Customer Story

Singapore Press Holdings: Telling a data-driven story with Google BigQuery and G Suite

SPH hero

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) embarked on a digital transformation journey to speed up collaboration and data insights with the help of G Suite and BigQuery.

Google Cloud Results

Drives content engagement by analyzing audience data

• Analyzes 1.4TB of active data using Google Analytics 360 via BigQuery

• Migrates 4,000 users to G Suite within 6 months

• Improves productivity across the organization

Moving from print to digital has enabled us to reach a global audience and build reader relationships across multiple touchpoints. Besides this, we can use more accurate and granular data to help advertisers create successful campaigns." - Fiona Chan, Head of Media Strategy and Analytics, Singapore Press Holdings

Founded in 1984, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has a portfolio that reflects the melting pot of Singapore's different cultures. SPH's wide range of media platforms caters to audiences in the nation's four official languages of English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. In recent years, SPH has successfully expanded its readership beyond Singapore. The digital edition of Lianhe Zaobao, for example, attracts more than 90 percent of its readers from overseas.

SPH is keenly aware that time-poor readers are increasingly moving online for bite-size news, including via social media. There's also a corresponding shift in ad spending from print to digital, which offers brand managers more visibility on campaign performance. To stay ahead of the competition, SPH has embraced digitalization.

"The entire publishing industry has been disrupted in the past 5 to 10 years and this is true globally. Digital transformation is a game-changer. Moving from print to digital has enabled us to reach a global audience and build reader relationships across multiple touchpoints. Besides this, we can use more accurate and granular data to help advertisers create successful campaigns," says SPH's Head of Media Strategy and Analytics, Fiona Chan.

Speeding up editorial workflows and collaboration with G Suite

SPH has revamped its IT infrastructure to improve productivity and encourage collaboration. At SPH News Center, editorial teams work against tight deadlines to create and curate content across multiple platforms. Staff journalists work 24/7 to report breaking news before readers get it from unofficial sources on social media.

Remote access used to be a pain point, with employees only being able to access company information by logging into a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Journalists resorted to forwarding emails to a personal inbox to check messages on their mobile devices when working on the go, but had to return to the office to send emails from their official SPH email address.

"Migrating to G Suite was an easy choice. Many of our reporters were already familiar with Gmail. G Suite is user-friendly and offers convenient collaboration and document-sharing tools to match our business needs." - Fiona Chan, Head of Media Strategy and Analytics, Singapore Press Holdings

With the help of PointStar, SPH migrated around 4,000 users from the legacy email server to G Suite in six months. Gmail provides everyone in the organization with highly secure email access from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Strong security features, such as 2-step verification on enterprise Gmail accounts, help protect sensitive information. When an employee leaves the company, the administrator can remotely wipe the user's mobile device to maintain data security. At the same time, SPH is able to retain the departing user's external contact list so the editor can still reach out to news sources that a journalist cultivated.

"Migrating to G Suite was an easy choice. Many of our reporters were already familiar with Gmail. G Suite is user-friendly and offers convenient collaboration and document-sharing tools to match our business needs," says Fiona Chan, Head of Media Strategy and Analytics at SPH.

She adds, "G Suite has improved communication throughout the organization. Journalists out on assignment can easily use Docs to take notes or transcribe interviews, and share them with the team in Drive. Other colleagues also make use of Sheets or Slides to collaborate on creating and refining documents."

Increasingly, media buyers purchase ads across multiple platforms. To plan integrated sales, SPH's ad sales team works closely with other divisions such as circulation sales, editorial newsrooms, and SPH Radio. Through group chats on Hangouts, cross-functional teams can work productively no matter where they are.

Driving ad revenue with Google Analytics 360 and BigQuery

In recent years, SPH has digitized all its print assets to offer readers more choice. Subscribers can read their favorite newspaper or magazine on their mobile devices and still get a print copy delivered to their door. Digitalization has enabled SPH to reach a global audience who can access its content online. Better yet, it makes it easier for SPH to analyze behavioral metrics from its digital properties in real time.

"Like G Suite, we've found Google Analytics very intuitive and easy to use. Our journalists and analysts can access deep insights into how readers use our publications, which helps us serve the content they want. With Google BigQuery, we can analyze data with more granularity and depth, which is invaluable." - Fiona Chan, Head of Media Strategy and Analytics, Singapore Press Holdings

Previously, the main way SPH gathered reader feedback was through door-to-door surveys once a year. Representatives personally visited print subscribers to ask details about their reading behavior, such as how often they were reading, what articles they liked, and what sections they were most interested in. These labor-intensive readership surveys for hundreds of households took months to complete and didn't produce optimal data because the feedback was based on the subscriber's recall.

Using Google Analytics 360 via BigQuery, SPH has added to its annual door-to-door surveys with real-time analytics for reliable customer insights. Google Analytics 360 captures 1.4TB of active data from SPH's digital titles, which is then fed into BigQuery to analyze reader behavior such as what content or ad drives subscription and what causes attrition. The sales team shares data insights with advertisers to improve ad performance and identify marketing opportunities.

"Being data-driven plays a key part in our digital transformation," says Fiona. "Like G Suite, we've found Google Analytics very intuitive and easy to use. Our journalists and analysts can access deep insights into how readers use our publications, which helps us serve the content they want. With Google BigQuery, we can analyze data with more granularity and depth, which is invaluable."

In the newsroom, the editorial team views audience data on large overhead displays. SPH uses Google Analytics to create some of these easy-to-use dashboards that show reader behavior, such as pageviews on trending stories, engagement metrics including return visits and time spent, and conversion rates. Reporters use these newsroom metrics to improve reader engagement. For example, if a particular topic is trending, reporters can capitalize on that interest and attract more traffic by writing relevant articles.

Improving tomorrow's content experience with artificial intelligence

Moving forward, SPH is now exploring how artificial intelligence can help reporters improve newsroom productivity and reach a broader audience. One example is automated transcription and translation into different languages. Currently, reporters write in one of the four official languages for a target audience who can understand that language. SPH envisions a future where machine translation in all four languages will attract more readers from Singapore and other parts of the world. SPH is also developing its own content recommendation engine to personalize the articles displayed to each reader, thus improving the reader experience and making it more engaging.

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