Leading Millennials: Mark Cheong, SPH

"It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in. If you’re looking at usability, the littlest of details matter."

Mark is a product manager at Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore’s dominant media organization with assets in print, broadcast and online. As a former product manager at Samsung, Mark takes a critical eye to usability problems and looks for ways to reduce friction between readers and the content they have in their phones. You can reach him on email at markcwm@gmail.com.

He appears here as part of our stories to identify the evolving generation of professionals in the service of journalism.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, how would you describe what you do?

I lead high-impact online and mobile initiatives and help teams discover and build digital products that are valuable, usable, and desirable. User experience and usability are central to my work.


Fundamentally, what does good usability look like?

User-centered and dummy-proof. Your user should be able to do what he/she wants to do in the fastest, most natural way, at all points of interaction with your product. Your user should also clearly see or feel the value you are bringing to their lives.


How do you know if you’ve achieved it?

You have a loyal user base that comes back regularly to continue receiving the value that you are delivering to them. You may also have a steady, if not growing, revenue stream.


Tell me about your journey into media. How did you get to SPH?

I got my first taste when I interned as a 17-year old in one of the company’s first few digital products. It was a time when the print media business in Singapore was starting to react to the growth of the Internet. I went back to school to get my degree in Sociology and ended up back here after working with Samsung Asia, where I built an app for art lovers.


What are you doing for them?

I’ve been focused on 2 things. First, studying the behavior of our readers to ensure my team is staying true to its purpose of delivering the value we have promised our users. Two, constantly looking to grow revenue streams of the product. It is intentional that the first task I mentioned comes first!

[Brand] clients don’t really care about any thing else except for what you can do for them. Its the same too for users in the digital scape.

How has your previous work influenced the way you look at usability in media?

I worked for a branding agency when I first came out to work. From the countless pitches I made, I learnt that clients don’t really care about any thing else except for what you can do for them. Its the same too for users in the digital scape.

Put yourself in the shoes of the user and ask yourself, “Am I getting what I want from the website or app in the easiest and quickest way?” “Where are the pain points in this experience with the website or app?”

It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in. If you’re looking at usability, the littlest of details matter. Article lengths, font sizes, color schemes, the number of steps to a shopping cart check-out — all of them have a direct impact on how desirable your product is perceived to be.


When you look across various websites, what are publishers getting wrong?

What works on print does not necessarily work on digital too. More time needs to be put into exploring sound and video, graphics, and mix of story type and length. The strength of mobile is in its ability to deliver interactive experiences that can engage readers better, through new ways of telling stories.


What are the best ways for publishers to test out improvements to UX?

Small-batch roll outs. Test your new feature on a small percentage of your user base over a period of time and observe how it performs against your hypothesis and predetermined KPIs. This method also helps reduce user exposure to bugs and crashes.


What is the biggest thing you know today that you didn’t know a year ago in thinking about usability?

What people say they will do (when asked face to face) differs vastly from what they actually do when they are, say, browsing from the comfort of their homes!

Leading Millennials

We’re looking for people with an elasticity in their views of media and journalism. It’s rare.

The faces of people in the service of journalism are often found on stage. They are often the heads of their newsrooms. They are often men. There’s little space on stage for the younger people sitting further down the hierarchy of these newsrooms. I want to tell their stories because some of them could one day redefine this industry.

So if you want to be featured here (or know of someone who should), drop me an email. I’m alansoon@splicemedia.com.

Co-Founder, Splice Media. Supporting media startups in Asia. Follow Alan Soon on Twitter.

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