BROADSHEET English-language paper, The New Straits Times (NST), will add a new compact edition from next month, in a bid to turn around falling circulation, its group editor-in-chief said yesterday.
Following the lead of several British papers, NST would launch a tabloid edition on Sept 1, The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd group chief editor Datuk Kalimullah Hassan said in an interview.
The tabloid would have an initial print run of 50,000 copies.
The NST once sold around 180,000 papers a day but circulation has slipped by almost 20% to less than 150,000. Ten years ago circulation fell behind the rival The Star, a tabloid owned by rival Star Publications Bhd that now has twice the circulation.
Another tabloid, The Sun, owned by Nexnews Bhd, has also gained readers at the expense of the NST.
“NST lost its pole position in 1994. Since then, the gap has been widening. If we can get a 10%-15% increase in circulation initially, we’ll be quite happy,” said Kalimullah, a former businessman and journalist brought in as group chief editor in December to help shore up operations.
The Times and The Independent are among British papers that have launched compact editions, targeting commuters to counter a steady readership decline in Britain’s highly-competitive newspaper market.
Shares of NST have fallen nearly 7% this year, under-performing a 1.8% rise by the wider market. Shares of Star Publications have gained 3.2% while Nexnews’ shares have leapt more than 50%.
“We have plateaued, we have hit rock bottom. There’s nothing to lose,” said Kalimullah.
“It’s not going to be easy to unseat The Star. It took them a few years to get the top position,” said Jeffrey Tan, a media analyst at Avenue Securities.
The costs of printing the new compact edition, which would be sold at urban centres like Penang, would be marginal, Kalimullah said.
“We want to be as objective as possible, so it is up to the readers. We have never had a problem with the Government, not a single phone call,” Kalimullah said. – Reuters
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