AN AFTERNOON WITH MR. JV RUFINO

On one rainy afternoon, I, together with some friends, had an interview with Mr. Javier Rufino, the Director of Mobile and Social, and the Deputy Director for the Central Desk of the Inquirer, for he was deemed as one of the appropriate people of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that can answer in behalf of the news organization. He handles the overall group strategy for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wechat and so on — he basically handles the Inquirer.net Social and Inquirer’s mobile applications.

A bit of a background, Philippine Daily Inquirer is a multimedia platform publisher company that serves millions of individuals, locally and internationally, through their website, social media accounts, radio podcasts, and other mobile applications.

“Will the public notice the absence of Inquirer in the new media?”

His confident answer to this question is yes due to the fact that their millions of followers are in the net. He also mentioned that their loyal readers use search engines as a way to go to their website. In connection to the use of search engines, he said that being dependent on social media is not the best way to be successful.

Success in today’s digital age
Success in terms of followers and likers, Mr. Rufino is confident with the number of likes they have on Facebook and number of followers on Twitter, but he said that above these what’s important is how many readers actually visit and click on their website and how many of those became regular clickers or visitors meaning they manually type on the search engine. He even mentioned that they don’t want to be dependent on Facebook and Google because they will be affected if these platforms suddenly change their algorithm.

“The platforms are your classic frenemy situation. You need them. You can’t ignore search engine optimization. You can’t ignore search engine when you’re running a website. You can’t ignore social media either, but what you don’t want to happen is that you are so dependent on them na isang ganun lang nila taob ka na.”

Thus, what they are trying to do with Facebook and Google is to convert their audience to regular visitors of their website.

Getting the attention of the younger people

Mr. Rufino said that they have, in his words, “invested” to redesigned their paper in order to address the issue of getting the attention of the millennials. Today’s design of their paper, according to him, is “much fresher” than it was before. Also he stated that because of their paper’s new design it can be compared to Vancouver Sun and the like. Adding to this, he said, as a multimedia platform publisher, they now have a unified look throughout their accounts and applications in the new media.

In terms of the print edition, Mr. Rufino said that the way to attract millennials in reading newspaper is to flip the question. Editors need to rediscover everything and to put out the advantages of reading newspaper: no need to charge, readers will absorb more and newspaper has secondary use- “pambalot ng tinapa”.

Role of social and digital media

According to Mr. Rufino, social digital media plays an important role in the Inquirer. He described the whole process as concentric circles. The content is presented in the tablet edition and then propagated on the web with breaking news. Then they use social media (Facebook and Twitter) and chat apps (Viber and Whatsapp) to push out the content in order to get greater reach.

Funding

They essentially follow the same model in getting funds. In print, it’s still the classic dual circulation revenue and ad revenue. However, he said that more and more newspapers are shifting towards subscription revenue and they are now relying less on ad revenue. On the web, it’s the reverse, it’s almost 95 % advertising. In this case, it’s a different mix of advertisers. Advertisers on the web are comprised of airlines, places and all while advertisers in print are real estates and automobiles which are looking for affluent audience.

Future of publication

Looking forward to the future, Mr. Rufino does not see the death of publication will ever come. With the growing technology that the world is experiencing today, publication will also evolve. He sees that publication, Inquirer rather, will soon go on “full digital.” It’s not possible to happen now because the internet service that the country has does not cover all parts of the Philippines. Print is still dominant in provinces today. He thinks that it is possible for Inquirer to stop printing newspaper and shift to a different platform on the internet or mobile since Inquirer gets their best reception of readers in digital than in print.

Due to this, employment will be affected. Tech-savvy and multi-tasking individuals will have a greater chance of getting hired than those of who are leaning to a traditional approach in publishing. He said that people who can report, write, shoot, and publish on his own are on demand for the Inquirer now.

When asked if the death of newspapers are possible, Mr. Rufino answered it with an analogy that we didn’t saw coming. He compared it with carriages, they still exist in the midst of the growth of automobiles. Carriages may not be used today commonly for transportation, rather they are used as tourist attractions. Similar to newspapers, Mr. Rufino said that newspapers will soon be not a mass medium, however it will be seen as a treasure. When the time comes that people no longer use it, the worth of it will be greater.

“Anything that is endangered or extinct, people make it high-ended or artisanal.”

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