The Straits Times offering English classes. Price? S$499 of your S$500 SkillsFuture credits.

Opening up another revenue stream.

Joshua Lee | March 26, 2018, 04:16 PM

Purveyor of premium content, The Straits Times, has heard its readers' "many requests" for help in writing better English.

In response to the demand, it has started The Straits Times English Masterclass course, which one can sign up by using one's SkillsFuture credits.

What is this English Masterclass course?

Here are some of the things the course covers:

  • Address common spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Teach you how to compose emails
  • Teach you language "survival skills" for the workplace

How much would it cost?

All for the price of S$499, but technically kind of free since you'd use almost all of your SkillsFuture credits to pay for it.

A November 2017 ad for the Executive Edition of the Straits Times English Masterclass promised to teach participants the "difference between 'it's' and 'its'".

At S$399, it cost S$100 less than the present course.

Retrenchments and lost deals

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) opening up another revenue stream by organising classes is testament to the testy times ahead.

Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

According to SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung in December 2017,"revenue has been falling and there is a structural decline in newspapers".

A recent report by UOB Kay Hian determined that unlike American media, which saw recovery in circulation and growth, SPH continues to see "flat circulation revenue in spite of increased digital subscribers".

SPH's earnings fell by almost 14 percent in the first financial quarter of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017 -- from S$202 million to S$174 million.

The bulk of the loss was due to a drop in advertising revenue, which fell by S$24.2 million.

After appointing chief executive Ng in September 2017, SPH saw a retrenchment exercise less than two months later.

Then in February 2018, SPH lost one of its longest deals with Singapore Airlines to produce its in-flight magazine, SilverKris.

SPH has been producing the SilverKris magazine for 15 years, since 2003. The publication rights were awarded to travel media publishing company Ink.

In March 2018, it was reported that the magazine arm of SPH will also undergo a round of retrenchment, bringing their staff count down to about 300.


Other income sources

SPH has to look at other income generating sources to placate those "complaining about the share price".

Aside from owning Clementi Mall and Paragon, the SPH real estate investment trust is also looking to acquire overseas property.

SPH also owns the Orange Valley nursing home. Property has been SPH's most successful investment so far.

These properties, together with alternative sources of income, took in 50 percent more revenue compared to the same period last year.

This segment brought in S$23.6 million for SPH in the first financial quarter of 2018.

Additionally, SPH recently submitted a bid in February 2018 to manage the Singapore Expo.

It is bidding against SingEx Venues and V3 Group. The results of the tender is unknown.

While SPH maintains that it will continue to fight for their "core business", Ng has made it clear that the "strategy [to protect print at all cost] has seen its last days".

It will look for money elsewhere, starting with English classes.

Here’s a totally unrelated but equally interesting story:

Are you a media freelancer? Were you promised better “exposure” instead of cash payment for your work?