SPH goes digital to keep delivering news in the 21st centurySyah Ismail
Gone are the days where remote access used to be a pain point, with employees only being able to access company information by logging into a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Journalists resorted to forwarding emails to a personal inbox to check messages on their mobile devices when working on the go but had to return to the office to send emails from their official email address.
With the help of PointStar, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) migrated around 4,000 users from the legacy email server to G Suite in six months. Gmail provides everyone in the organisation with highly secure email access from anywhere, anytime and on any device. Strong security features such as 2-step verification on enterprise Gmail accounts help protect sensitive information. When an employee leaves the company, the administrator can remotely wipe the user’s mobile device to maintain data security. At the same time, SPH is able to retain the departing user’s external contact list so the editor can still reach out to news sources that a journalist cultivated.
SPH has revamped its IT infrastructure to improve productivity and encourage collaboration. At SPH News Center, editorial teams work against tight deadlines to create and curate content across multiple platforms. Staff journalists work 24/7 to report breaking news before readers get it from unofficial sources on social media.
SPH is keenly aware that time-poor readers are increasingly moving online for bite-size news, including via social media. There’s also a corresponding shift in ad spending from print to digital, which offers brand managers more visibility on campaign performance. To stay ahead of the competition, SPH has embraced digitalisation.
Increasingly, media buyers purchase ads across multiple platforms. To plan integrated sales, SPH’s ad sales team works closely with other divisions such as circulation sales, editorial newsrooms, and SPH Radio. Through group chats on Hangouts, cross-functional teams can work productively no matter where they are.
In recent years, SPH has digitised all its print assets to offer readers more choice. Subscribers can read their favourite newspaper or magazine on their mobile devices and still get a print copy delivered to their door. Digitalisation has enabled SPH to reach a global audience who can access its content online. It makes it easier for SPH to analyse behavioural metrics from its digital properties in real-time.
Using Google Analytics 360 via BigQuery, SPH has added to its annual door-to-door surveys with real-time analytics for reliable customer insights. Google Analytics 360 captures 1.4TB of active data from SPH’s digital titles which is then fed into BigQuery to analyse reader behaviour such as what content or ad drives subscription and what causes attrition. The sales team shares data insights with advertisers to improve ad performance and identify marketing opportunities.
In the newsroom, the editorial team views audience data on large overhead displays. SPH uses Google Analytics to create some of these easy-to-use dashboards that show reader behaviour, such as pageviews on trending stories, engagement metrics including return visits and time spent and conversion rates. Reporters use these newsroom metrics to improve reader engagement. For example, if a particular topic is trending, reporters can capitalise on that interest and attract more traffic by writing relevant articles.
Looking into the future, SPH is now exploring how artificial intelligence can help reporters improve newsroom productivity and reach a broader audience. One example is automated transcription and translation into different languages. Currently, reporters write in one of the four official languages for a target audience who can understand that language. SPH envisions a future where machine translation in all four languages will attract more readers from Singapore and other parts of the world. SPH is also developing its own content recommendation engine to personalise the articles displayed to each reader, thus improving the reader experience and making it more engaging.