Jessica Goodfellow
Aug 19, 2020

SPH to cut 140 roles to offset 'severe' impact of Covid-19 on ad revenue

Advertisers have cut back media spend throughout the pandemic, despite readership increasing.

SPH to cut 140 roles to offset 'severe' impact of Covid-19 on ad revenue

Singapore Press Holdings, the publisher of The Straits Times newspaper and other publications, is cutting 140 roles in its media group division after suffering a "significant adverse impact" from Covid-19.

The media organisation said Tuesday (August 18) it is restructuring its media sales and magazines operations as part of an ongoing streamlining operation to address the impact of Covid-19 on its advertising revenue.

The restructure, which will focus on sharing content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms, will reduce headcount in the media group by around 5% and will incur retrenchment costs of approximately $8 million.

SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung said: "A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience."

In a corporate presentation announcing the changes, the group said ad revenue has been "severely impacted" by the pandemic, despite year-to-date circulation increasing by 9.8% year-on-year. Notably, digital circulation is up by 56% year-on-year, it said.

SPH has also exited its magazine business in Malaysia and has ceased the publication of magazines Cleo, Young Parents and Shape.

Newsroom staff and journalists are not affected by the restructuring exercise, the presentation said.

In its first half results of fiscal 2020 (1H FY20), SPH's media revenues shrank 14.3% or $42.3 million to $253.9 million as newspaper print advertising slid 20%. At the time, the company said Covid-19 was having a detrimental impact on advertising across all most sectors besides government spending. 

In March SPH board members and the CEO were asked to take a voluntary 10% pay cut. Other senior staff reduced their pay by 5% with all cuts effective April 2020 to be renewed at the end of the year.

SPH said it has informed the Ministry of Manpower, the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) and NTUC on the retrenchments, and that affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the union. 

CMPU president David Teo said: "Today is a tough day for the employees affected by SPH’s restructuring exercise and our CMPU union leaders are giving them our strong support. Amid the economic uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak and companies’ restructuring efforts to streamline operations, retrenchments may be inevitable. Thus, CMPU’s key priority in such an event is to stand by our members, protect their interests and ensure that they are treated with dignity."

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