Monday, 30 October 2017


Saw this article in Free Malaysia Today of 30 October 2017.

I wonder whether Singapore Press Holdings' online and digital advertising will be enough to cover costs, if the print edition eventually goes down.

Free Malaysia today is a small online-only publication which publishes politically-oriented, generally pro-opposition news articles.

Dunno if it is profitable.

What the article below basically says is that human journalists are becoming redundant.


Why job cuts at Singapore media giant are a good sign

PETALING JAYA: Odds are that many journalists at a Singapore company will soon lose their jobs, but a report says the job cuts are a good sign that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is “modernising” in its efforts to remain competitive.

Asean Today said SPH’s decision to trim down its journalists was “a leap towards the new era of journalism”.

“In the hyper-competitive world of news reporting, a failure to innovate is a death sentence.

“The SPH message is clear: it wants to keep Singapore at the forefront of modern journalism, and that means reducing jobs and embracing technology,” it said today.

SPH, which began retrenching staff earlier this month, is Southeast Asia’s biggest newspaper publisher and owner of the 172-year-old Straits Times daily.

According to reports, the company intends to axe 230 staff members which will reduce employees in core media divisions by 15%.

However, Asean Today also noted that SPH was not in financial distress, as the company had recorded a surge in profits for 2017 of S$350.1 million.

“To stay relevant and profitable, SPH needs to keep up with consumer trends and create stimulating content for the new generation. To do this, it needs to embrace AI solutions,” it said.

Pointing out that 85% of the population now refer to online sources for their news, the report added that such platforms were not conducive to long articles.

“Visual journalism is becoming the new norm,” it said, adding that this means there is less need for actual journalists.

Today, AI bots can even write news articles for companies, a technique already being used by the Associated Press for its stories on corporate financial quarterly earnings, the report said.

The use of natural language generation (NLG) technology means that human input is only required to select relevant data sets, while other types of software can select images to accompany the article.

“The future of journalism is quickly advancing,” the report said, quoting co-founder of Narrative Science Kris Hammond who estimated that computers would be responsible for 90% of news content by the mid-2020s.

According to the report, last year SPH invested S$6.8 million in Brand New Media Singapore (BNMS), a leading video content company.

This is in line with the steady rise in the consumption of online videos, the company was reported as saying.

“Other companies are looking to transition to stay ahead of the industry and increase revenues,” the report added.


Doesn't all that management-ese sound oh so 'sophisticated'?

So even information workers can be rendered obsolete by the inevitable onward march of information and communications technology. 

Welcome to the much-touted Information and Services Society.

Earlier Bloomberg Technology of 21 September 2017 reported of impending job cuts at Singapore Press Holdings.

"Singapore Press Considering Job Cuts in Reorganization Plan"

Then on 13 October 2017, The Straits Times, the flagship Singapore Press Holdings' paper reported:_

"SPH starts retrenching staff"

That same day the portal (note States Times Review dot com) reported.

"40 reporters fired from Straits Times"

Also that same day, the Singapore online news portal Mothership reported:-

"SPH source: Resentment, confusion as second day of retrenchment carried out"

The following day - i.e. 14 October 2017, Mothership reported:-
"Editor-in-chief, Warren Fernandez, said 2 things that exasperated SPH staff at Friday the 13th townhall"

The Singapore Daily of 18 October 2017 reported, preceded by some background on a solid journalists' strike in Singapore 41 years ago:-

"SPH informs journalist union of retrenchment half hour before meeting"

On 22 October 2017 The Independent dot SG reported:-

"All Singapore Stuff wants to employ retrenched SPH journalists"

The way things are going for journalists right now, I would not recommend any school leaver consider pursuing a career in journalism, since they could find themselves out of work in their mid-forties with family commitments, a mortgage and car loan to pay off.



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