Writing in the sixth anniversary issue of Today this weekend, PN Balji says: “Six years ago we knew the competition.” That was when Today was started as an alternative to Singapore’s main newspaper, The Straits Times. But The Straits Times’ publishers, Singapore Press Holdings, have since bought a stake in the freesheet, Today. “Now, we don’t know what it (the competition) looks like,” says Balji. “It could be blogs, podcasts, emails, SMSes and even lifestyle changes that demand narrowcasting or a combination of all these.” He is right.
I was surprised when I read last month that The Straits Times had gained 30,000 new readers this year. It crowed it was gaining readers when newspapers elsewhere were losing them.
But there’s no alternative to The Straits Times if one wants to read an English newspaper in Singapore. The New Paper is too downmarket, the Business Times mainly business, and the freesheet Today available only at selected spots at certain hours. And they are all linked to Singapore Press Holdings.
The Straits Times’ gains are due to one simple reason. More Singaporeans are switching over from Chinese newspapers, which are also published by the same group. The Straits Times itself said so.
It could also be due to the rise in the number of foreigners living and working in Singapore. Indians, for example, have a newspaper reading habit — and what else can they read in Singapore but The Straits Times?