History of the Publication Industry in Singapore

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Limited was established on 4th August 1984 as a new holding company to effect the merger of Times Publishing Berhad, The Straits Times Press (1975) Limited, Singapore News and Publications Limited and Singapore Newspaper Services Pte Ltd. This merger was initiated to cut cost generated from wasteful competition and duplication of resources.

Today, Asia’s leading media organisation SPH publishes 19 newspapers across four languages — including major prints such as The Strait Times and Lianhe Zaobao — expanding the perimeters of the newspaper publishing industry in Singapore. Other than newspapers, the company has a book publishing arm that includes magazines such as Her World, Nuyou, Men’s Health, Home & Decor and Young Parents.

On an average day, 2.5 million* individuals or 59 per cent of people about 15 years old, read one of SPH’s news publications in print copies or on one of the digital platforms. (*Nielsen Media Index 2016, Monday-Sunday, read any SPH newspapers in print or digital format) (SPH, 2017)

Singapore is also one of the main printing hubs in Asia. Our juxtaposition to major regional markets also makes us the preferred location as the Asia-Pacific headquarters of leading international publishers. This point alone attracts many publishers to outsource their printing products such as journals, magazines, coffee table books and art books to Singapore.

Structure of the Publication Industry

(credits to http://subrealism.blogspot.sg/2012/12/what-impact-will-ebooks-have-on-global.html)

The structural model of the publishing industry in Singapore is very clear cut. Publishers, printers, distribution companies and booksellers are the older structure model of the publishing industry but are still used these days. New ways of the structural model are introduced such as: Digitizing by publishers and digital warehouses, electronic distribution by telecom companies and placement on book device by producers of electronic devices. As technology advances, consumers are more advance with their devices such as tablets, laptops, mobile phones.

Business Models

Various business models operate across the publication industry:

  1. Audience revenue drivers such as advertising is a huge part of the publishing industry’s business model as it brings in revenue, targets and engages with the audience better and also helps to reduce cost. Tabulating links with content that are of relevance to products and services on a commission or cost-per-action basis helps by creating a huge coverage of affiliate networks. Sponsored content such as clearly marked articles, videos and podcasts also help to increase readership and reach out to a greater audience.
  2. Content revenue drivers such as custom publishing help to create engaging material for brands that are sponsoring or on the brand’s site or network. Charging for the republication of material opens up bigger doors and is advantageous for a publishing house. Paid content whereby users are charged to access a certain new or premium content can also include regenerating current content into new media such as ebooks and mobile apps.
  3. Brand revenue drivers such as products like iPhone apps, ebooks and that also include physical products that are relevant to the audience, renting the publishing brand for use on products, events and services of related companies also helps to increase brand awareness. Events such as meetups, webcasts, conferences and panels for the audience also helps publishers at this revenue opportunity.
  4. Data revenue drivers such as lead generation help to connect brands to audiences that express or indicated an interest in the product offered, direct mail and email campaigns will be sent to the user database on behalf of these brands. This is usually premium content with the main purpose being to link vendors with potential prospects in the technology and finance area. Market research helps provide anonymous preference and behaviour data, this data is often sold to advertising networks to have a better knowledge of their target audience which is more appropriate for high traffic sites.

Operational Methods

When an author wants to get published, they will usually get a literary agent which makes it easier to get an editor to look at their proposal or manuscript. A book contract is then drafted and signed as a legally binding agreement between the author and the book publisher. The book contract outlines the obligations and rights of each party from the product of the physical book to the financial agreement. A whole team of people such as the editor, the marketing team, the publisher and the publicity department will be involved to get the book ready for publication.

The manuscript will be crafted through the editorial process and is the first step before it becomes a finished book. The editor works together with the author to help finalise the content and agree with the final manuscript. The book production department will be responsible for the design, layout, printing and coding of the e-book for the finished book. This process usually happens when the finalized manuscript goes to the copyeditor. Copyediting is considered the first step in the book production process, which involves checking the manuscript for grammar, spelling, flow and consistency. The queries of the manuscript are then answered by the author and editor which helps to finalize the text. The manuscript goes for design and layout whereby the author will not see the book until page proofs.

The marketing, publicity and sales department will be strategizing on how to get the book into bookstores and in front of the media and consumers. Book launches are in order and it is vital to give it sales momentum, at this point in time the author would have already had an established online presence such as a website, a Facebook page or a Twitter to get themselves out there as an author. Publicity hooks and plans are organized by the book publicist. This is also the last step before the publishing takes place. In between printing and shipping, ebook files are properly coded and are made readily available to the online retailers via data feeds from the publisher. The bookseller offers them for purchase and download by consumers through their individual websites.

Important Personnel

The whole publishing team consists of: The publisher, who is the leader of the house, setting the vision and tone for the publishing house or engrave and regulating the whole operation, the production of a rundown of titles from securing through deals. (Peterson, 2017)

Other than the publisher, the editorial department performs all necessary duties to acquire and edit books, also to see through to publication which includes dealing with agents, authors and the interface of the books. The marketing department is in control of individual marketing strategies for the individual books and also coordinates with the art department who is responsible for the design and production of marketing materials such as posters, postcards and promotional videos.

A publishing house also maintains its own website with booklists and author information that the public would be interested in finding out. Other websites such as individual author sites are mainly under “marketing” and although most author websites are developed and maintained by the author themselves.

Other departments under the publishing house consist of the publicity department which is accountable for reaching out to the media such as print, radio and television. There is the finance and accounting team that has its own profit and loss statement, and the finance department monitors this, as well as expenses. The human resources department aids with the recruitment and hiring of talent.

Last but not least, without an audience, none of the personnel in the publishing industry would survive.


A hopeless romantic who is passionate about all things beauty, fashion, food & love.

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