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SINGAPORE: New-look ST's reading time up by 6 min

The Straits Times receives kudos for new features

The Straits Times
Monday, January 10, 2005

By Arti Mulchand

The new look of The Straits Times has gone down well with its readers, who also say they are getting more value, thanks to the three free magazines - Mind Your Body, Digital Life and Urban - they get each week.

This emerged from a survey last month by Singapore Press Holdings' marketing planning and development department of more than 500 ST readers aged 15 and above selected randomly.

Of those aware of the changes, 80 per cent preferred the new content, and three out of four felt the layout, ease of navigation and overall appeal were better after the October relaunch.

Ms Mabel Tay, 40, director of corporate brand marketing for SingTel, said: 'It's pretty awesome. Even though it's more than 150 years old, the redesign shows that ST is a brand which moves with the times.

'It feels more urban and more intriguing. It has kept in step with evolution in the world of design,' she said, adding that the magazines provide more 'options' for both readers and advertisers.

Like other readers surveyed, the self-confessed 'fan' of the new look said she now spends more time reading the newspaper.

Based on the survey, the median reading time is now 41 minutes, up by six minutes from AC Nielsen's Media Index last year.

Mr Seah Chiang Nee, 64, former journalist and founder of political website www.littlespeck.com, also praised the new-look ST.

He said: 'It actually looks very good and it's a big improvement. Fewer but more focused reports on page one...There's also better writing, better layout and better headlines.'

He added that some of the reports in the new daily front-page column, Upfront, were 'very good', especially those dealing with Singapore.

The column has garnered a high level of interest, going by the survey.

About three-quarters of those surveyed read the column, and nine out of 10 found them interesting.

One of them, Mr Denis Distant, 67, a retired bank officer and frequent Forum letter-writer, said: 'Upfront is something human that you can look for in the newspaper every day, and a good change from the rest of the news on the front page,' he said.

Mr Distant also praised the use of colour and increased use of pictures.

Three-quarters of the readers surveyed also found themselves drawn to Saturday's Special Report series, and 94 per cent of them liked the reports.

The series has covered topics that include people who keep working way past retirement age, service standards in Singapore and most recently, heroes of the Boxing Day tsunami disaster.

The third new feature of the relaunch, F.Y.I, ST's information service, was also termed informative, useful and interesting.

Overall, 18 per cent still prefer the old ST and the new look has drawn some flak from some readers.

Mr Distant said he found it harder to navigate the paper since some of the sections were collapsed to create a two-part main section.

And Mr Seah pointed out that some of the articles - especially features - were still 'too long and could be written tighter'.

He also called for more liberal use of graphics to 'break the monotony'.

Other readers have also said they miss the 'classic feel' and 'sense of familiarity' of the old ST.

Still, ST editor Han Fook Kwang said he was 'heartened' by the largely positive response.

'I'm especially pleased that so many readers like Upfront and the Saturday Special Report, which shows that it's not true that readers prefer light, fluffy reads,' Mr Han said.

'They will read long pieces if they are of high quality and are written in an engaging way, and that will be our daily challenge.'

Asia Institute