These must be tough times for the New Straits Times. Promoters on a roadshow in Penang over the weekend latched on to a novel idea to try and stem the paper’s flagging circulation.
The promoters above were spotted at lunch-time at the entrance to the Batu Lanchang market hawker centre. They said this was part of a roadshow and their next stop was Queensbay Mall.
According to audited circulation figures, daily sales of the New Straits Times had plunged from 139,468 (for the year ending June 2006) to 111,158 (in the six months ending December 2009).
In a sense, the promoters reflected reality in a way that they had not intended. One promoter was so plastered with newspapers like an Egyptian mummy, you wondered how he could see what was happening around him. The other was pretending to read the mock newspaper but the pages inside were devoid of content (blank).
Part of the NST’s problem surely must be the steady decline of print newspapers with the advent of the Internet. But political factors may also have played a part: sales had been hovering at around 136,000 until 2008, after which they dropped to 120,770 by June 2009 and then 111,158 by December 2009. (The New Sunday Times has higher sales of 131,518.) If you exclude the bulk sales (those copies sold at reduced rates or even distributed free), then the real sales of NST are just over 82,000 copies (and even then, how much of this is ‘forced sales’ to GLCs and government departments?)!
Out of the 111,158 in circulation, only 5,838 copies are sold in Penang compared to 37,102 copies in Penang for theSun and 32,972 for The Star.
This was what the NSTP’s Annual Report for 2009 had to say:
The New Straits Times saw a shift in its profile to younger readers, with a 7% gain in the 30 years and below age group (ACN Media Index). During the year, a major exercise was completed to identify how to improve its marketing strategy, to attract younger, affluent consumers with a high propensity to spend. The resulting marketing strategy, to be rolled out in 2010, will in part leverage on the synergy of being part of Malaysia’s largest media conglomerate, Media Prima Berhad, with its television and radio broadcast platforms as well as outdoor media.
The New Straits Times comes under the Media Prima media conglomerate, which is closely linked to Umno. The last Annual Report could well be the last for NSTP as Media Prima moves to completely take over the company and delist it from the stock market, thus sparing it the blushes.
All I can say is that as long as the NST’s political coverage remains lopsided and the real issues are not analysed critically, there appears little hope that the paper can arrest the declining trend, no matter how much marketing and promotion is done. People are not stupid.