Star Media Group eyes more subscription dollars with new ad-free premium plan

Star Media Group is doubling down on its digital efforts by launching an advertisement-free premium plan for The Star Digital Access. This was done in response to popular demand for the Digital Access membership since its launch in March 2020.

The new plan aims to give members an uninterrupted and seamless reading experience, along with full access to The Star via the website and the mobile application. It is also offering premium plan subscribers extensive access to news, features, videos, interactive graphics as well as exclusive members-only content.

In addition to an enhanced reading experience, subscribers to the one-year premium plan will be eligible for a Gold StarTreats loyalty programme membership. Gold StarTreats members will be entitled to exclusive promotions, extra discounts on Star Media Group products and double entries to monthly StarTreats giveaways. Subscribers of the standard plan can also upgrade to the new ad-free premium plan at a limited-time-only special rate where they would only need to top up RM5 per remaining subscription month this year. 

Star Media Group added that subscribers will be able to choose packages that work best for them and subscriptions can be cancelled at any time. There is also a free one-month trial for new readers who sign up for either the premium or standard plan via the Star Malaysia app. Non-subscribers will still be able to access a select number of articles per month. Star Media Group declined to comment further on A+M's queries.

News subscription head of The Star Digital Access, Jenny See, said: “At the heart of the content we put out is the hard work of our journalists, photographers and videographers, and this plan allows us to sustainably support journalism while building a new user experience.”

During the first quarter of its 2021 financial year ended 31 March, the Group said it will focus on sustaining its investment in the digital space and attracting digital revenue, in view of rapid changes in media consumption trend. This will be done by introducing new products and rejuvenating existing ones to keep up with changing market needs.

Its digital segment witnessed a growth of 17% against the last corresponding quarter, which was mainly attributable to the increase in the digital advertorial, growth marketing, and paywall subscription revenue. Despite the challenging environment, the Group has pressed on with its digital transformation initiatives to improve its costs and operational efficiencies. March 2021 marked a year since the implementation of the paywall for The Star Online following a group-wide "subscribe and win" campaign which also launched during the first quarter to drive more subscriptions. The Group said in its financial report that there has been a steady growth despite the uncertain economic situation. 

Nonetheless, overall revenue for print and digital was still down due to softness in the Malaysian economy coupled by the effects of COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order.

Earlier this month, Star Media Group led a consortium with real estate developer Paramount Corporation to apply for Bank Negara’s digital banking licence. The other three members of the consortium are financial services and AmCorp Group subsidiary RCE Capital, Prosper Palm Oil Mill, and a technology partner. CEO Alex Yeow said then that the venture into digital banking is in line with SMG’s digital transformation strategy and is synergistic with its ongoing efforts to grow within the digital sphere.

Star Media Group has also witnessed a few leadership shuffles over the past year. In May, the group saw the departure of COO, digital and print, Kang Yew Jin and CMO, product division, Lam Swee Kim to pursue other interests. Two months before that in March, chairman Fu Ah Kiow resigned shortly after CEO Alex Yeow was appointed in February. Fu said that it was “time to give way to new leadership”, adding that he wished to spend more time with his family.

The Group also previously embarked on a retrenchment exercise after its mutual separation scheme "did not yield the expected headcount reduction that would have helped the Group cushion the impact of the sustained soft business," CFO Sam Au said in an internal memo. Au explained then that this came as a result of the constant disruptions to the media industry, mainly from digital elements, as well as due to the prolonged COVID-19.

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