Restoring The Manila Times to its Former Glory
It was business as usual on Monday morning in a dainty office in Intramuros, Manila. Ghosts of the editors and writers of the Manila Times roam its office as almost everyone is out gathering stories and reports.
Nevertheless, we were greeted by the Human Resources secretary and advised our group to wait inside their pantry, where a group of staffers are having brunch. We took over a table and waited inside the room. It was a usual office pantry — nothing special, except for the bulletin board where they post caricatures of birthday celebrants for the particular month.
While waiting for our cue to meet with the President, we planned the questions we are about to ask him. This was very challenging since we were also joined by the group assigned to Manila Times from the other class. While humbly arguing which group is going to ask which question, Ms. Irish from the HR approached us and told us to follow her inside her office.
Inside, we saw applicants who are apparently waiting for a job interview. After awkward stares and long silences, we were finally allowed to enter the President’s office.
It was not the most grandiose of offices; it was neat and simple, just as its owner is. Mr. Dante “Klink” Ang II greeted us with the words, “okay, I’m yours for 20… 30 minutes max.” Considering he is a very busy man acting as the President, CEO and Executive Editor of the paper, 20 minutes felt like a blessing.
The first thing he did was to distribute his calling card to each and every one of us while giving small talk. After everything was settled, we started right away with the interview questions.
Everything You Need To Know About The Manila Times
According to Mr. Klink, the newspaper is owned by the Manila Times Publishing Inc. Corporation; and this is owned by himself and his family members. Because of this, they have complete control over the newspaper and the business itself.
The Manila Times started way back in 1898, (Read more on the newspaper’s history here.) and although there were many changes since then, the objective of the newspaper remains the same: To deliver content that help people become independent, free and self-governing.
Back in Time: Print to Online
The objective of the newspaper is still implemented to both print and online until today. However, because of the fast paced change in technology, The Manila Times has to adjust itself every now and then. Mr. Klink said that it was never business itself who is changing, but the means of delivery through the use of news technology and social media. He even joked that maybe in the near future, we do not need to read news; instead, the newspaper would already talk to us through holograms. “Or maybe in the future you’ll just say ‘bring me the news’ and the newspaper will just talk to you in hologram.”
In the past, The Manila Times rely mainly on its circulation to reach all the cities in the Philippines from the Ilocos region down to Zamboanga. Now with the internet, they were able to reach far more people, specifically Filipinos not only here in the country but elsewhere in the world. Today, The Manila Times has reached over 2 million people and most of them are not in the country.
In the future, things will definitely change. When you ask people where they read their news, they will point out to their gadgets, or maybe something wearable in the future. Still, whether online or print, The Manila Times will continue to deliver news that aren’t fake nor fiction. It will still be information that help people become independent.
The Manila Times Online
To Mr. Klink, survival is a factor in the digital age.
Although ninety-nine percent of their income comes from print, having an online presence is crucial for a wider reach of readers. Hence, The Manila Times Online exists today.
Nowadays, people rely on the internet as source for news and information. This is one of the reasons why some newspaper companies have closed. However, Mr. Klink has a positive reception towards the rise of the digital age. To him, the business has not yet changed, “what changed is the means of delivery.” This means that news are still news regardless of the medium, be it print or digital.
Their online presence allowed them to reach a wider audience: Filipinos from different parts of the world, especially from the United States. In fact, their online readers are in millions, greater compared to their print readers that are in hundred thousands.
Despite the accessibility of their online platforms, 99% of their income still comes from print. The presence of the website is complementary with its printed version. In the future, however, the medium will be different. Still, he believes that today’s news principles will be followed. In their case, they will focus on getting the facts right and delivering them to their audience.
The Critical Times
Are people willing to pay P18.00 daily for a printed newspaper? Are we even willing to pay extra for content we can access at the tip of our fingers?
Alongside the emerging newspaper industry is the competitive and uncertain process of changing business models.
Since the Manila Times still rely on their print circulation, that would make one think that the publication is still on the traditional realm of things and too stubborn to move forward.
But no, The Manila Times is just careful and critical of their next move in the industry in times of moderation. They’re just being smart after all!
“New York Times is experimenting with a business model. So in their website, there’s free content and there’s new content. They subscribe to it. So we’re looking at that. Now is that going to be the business model we follow? We don’t know yet. I mean it is a big investment to do that and for us we want to make sure it is the right model” Klink said.
It is easy to copy what is trending in the industry, however, it is hard to stick to what you think is right despite pressures surrounding you. For The Manila Times, they are still unsure of their next big move and investment.
“We feel like it is the way to go. They feel that advertising is a part of content. But when you go online people don’t want to buy or look at advertising. We’ve tried screen grabs, pop-ups, and I get complaints,” Klink delightfully shared.
As of now, Klink believes that what is important is putting out content that has quality and relevant to everyone.
“Make information understandable: when you write, you look at accuracy, brevity, clarity,” Klink said.
There are many business models to choose from — most new due to emerging technology. Should Manila Times try a subscription-driven or an advertisement-driven business model?
Choosing the right business model is critical because one day you might think you made the right and perfect choice, but the next day your numbers fall down. It’s scary.
Competitors in the Online Sphere
However, what is scarier is the fact that The Manila Times is not alone in the mission to be the best in the newspaper industry. There are others who aspire to attract audience into their world such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogging websites, and other reader and audience-driven platforms.
Where do these people spend their time on? More importantly, where do you spend your time on? Wherever it may be, this is the challenge of the newspaper industry. We do not know who will adjust. Is it the publication’s job to find the people and bring the news or is it the people’s job to look for the news?
The competitors are not only other news publications but also other platforms that are believed to be contemporary and are able to grasp the attention of the masses.
We also have the sexy star Mocha Uson with over five million likes (amazing right?) sharing everything and anything about President Duterte’s achievements, current whereabouts, and more.
“They are substitutes… so of course they are competitors,” Klink said. However, when we asked if these substitutes grab their readers attention, Klink shared “I don’t think they are adding more attention than tradition. If they are Mocha would not have a column at the Philippine Star.”
These are all competitors in today’s day and time. It is quite impressive on how The Manila Times is able to keep up to their said values and standards especially with issues such as sensationalized and fake news that has long been a problem in the industry.
Formula for Digital Success
Mr. Klink said that he has not found the complete answer for surviving the digital age, no one has found it yet. However, he shared his secret to reaching younger readers and that is — CONTENT.
“It’s going to be quality. It’s going to be relevant… Good content will determine who survives” as Klink mentioned.
A potential formula for digital success would be:
online popularity + quality and relevant content.
“If you find the formula, we will definitely hire you.”
Currently, The Manila Times delivers news on Facebook, Twitter, and Viber. Mr. Klink also asked if they could provide news through Telegram, as well. Even if they are popular in terms of online presence, it is more difficult to translate that fame into conventional business. The Manila Times was once considered as the number one newspaper in the 20th century. Today, under the leadership of Mr. Klink, they strive to bring back Manila Times to its former glory.