesday with new services. This is significant bearing in mind that the total local population is about 3.7 million. In addition, the past week saw more than 15,000 surfers sign up for its free e-mail service in English and Chinese, which comes with a 10-megabyte mailbox. AsiaOne's new auction service handled about 3,500 items - from mobile phones to art pieces - registered about 1,500 users and processed close to 2,000 bids. About 70 per cent of readers polled said that they liked the new look at AsiaOne
15) 1.7 million hits per day as on 27th March 2000
16) Two million to 2.5 million hits as on 26th May 2000
17) 17th Jan 2004: AsiaOne.com and Zaobao.com get 300 million page views and five million unique visitors monthly. Zaobao.com gets eight million page views a day, 90 per cent of which are from China.

Appendix 4
Fluctuation in share prices of AsiaOne

REFERENCES

Books

• 160 years of Straits times in picture (Published by Singapore Press Holdings Pte Ltd)

Web Sources

Singapore Press Holdings www.sph.com Media Corp Communication and Classified Advertisements (MOCCA) www.mocca.com Wikipedia www.wikepedia.org Straits Times Interactive www.straitstimes.com WIRED http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/04/70571 Straits Times Online Mobile Print (STOMP) http://www.stomp.com.sg Business Week http://investing.businessweek.com/research/company/overview/overview.asp Media Corp www.mediacorp.com.sg/ Asia One www.asiaone.com New York Times www.nytimes.com Wall street journal www.wsje.com Times of India timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ Channel News Asia www.channelnewsasia.com Daily Commercial News www.dcnonl.com Business World www.businessworld.in/ The Washington Times www.washingtontimes.com Business Times Singapore www.businesstimes.com.sg/ Asia Pulse www.asiapulse.com/ Asian Wall street Journal www.online.wsj.com/asia Dow Jones International News www.djnewswires.com Business wire www.businesswire.com The Guardian www.guardian.co.uk Reuters News www.reuters.com Data Bases

• Factiva
• Dow Jones
• AVI
• EBSCO
• ISI Emerging Markets

Research Papers

• New Newspapers in Singapore: Impact on the local media scene – A study of Project Eyeball, Streats, Today and Singapore Gazette by Chang Hup, Nanyang University
(2001)

• The impact of changing media environment on print Media in Singapore by Chan Chao Peh, Serena Ng Gek Yi, Vivien Ng Li Ling, Nanyang Technical University (2000)

• The 2000 Dot com Crash and Lessons for Singapore Dotcoms by Assafa Endeshaw Mohammed, Nanyang Business School (2000)

• Online Media and Civil Society in the ‘New ‘ Singapore by Terence Lee ( 2005)
`…...

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