BT sees new digital subscriptions double in April from March amid Covid-19 pandemic

THE Business Times (BT) saw new digital subscription numbers double in April over March, as digital subscriptions rose substantially across the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) publications, amid the Covid-19 outbreak and "circuit-breaker" measures.

As a public service, Covid-19 articles across the group's digital platforms have been accessible to non-subscribers since April 2. 

Notwithstanding this, The Straits Times saw a 40 per cent increase in new acquisitions in April, Lianhe Zaobao posted a 138 per cent increase, while subscription numbers for Berita Harian doubled last month from the previous month.

Meanwhile, Tamil Murasu subscriptions hit a new high in April, up 780 per cent, from its usual sign-ups, SPH said in a press statement on Wednesday. 

In addition, the media and property group also saw significant increase in and engagement with its digital audience during this period, it said.

Visitors to SPH's news sites and apps nearly doubled, while page views nearly tripled in April 2020 compared to a year ago. Time spent on SPH apps also rose about 30 to 40 per cent in April from the previous year.

According to two studies commissioned by SPH in April, 65 per cent of its print subscribers have been reading newspapers more frequently compared to three months ago, with over 76 per cent doing so to stay updated about the Covid-19 situation. 

With more time to spare, close to half of these respondents are spending over 30 minutes to an hour reading the group's print newspapers, SPH noted.

The surveys were conducted over a seven-day period covering 1,247 respondents, with the aim of understanding media consumption habits as more people started working from home. 

Anthony Tan, deputy chief executive officer of SPH, said: "The SPH team has been working hard during the Covid-19 crisis to bring up-to-date and trusted reporting to our audience. It is encouraging to see that our subscribers, both print and digital, are more engaged with our content during this period.

"We will also continue to provide Covid-19 related articles for free on our digital platforms. It is our hope that these new readers will explore our other content, and eventually become subscribers."

Last week, BT launched its first subscription package targeted at the individual BT reader to make the paper more accessible. The new BT Personal Edition package costs S$9.90 a month, with no contract lock-in and no expiry. It provides one Web login and one app login. 

As at 11.15am on Wednesday, shares in SPH were trading at S$1.49, down S$0.02 or 1.3 per cent.