The survival of The Manila Times in this digital age — revealed!
KING AND NAME OF THE GAME
Technological advancements have changed the way people communicate with each other. With rapidly evolving technology, the struggle to keep up has put some models of communication in danger. What was once considered a huge breakthrough in mass communication, now finds itself desperate to close the gap that technology has inevitably created. Such is the case of the 20th century #1 newspaper industry in the Philippines, The Manila Times. Dante “Klink” Ang II, President and CEO, and Executive Editor of The Manila Times, shares with a group of communication majors the newspaper corporation’s plans, prospects and struggles in a world ruled by digital technology last July 9, 2017. Despite the struggle of print to survive and produce income to continue operations nowadays, Klink says, “Content is king now.” He dubs content as “the name of the game today”, believing that the survival of communication mediums such as print, television, radio and online media is heavily dependent on good or newsworthy content.
The Manila Times started on October 11, 1898. It was the first daily newspaper in the Philippines and was founded by an Englishman, Thomas Gowan. This newspaper publication was made in order to conform for the demand of the Americans during the time they occupied the Philippines. The United States Army wanted to establish their so called own American paper wherein they would be updated and have control with what’s going on. Moving in these days forward, the publisher and chair of the Manila Times is Dante “Klink” Ang II. Their family came in 2001 and they have the complete control in this newspaper publication. Despite the heavy competition between other newspaper publication, Klink was glad that Manila Times is growing its circulation on print and online given the fact that many newspapers have closed.
In terms of the changes in today’s digital world, Klink discussed the importance of knowing that the business is not changing because it still aims to deliver newsworthy content. However, with the easy accessibility of internet connections and social networks what is changing is the way the news is delivered. In the past, they only relied on the circulation of printed copies but with the advance technology, they were able to reach more people through their print and online publication. It is now accessible to reach major cities all around the Philippines mainly due to technological advancement. Klink even goes by telling that Manila Times is being read by 2 millions people not just in the Philippines but all around the world.
AUDIENCE AND VOICE
The Manila Times Newspaper has been in the service for both Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad. Filipinos have been the primary target audience of Manila Times. Klink says that aside from the Filipinos that resides in the Philippines, Filipinos abroad living in the United States are also one of their primary audiences and readers. The main purpose of Manila Times is to deliver quality news to the people. By delivering accurate, fair and comprehensive news, it would allow the people to become independent citizens and be free of self-governance. People would have a mind of their own allowing them to decide things for themselves. As Klink formally became the publisher and chair for Manila Times in 2001, his main goal is to make the newspaper “handsomely profitable”.
According to Klink, the current situation of Manila Times is growing wherein majority of their income comes from the printed newspapers. However, Klink does not deny the fact that their situation could change in the future otherwise. Alongside the printed newspapers, the newspaper company also has their own online publication that is accessible. The newspaper company practically earns money from advertising. The difference between advertising in an online publication and a printed publication was discussed by him. People who read the newspaper would have considered the advertising part of the content but otherwise in an online publication. Klink said that he frequently receives complaints among the online readers about advertising products popping out their screen while they are reading their online news.
In addition, Klink also discussed the business models that they are eyeing on. One of which is The New York Times’ and The Guardian’s business model wherein the availability of free content and premium content (paid and subscribed to) for the online readers would boosttheir income. Klink finds this business model rather interesting but risky because it is a big investment. Klink wants to make sure that this business model could work for them. Klink admits that when it comes to the business side of the newspaper, he would opt for subscription-driven rather than advertising-driven.
ROLE IN AN INTERNET WORLD
The Manila Times has expanded their business into different online platforms. With the change in technology and social media, Klink was inclined to create these online platforms in order to keep with the said changes in the business. Klink said that the website was created to reach people not only in the Philippines but all over the globe. Even with their target audience of Filipinos, most of their readers are from other countries, specifically the US. With their online following of over two million, they have expanded their platform in Viber, an online messaging application, as well.
Establishing their website has made their presence in the digital world stronger. Klink said that people would notice if they shut their website down for a day. This was proven through an instance during the height of the discourse over the West Philippine Sea. The Manila Times’ website crashed, and people were complaining about the disappearance of their website shortly after.
In publishing news stories online, Klink has said that good stories would be the key to gathering audiences. Klink believes that young people read news stories as long as the story is relevant and interesting, removing the stigma that young people only read short stories. Using tools such as videos, audios, and graphics are also useful in gathering audiences online.
Although the content is key, the style of writing is also important because stories should be written in such a way that any type of audience would be able to understand the story. This would also determine how well the whole organization would be received by the audience, in order to garner constant readers.
Klink considers all news websites and bloggers as competitors in the digital world because they could all be substitutes. Klink competes with these other news websites by “playing the game better than the single player”. The Manila Times has the capability to make investments to cover news that bloggers would not be able to make. With this, he was able to say that bloggers and independent news websites do not gather more attention and traffic than traditional news organizations.
News organizations all have Facebook pages and are major players in the social media industry. Klink mentioned that 90% of the traffic in their website is from Facebook alone. What still remains a question for all news organizations is how they would be able to translate their popularity in social media into money. News organizations are still experimenting on how to monetize their digital platforms, using tools such as subscriptions and paywalls.
Although these new platforms have changed the organization’s means of delivery, Klink has made it clear that the business itself is not changing. Their aim to deliver news will remain through all the changes in their delivery.
THE HEART OF THE DISCUSSION
Klink used the discussion to speak and highlight about the value of content and how it fundamentally drives The Manila Times’ publications, no matter what decade or technological advances may the world be in.
Klink could not stress enough the loyalty of The Manila Times to quality content and the principles of news. And when he said content, he means purely news; “not fiction, not anything else. It has to be news”. He expresses that regardless of how it appears or how it’s delivered, it’s still news, and that is what is going to be enduring in their business.
He goes on about how he doesn’t buy the fact that young people only reach short stories because of their problematic attention span. “People will read stories that are good stories or newsworthy stories. If it’s a short story and people don’t see it as a good story, then they will set it aside.”, he says. A good story is expensive. This is why the Manila Times tries to hold themselves to a higher standard.
When asked about his and the company’s take on the topic of fake news, he explains that “fake news has been a long time problem of journalism”, followed by a brief historical background of fake news during the American colonization. And because fake news has been long time coming, the company is inspired to elevate their level of journalism.
If there is one thing that Klink proves to be passionate about is how good content will determine who survives and who entertains. That’s the key. As giver of truth and information, Klink wishes that people will become mature to think and not just to accept content. One of the things that he said that truly stood out was this: “It’s important for you not just to know what’s going on but to understand what’s going on. You’re not just an empty vessel where you pour in news and that’s it. As a citizen, you have to think.” Perhaps, though good content is valuable, even more so should be critical consumers of information.
Despite the shift in how content is produced and presented to the public, what remains the same for The Manila Times is that their content will still be news following the same principles, the most important of which is that it must be newsworthy. Klink notes that, “regardless of how it appears or how it’s delivered to you, it’s still news. That’s what’s gonna be enduring in this business.” This is true seeing as the public demand for how content is produced and presented changes from time to time. Some news publication even take uniqueness to the next level by veering from conventional writing styles and formats. However, unconventional news writing primarily applies in an online setting and rarely does it ever get to be applied in printed publications.
Klink’s plans and prospects for The Manila Times in terms of online content distribution is a reflection of his obvious fondness for the New York Times. He says that what he wishes to focus on is the publication’s “…core competence which is getting the facts, composing stories and delivering it to a mass audience.” Additionally, Klink does not fail to recognize Facebook’s role in news delivery. He notes that all newspapers in the Philippines have Facebook pages, with Inquirer having about a million followers and The Manila Times with about 400,000 followers. According to Klink, the “million dollar question” is how to monetize their popularity in social media such as Facebook. Klink also believes that the key to catering to the publication’s consumers is through segmentation. He adds that there are different segments of the market which can be categorized in such a way that people who read on print have a different profile from people who read online and that they have to serve to these different profiles.
Though the publication has been growing in terms of advertising and circulation, Klink actively recognizes the shortcomings of a printed publication in this day and age. His ideals for The Manila Times are refreshing, especially in terms of their plans with their online content. Klink does not show a hint of surrender in continuing the business but rather, he hopes that soon, perhaps in his lifetime, they would be able to restore the glory of Manila Times that was once present during the 20th century.