Screenshot from Straits Times website

Pay more to read propaganda?

State media Straits Times last week started “premium”  charges for it’s political articles, including ministerial interviews, written by propagandists. A reader will have to pay S$14.90 a month to subscribe to access these “premium” propaganda content.

According to an employee with Straits Times, the viewership of these political opinion articles aren’t too well-received to begin with. It is hence unlikely the “premium content” would create any significant increase in subscriptions.

Using a sample size of around 4,600, independent surveyor Nielson has been conducting readership tracking for Singapore’s state media. The total readership for Straits Times was revealed to have been declining every year for the past two decades:

*Daily average reach combining digital and printed circulation for Straits Times:
2002 – 43%
2010 – 36%
2013 – 34%
2015 -30%
2016 – 29%
2017 – 28.8%

Taking the fact that Singapore’s population jumped from 4.1 million to 5.71 million today, the declining of readership is actually faster and more acute than the above appears. Last year, 40 reporters from Straits Times were retrenched.

Setting up premium access for it’s articles seems to be the nail in it’s own coffin, especially in today’s media landscape of free news media like States Times Review.

Perhaps unbeknown to CEO Ng Yat Chung, Straits Times have a credibility problem. Most readers perceive the paper as a government mouthpiece and this belief is backed up an international yearly survey, World Press Freedom Index, which ranked Singapore’s mainstream media as 151st in the world for credibility. In a recent parliamentary debate, opposition MP Sylvia Lim criticised the government saying she suspected the government already had an intention to increase the GST prior to the announcement due to the numerous media reports speculating about a GST increase.