Tribute to the Work Our Office Did, Which Most People in Our Industry Will Not Understand

I’m a “digital strategist”.

It’s a convenient way of saying I plan Internet-enabled activities that support business goals. Or, to just say it simply, that I work with web designers and developers to create websites and apps.

Most people I know with my same job title work in digital agencies. Typically, those would be digital marketing companies that businesses hire as consultants.

Agency Clients VS Our “Clients”

Those agency Clients have it easy, in a way: usually, they’re food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants, healthcare or beauty brands.

They have it easy — because they enjoy this luxury of choosing whether to invest in digital or not to. In essence, they could afford to NOT “go digital”.

My former teammates and I, we worked for a media network — a TV business with radio stations, cable TV, print magazines, movie distribution, a record label — industries directly harmed* by the growth of digital.

Piracy, the sharing economy, user-generated content and freemium publishing models were threats to the main business. We could not NOT “go digital”; the business would die.

The growth of digital meant a decline for traditional media

Our company had no choice but to cope. It raced to be smartest in dealing with digital — which is a source of free, on-demand, open-for-all content.

Digital isn’t just a “communication platform” or “brand extension” for ABS-CBN, or any other media organization (other TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, record labels, cable providers).

It was the new way to survive; it was a necessary new business model. It meant a continuous need to study the monetization of digital platforms (Note: at the same time, not be so restrictive — i.e. also allow for user-generated content and behavior that builds up the overall brand).

It shaped how I think of digital

— digital as dynamic, enduring experiences: relationships with consumers, a business to be managed, more than an advertising platform.

Recently, I moved to the agency side. Now, I see that going digital is very different for non-media brands.

It’s an option. A very beneficial option, yes. But still: an accessory to their main business — more of a communication platform, than a revenue-critical brand extension.

Digital strategy for a multi-platform media publisher was more of: steering a ship into new territory — creating new business models before (pardon the idiom) shit hit the fan.

I’ll forever be grateful for the learning opportunities I had. To understand and execute projects, the whole team (from account officers, to designers, and developers) had to understand the concepts of information architecture, back-end logic and online business models.

This is my tribute to my former teammates.

Our work won’t be easily appreciated in the “outside world”. We didn’t have advertising awards, or global brand campaigns.

What we did was create long-lasting multimedia publishers for at least 200 rotating brands, each with traditional media counterparts.

I write this because the digital industry where I work isn’t like the U.S., where there was great fanfare when the New York Times had a redesign, or when USA Today launched their multi-platform rebrand.

We live in the Philippines, and everyone’s scrambling to sell their digital development services to brands.

So, I raise a glass to media brands’ digital development teams. Maybe you’ll never be widely popular in the local industry, but rest in the knowledge that the lasting projects you do have the potential to be visited daily for years to come. By up to 500,000 pairs of eyeballs a day, last I asked.

*”Harm” as the initial decline of revenue felt by media businesses before they opened up their business model to the repercussions, nuances and potential of the digital age. I personally consume a lot of content for free (e.g. Medium), which is why I support and enjoy the creation of new business models, specifically for digital media.