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Refreshed paper, refreshed newsroom

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 05:50
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TODAY, The Business Times is new across all its print and digital platforms - with the core aim of providing Singapore's business-news readers with sharper news and analysis and a better reading experience, whenever they need it - PHOTO: BT

Singapore

TODAY, The Business Times is new across all its print and digital platforms - with the core aim of providing Singapore's business-news readers with sharper news and analysis and a better reading experience, whenever they need it.

For Singapore's first and still-sole financial daily, the latest relaunch - which simultaneously refreshes its newspaper, website, tablet and smartphone apps - may be the most ambitious yet in the paper's 38 years. For the 90-odd staffers who make up the newsroom, it is the culmination of months of intense planning, preparation and execution.

Alvin Tay, the editor of the newspaper, said: "It was a project which started with a small group, but which ultimately involved everyone. BT is staking a claim on the future with a multi-platform offering."

He added: "While we're stepping up our digital offering, we believe there is a lot more print can still offer. Print brings a unique reading experience to readers, brought across by how news is laid out on a page, how headlines are displayed and how stories are positioned in the context of other stories."

Wider columns and more distinct fonts give the paper a crisp feel, and make for clearer reading. The paper will also make more extensive use of data and information graphics, or infographics, to tell stories better.

Michelle Low, the BT senior executive sub-editor who designed the new look, said: "The new design approach focuses on clarity and ease of use. Layouts are clean and modular for easy navigation, while a muted colour palette delivers data without distraction. The look of the paper is refreshed with a more contemporary look, while retaining BT's refined, elegant personality."

The biggest change in the newspaper, which is carried online too, will be in how the news is reported. BT will now categorise the news by industry sectors - rather than geographical markets - underlining the paper's sharpened focus on business. These sector sections include Real Estate, Banking & Finance, Energy & Commodities, Technology, Consumer and Transport.

BT news editor Wong Wei Kong, who has also been appointed the paper's executive editor with effect from Wednesday, said: "We believe this approach is better for readers. It reflects how business and markets are organised, by sectors. Placing stories on an industry within the same section, whether the news is happening in the US, Europe or Asia, also captures the highly globalised nature of business and puts the news in wider context for readers.

"This also makes it easier for the focused business reader to find the news he or she needs."

The Top Stories segment will continue to highlight the most important stories of the day across markets and countries, with more infographics to explain the news and trends.

The Companies & Markets section, focusing on Singapore-listed companies and market news, will have two new pages of charts and tables providing a concise summary of the market day.

A new Government & Economy section will cover major global political and economic news events and their implications. And an enhanced Opinion section provides a greater breadth and depth of insight and analysis on key trending issues.

After the hard business news, the Life & Culture section will feature longer, more leisurely reads.

Weekly sections such as Views from the Top, SME, Executive Money and Lifestyle will remain as mainstay content of the new BT.

The Business Times Weekend edition, which marks its sixth anniversary in its compact format this year, will reflect the new business-sector sections of the weekday paper. It retains both its size and the Weekend Living pull-out.

All the richer offerings in print will be carried in BT's website and mobile apps. Both the website and apps will continue to carry breaking news, as well as all stories from the print edition, but will offer features of their own too.

Christopher Lim, BT Digital Editor said: "Many readers now access BT on a variety of devices. So we've ensured that the revamped website will be readable, appropriately sized and easy to navigate on any screen. Our upgraded mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android phones also feature improved navigation."

With a new responsive design, businesstimes.com.sg adapts to the screen it is being read from, so readers get as natural a reading experience on tablets and smartphones as they will on laptops and desktops. Readers can also expect more interactive charts and visuals on this new website.

There will be a new Lifestyle portal with its own distinct look and feel. This pulls together all the stories on luxury living from BT's Friday and Saturday editions and news updates from BT's lifestyle journalists.

To deepen engagement with readers, the website will feature three new blogs by BT journalists, a comments system for readers to share views on stories and easier sharing of stories via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Producing the new BT required changes of the newsroom too. For the editors, reporters, copy-editors, sub-editors, artists, designers, photographers and support staff who make up BT, this has meant learning new systems and processes, thinking in fresh ways or changing work routines.

Print and online news operations were integrated, briefings and meetings became the norm and guidelines were written or re-written for almost everything, from writing to collaborating on graphics, from a guide on style to one on correcting errors.

For journalists used to the midnight deadline of the newspaper, some changes have literally been from night to day. Sub-editors who have worked a late-afternoon till midnight shift for years, have found themselves on early morning shifts editing breaking news stories for the website.

BT's reporters are now thinking not only in words but also in terms of graphics and visuals when searching for ways to tell their stories better.

BT correspondent Kenneth Lim said: "Access to data is wider and easier than it has ever been, which means stronger analysis. The kind of tale that we can weave is also so much richer today with online interactive content. As a reporter, these are highly liberating.

"I used to just write. Now I also draw and code, and Excel haunts my dreams. I didn't sign up for this all those years ago. But now I find myself strangely unable to stop. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, except that I'm both the protagonist and the storyteller."

Said Mr Wong, who led the project team behind the relaunch: "Change is never easy and I'm sure some felt discomfort from all the changes we had to make. I think the newsroom rose admirably to the challenge."

Along with the latest refresh, BT also unveiled a new tagline: Intelligence at Work.

He said: "Read one way, it's about the intelligence that a newsroom of journalists can gather when businessmen and decision-makers are a phone call away.

"Read another way, it's about the news, analysis pieces and commentaries that are put out every day by these journalists - intelligence that BT hopes its readers will be able to find real use for, whether in making business decisions or personal investment choices."

And serving the reader better is, ultimately, what BT is all about.

"The new BT may look very different from the old BT. But there are things that don't change. Whatever the look, BT stands for professional excellence, independence and good solid business journalism," said Mr Wong.