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Letter from the Editor: TODAY turns 20, looking younger than before

Twenty years ago, TODAY was born — an intrepid upstart gatecrashing the monopoly on newspapers in Singapore. It took tenacity and ingenuity to clear the many hurdles that emerged or dance nimbly around obstacles placed in our path.

Twenty years ago, TODAY was born — an intrepid upstart gatecrashing the monopoly on newspapers in Singapore.

It took tenacity and ingenuity to clear the many hurdles that emerged or dance nimbly around obstacles placed in our path.

But these early challenges were merely a harbinger of things to come for the fledgling newsroom as we fought our way to becoming the second most-read newspaper after just six years.

Despite holding this position for many years, in 2017, TODAY ceased its print edition to go fully digital.

TODAY was the first, and to date, is still the only national newspaper in Singapore to take this bold decision amid a global decline in readership for print publications.

Biting the bullet before the storm hit has now put us in a stronger position to face the future.

TODAY’s digital reach has more than doubled in the last two years, hitting an average of more than five million unique visitors each month.

MILLENNIAL PIVOT

How did we do it? We had identified a market that has been under-served in Singapore: Millennials looking for intelligent, insightful, incisive news as well as useful information to help them join the dots and make sense of the world.

With a young newsroom teeming with bright and dedicated journalists, it was the perfect match: A millennial newsroom for the millennial audience.

Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials have come of age during a time of technological change and economic disruption.

As the first generation of digital natives, their experiences and behaviours have shaped a worldview that is markedly different from earlier generations.

And they are a force to be reckoned with.

About to enter their prime spending years, millennials have the means — in more ways than one — to be vocal about issues they care about and to bring about societal change.

In order to reach out to millennials, media organisations have to understand what matters to them and what drives them.

At TODAY, this means having our finger on the pulse of all things millennial, going to the platforms where they are such as Instagram and TikTok, and giving them the respect they deserve — as thinking adults who can draw their own conclusions, instead of being told what to think.

Catering to a younger audience does not mean dumbing down our content. It’s quite the opposite for this highly-educated and well-travelled generation who have greater expectations of media organisations compared to their parents.

To meet the needs of millennials, we have reshaped our news coverage and treatment via exclusives and ground-up reports on issues that resonate with them, “explainers” to break down complex and seemingly distant topics to help them see the links and understand the happenings around them, as well as cause-driven reports aligned to their passions and interests.

While content remains king, newsrooms have to rethink the way they package it for time-starved millennials who have access to numerous sources of information at their fingertips.

Within seconds, millennials can decide whether a piece of content is worth their time before they move on to something else.

That’s not to say that long-form journalism is dead. Far from it.

Take a look at our popular Big Read series. Published on weekends, it examines trends and issues that matter — ranging from international developments, national security, climate change, gender issues and social inequality to social ills, cultural shifts, crime trends, the local YouTube industry and dating habits.

As our audience is telling us resoundingly, there is a time and place for serious long-form journalism.

Even so, the Big Read is accompanied each week by a TLDR version for those who need a quicker read.

To give millennials a platform to speak up on issues close to their hearts, we have also been running a Gen Y Speaks column with contributions from youths from all walks of life on a wide range of topics.

TODAY20 REFRESH

In conjunction with our 20th anniversary, we have unveiled a new logo, which is more vibrant and bold, as well as a refreshed website that embraces our new identity.

Gone are the serif fonts traditionally associated with newspapers. Apart from a cleaner typeface, our website will also be easier to navigate and promote greater sharing of content, among other enhancements.

Starting today, we are launching a new weekly Youth in Action series that profiles millennials who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions.

We are also holding four weekly webinars on Instagram Live, with the first taking place during lunchtime on Thursday (Nov 12).

These webinars will touch on the topics of activism, cyber vigilantism, gender equality and mental health — all issues that millennials are seized with.

Through the latest initiatives and others in the pipeline, we aim to provide millennials with the knowledge and different perspectives to make everyday decisions and form their views on national issues, to give them the tools that they need to effectively take part in public discourse.

Indeed, TODAY has played an active role in public discourse in Singapore. In the coming days, we will be re-publishing 20 of our most impactful articles over the years.

There is no doubt in our minds that TODAY has helped enrich Singapore society over the past two decades and will continue to do so.

Looking back, there are many people within the newsroom and outside who have been instrumental to TODAY’s success.

None more so than our loyal readers and advertisers, to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. To our new readers and advertisers, welcome onboard.

The past two decades have been a wild ride and we thank you for your continued faith and support, as we embark on this new chapter.

Loh Chee Kong is the deputy chief editor of TODAY.

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