Delivering value to a more captive print audience during a pandemic

Aug 17, 2020

By Fred Lai
Innovation Manager
Singapore Press Holdings

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause advertising revenues to dry up, the media industry is facing unprecedented challenges to remain viable. With news of furloughs and layoffs happening throughout the industry, publishers have to focus on how publications can accentuate their value to both audiences and advertisers, while staying relevant.

Thankfully, there are pockets of light amid the gloom. While the pandemic has decimated advertising revenue, the “corona bump” has brought about a surge in readership and subscription. In Singapore, which has similarly seen an upsurge in digital media consumption, SPH was pleasantly surprised to see an uptick in print newspaper engagement as well.

SPH Readership Survey

Singapore went into a “circuit breaker” mode on 7th April, when schools and workplaces were shut down and it became mandatory for people to stay home. With more people home-bound, we wanted to find out how staying at home changed our readers' media consumption behaviours. We commissioned two online studies over a seven-day period, covering 1,419 print readers across seven of Singapore Press Holdings newspaper titles.

Here’s what we found:

  • 65% of subscribers are reading printed newspapers more frequently compared to 3 months ago.
  • At least 60% are reading the top three sections of each paper more now as compared to three months ago.
  • 85% are reading in more detail now, including advertisements.
  • 40% spending over 30 minutes to more than an hour perusing the printed newspaper.
  • With our audiences spending more time reading the papers, we hoped to provide them with a shorter time to gratification by introducing ads that are shoppable.

We created a shared marketplace and enabled our SME clients to buy ad exposure in the flagship papers at lower entry costs and drive direct response with minimal tech setup on their end, helping their businesses to acquire more customers. Merchants were able to buy individual tiles where each tile has an QR code (generated by us) that can be linked to the merchant’s site, WhatsApp (where people call or text their orders), or any URL.

We also partnered with department stores, such as Metro, to offer this as a solution to the stores’ merchants as well.

Even F&B owners could participate and promote their food delivery services to customers.

Increased Conversions Through Shoppable Ads

Over a period of 4 weekends that the Marketplace ads ran, we garnered more than 40,000 scans on the ads, with 20% retention of advertisers who became repeat customers. Feedback from our advertisers was also very positive, with many reporting spikes in transactions after the ads ran.

Through this initiative, smaller advertisers had the opportunity to tap into our network of print audiences. According to an article on The Straits Times, first-time advertisers with SPH, Sushi Jiro, increased its sales by about 20% through the use of shoppable advertisements, in addition to offering attractive discounts. The Planet Traveller also reported a 70% increase in sales since placing shoppable ads with us.

It also helps SPH provide support to the local SME community as they tide over the Covid-19 pandemic, and nurture a long-term relationship with these businesses, providing them a wider suite of solutions as they evolve.

This article was first featured as an INMA blog.