Friday, March 24, 2006

Care-rot for a paper, anyone?

Care-rot for a paper, anyone?When I read that SPH, the company that puts out Singapore's largest circulating newspaper, the Straits Times (ST), was doing giveaways to new subscribers, I felt vindicated. This tells me that ST must have lost readership substantially over the last couple of years, and it is now trying the age-old method of offering freebies in exchange for subscriptions. What's more, subscriptions to homes will be charged 70c a copy instead of the usual 80c. On top of this, delivery to homes (I would imagine) is free of charge. At this price, ST has rolled back the years to when I was a regular subscriber and reader of the ST.

Alas, it has come too late, as far as I am concerned. I have already written in an earlier blog why I am not a regular ST reader anymore, due in no small part to the increase in its cover price to 80c. You may call me petty, but I remember then that there were many complaints about the price increase. There were no clear reasons for them doing so. While SPH felt that it may lead to a reduction in readership, such attrition would be within their expectations and they could live with it. After all, it is a quality paper unmatched by any other paper on the island at that time. It is still a quality paper, but Today presents a viable alternative now.

It is supremely ironical then that, having lost a reader, it is now backing down on its pricing policy and trying to woo back old subscribers like me. But of course, I am not ST's main target, although I fall within their 20-45 year olds target group. Many in this group have grown up or moved on to reading only free papers such as Today and electronic papers on the Internet. I suppose that SPH realises that if this trend continues, their circulation will decline surely and steadily over the years. Is SPH pre-empting this or are they reacting to declining sales?

But as in all cases of genuine competition, the consumer benefits. However, I am not interested in the carrot SPH is dangling out anymore.

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