Circuit breaker period registers changes in audience reading patterns

May 13, 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak and the accompanying circuit breaker measures instituted in Singapore since April 2020 have brought noticeable changes to consumer behaviour with most residents working and studying from home.

Apart from spikes in e-commerce and food delivery, video conferencing and home-based activities such as baking, Singaporeans have also increasingly turned to reading the news from trusted mainstream media outlets to get the latest updates on the Covid-19 situation both locally as well as internationally.

A survey commissioned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) in April showed that as people started staying home, 65% of its print subscribers have been reading newspapers more frequently compared to three months ago, with over 76% doing so to stay updated about the Covid-19 situation.

With more time to spare, close to half of the respondents are spending over 30 minutes to an hour reading the print newspaper. This indicates significant engagement with the content and advertising contained within the newspaper.

These findings are consistent across all of SPH newspapers – The Straits Times, The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily News, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu.

The digital audience has also seen significant increase and engagement during this period. Visitors to SPH’s news sites and apps nearly doubled while page views nearly tripled in April 2020 compared to a year ago. Time spent on SPH apps also rose about 30% to 40% in April from the previous year.

As a public service, Covid-19 articles across our digital platforms have been made accessible to non-subscribers since 2 April, starting with The Straits Times. Notwithstanding that, digital subscription numbers have also increased substantially across Singapore Press Holdings’ publications in April. The Straits Times saw a 40% increase in new acquisitions in April, Zaobao experienced a 138% increase, while last month’s subscription numbers for both Berita Harian and The Business Times doubled from the previous month. Tamil Murasu subscriptions reached a new high in April, up by 780% from its usual sign-ups.

Overall, the findings are consistent with publishers’ experience worldwide, where the readership of mainstream media outlets have increased significantly during this period.

More engaging content in store

In response to these changes in consumer behaviour, SPH publications are offering even more content across different platforms, formats and genres to inform and entertain its audience during this difficult period.

Aside from delivering the latest news, titles such as The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, SPH Magazines and even SPH Radio stations have also ramped up lifestyle content to keep their audiences entertained and engaged. This includes daily #StayHome guides, videos on sewing your own face mask, easy to follow recipes for home cooks and bubble tea-deprived Singaporeans, takeaway recommendations, activities for the whole family, workout tips and more.

These videos are now consolidated on #StayHomeWithSPH (, a dedicated digital platform launched in mid-April. This features a variety of lifestyle video content to complement the media group’s delivery of the latest updates on the Covid-19 situation.

Mr Anthony Tan, Deputy CEO of SPH, said: “The SPH team has been working hard during the Covid-19 crisis to bring up-to-date and trusted reporting to our audience. It is encouraging to see that our subscribers, both print and digital, are more engaged with our content during this period. We are also grateful for their patience as the Covid-19 crisis caused some delays in the delivery of the physical papers. We have in fact seen an increase in subscriptions and sales of our physical papers during this period which is testimony to the trust readers put in our content. We have also rolled out initiatives both in print and digital to support our advertisers to ride through these difficult economic circumstances. We will also continue to provide Covid-19 related articles for free on our digital platforms. It is our hope that these new readers will explore our other content, and eventually become subscribers.”