Singapore Press Holdings will embark on a consolidation exercise which will result in a 5% reduction in staff in its media group. 130 people will be affected by the retrenchments and over 70 will be retrenched according to a report in Today Online.
The staff redundancies are expected to be complete by the first quarter of FY 2019-2020 at a retrenchment cost of approximately $8 million.
The staff cutbacks comes amid a sustained decline in revenue from both print circulation as well as advertising.
Announcing its Financial Year 2019 results, SPH said: “Revenue from the media segment fell by $78.9 million or 12% to $576.9 million as total print advertisement revenue decreased by 14.9% or $57 million and total circulation revenue declined by $11 million or 7.3%.”
SPH’s digital business was on a growth trajectory. But with a 19.3% increase in the number of digital copies and a mere 6.6% increase in digital advertising revenue, it was not enough to stem the decline, considering the bulk of circulation was still accounted for by print.
SPH has announced a consolidated approach to provide advertisers more effective marketing solutions. This will entail a restructuring of its media solutions and magazine business to enable integrated selling.
Its newspaper and magazine titles will be sold together across print, digital, voice and outdoor formats. The new approach could allow a marketer who wanted to reach a mass audience to dive deeper into a niche like fashion or technology via one of SPH’s magazine properties.
It could also help advertisers initially drawn in by a special interest audience to spread their message to the wider network of SPH consumers.
Speaking about the move, SPH said: “This will allow clients to reach both the national audience for broad awareness campaigns, as well as target more specific audience groupings – all from a single relationship with the SPH media sales team.”
In addition, SPH intends investing in solutions to make its print advertising more interactive and trackable, besides formulating hyperlocal ad solutions via a combination of offline and online media.
SPH added: “Readers will also benefit from the greater sharing of content resources within SPH across platforms and titles. For example, Hardware Zone’s tech expertise will help beef up the tech columns of news titles such as The Straits Times and The Business Times.
“Some of the content can also be ported over to radio and even SPH’s out-of-home screens in lifts and commercial areas. This has been happening for a while, and SPH will intensify efforts to make content liquid across audience-centric platforms. This ultimately will drive subscriber and advertising revenue.”
The backdrop to this move was decline in print revenue and an uncertain macroeconomic outlook. SPH said: “Although SPH’s total audience across its platforms has increased, its print revenue continues to decline. The uncertain macroeconomic outlook this year has seen consumer demand fall and advertisers scale back on advertising spend.
“This is a good time for SPH to consolidate its strengths as a media owner and streamline its media and magazines operations.”
SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung said: “The restructuring will enable us to deliver more effective solutions across various media platforms to meet the evolving demands of our advertising customers.
“We continue to invest in the newsrooms and digital media capabilities while remaining disciplined about cost. This restructuring exercise is necessary to enhance our operational efficiency and strengthen our position in this challenging economic and media environment.
“I would like to thank the union for its understanding and support through the exercise.”
SPH said that it was working closely with Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower and NTUC with staff receiving compensation and help through the period including onsite career guidance, employment placement services as well as professional counselling. SPH had pegged its total staff strength at the end of Financial Year 2019 at 4,085.
SPH president of creative media and publishing union David Teo said: “The SPH management has shared with the union the rationale of the exercise and support they will be providing to affected staff. We have worked with them on the compensation packages and the necessary assistance to ensure that the whole process will be handled in the best way possible.”
SPH’s results presentation painted a sobering picture of its media business, with only its real estate and others including aged care divisions showing a profit.