Something good happened this year: COVID-19 is no longer as scary as it had been for the past two years. As we anticipate the pandemic to weaken further despite recent surges, the economy is thankfully starting to open up and recover.
This comes at a time when our country is undergoing change: We welcomed a new administration after we were forced by our circumstances to change the way we live our lives and the way we do business. We are slowly going back to normal – only that the normal that everybody was used to has by now greatly changed.
We now live in a more digitized environment because the pandemic confined us to our safe spaces for the past two years and forced us to adapt.
For us at the Philstar Media Group, what did these changes bring about? Our pivot actually happened long before the pandemic began. We began our digitalization journey more than a decade ago as we prepared for the shift in the media landscape.
The last decade made us explore new skills and expertise. Bravely expanding our print influence to multimedia capabilities, we started to grow our presence in the online and social media space as digital platforms became more efficient means of distributing news and content not just locally but to the global Filipino community.
In a changed news cycle, online platforms allowed our brands to reach audiences that craved breaking and latest news.
It was still early days when The Philippine STAR debuted its newspaper app in 2013. The app, I recall, integrated an early augmented reality feature to the delight of our followers.
Our foray into apps, digital editions and augmented reality – despite lagging connectivity issues then – emboldened us to produce more multimedia formats, from video documentary series to the creation of TV shows under the brand Philstar TV, which showcased TV shows inspired by our sections. We were the first and only newspaper to produce a miniseries that led to a movie through which we boldly partnered with the country’s leading network.
Those ventures led us into honing our content creation capacity by developing our own creative and production teams that were capable of producing videos and creating events, where we could be read, seen and felt.
When the pandemic struck, playbooks and templates were thrown out the window. Nothing that worked before was going to work in the face of mobility restrictions and the overall sense of panic.
Still and all, our titles continued to publish and distribute without fail, thanks to the dedication of our journalists who are simply used to the cadence of putting out the daily news, come hell or high water.
On the other hand, the pandemic put our digital mettle to the test as we were forced to shift our multimedia efforts to the online and social media battleground where everyone was glued. We managed to capture the online conference space where we created conversations with various sectors to help people connect, albeit virtually, with communities during the crisis. We also mounted online events to keep our audience entertained and informed while they were stuck at home.
In the midst of the pandemic, our shift has become more evident. We finally realized a long-time dream to expand our online audience through PhilSTAR L!fe, a mobile first lifestyle site that captures the hottest conversations and trending topics online. Since then PhilSTAR L!fe has been a top news and lifestyle website on the net.
We have been very active on social media. We are quite elated that in the third quarter of 2021, our Facebook page landed 7th in the list of top publishers in the world, according to Newswhip, a social media engagement tracking firm that collates data on how billions of people engage with stories across all social media networks.
The next page
What’s next for The Philippine STAR? Our pandemic experience has made us sharpen our vision for the future:
First is to further strengthen our role in delivering reliable and truthful information in the midst of misleading and fake news. We live in a precarious time when the proliferation of biased information that appears in our newsfeeds fuels divisiveness and subjectivity even among people who otherwise agree. It's important for our brand to be a source, that is, a consistent source of truth.
We will soon be embarking on PhilstarGO, our branded subcription service that will enable more people to access our title/s so they can get hold of views and information that they can trust.
For now, as we provide an easier option where to source your newspaper, as we invigorate our services via philstarsubscribe.com, which makes the subscription journey easier, whether you're a fan of the hard copy or the bring-it-anywhere epaper.
We are armed with high hopes and a sharper vision to secure our role in our changed world.
Over at BusinessWorld, we're also introducing BworldX, a subscription-based e-commerce website that will enable to access content through Business World product and events: its printed paper, deep-dive learning series, special reports, our Bworld conferences and webinars, Top 1000 and more. BworldX promises to be a covenient and comprehensive multimedia learning consumption tool that is easily accessible at the touch of your fingers.
These initiatives to improve the subscription experience and provide ways to deliver meaningful content drive our mission to provide information that will help produce a nation of forward thinkers who are driven by positive action and believe in contributing to our country.
Secondly, we have realized that the different platforms we have created over the past decade can be instrumental in growing and developing different communites that foster meaningful conversations and collaboration.
In 2019, we mounted an annual conference called Women Today, and in 2021, its younger counterpart, She Slays. Both events champion women empowerment through leadership and initiatives that create an impact in society.
Business World, on the other hand, has further honed its influence in the business community with its Business World Economic Forum and Bworld Insights events, where we get to learn from local and international experts representing various disciplines.
In June this year, the Philstar Media Group launched its newest advocacy program called Nakakalocal, which aims to promote and convince consumers to buy local by supporting local enterprises that produce great products.
By using our platforms and mounting a series of events throughout the year, Nakakalocal will support 36 SME/MSMEs with half-a-million worth of advertising and publicity to help promote their products and services to help push their stories of Filipino ingenuity and creativity.
Nakakalocal is the Philstar Media Group’s largest endeavor in recent years. It is also the first time for the Group's assets to be engaged for a single project. The program is also supported by the country’s biggest corporate institutions, thus creating a vast support ecosystem for Filipino SME and MSMEs.
Keeping true to print
Our journey to a more digitized world has made us hone our expertise and expand our influence. We are able to do all of this because of a very important strategy: keeping the printed format healthy and sustainable.
After all, the audience that believes in print and appreciates the benefits of the printed medium remains strong despite the strong digital currents. We intend to continue pushing this format alongside other formats because our loyal readers know that news consumption on print offers many benefits that digital offerings are unable to present.
For one, the printed format offers a more focused reading experience vis-a-vis the harried nature of scrolling through feeds. This makes not just for higher engagement but also for richer comprehension and attention to detail.
Compared to time spent by people on websites, which would hover between a minute to a maximum of five, our print or digital newspapers have an average engagement time per user of more than 41 minutes (based on July 2022 analytics). Not only do our readers comprise decision-makers who command their circles of influence, they also read us from cover to cover.
Fact is, people still looked for their newspapers at home even when the lockdowns made it more difficult or almost impossible to distribute. This was one of the immediate challenges that we needed to figure out when the pandemic struck.
This is precisely why despite the challenges we encountered during the pandemic, we have fought hard and continue to make a case to keep our print platform thriving. Shrinking print ad budgets notwithstanding, The STAR's share of the market continues to grow, thanks to the trust of our readers and advertisers.
As we recover and move forward together with our industry partners and friends, we are armed with high hopes and a sharper vision to secure our role in our changed world. We brace ourselves for newer waves of digital transformation that will further shape our world, but we will continue fighting for our place as a credible and trusted source of news and information.
For this reason, we at The Philippine STAR look forward to unveil our next pages while keeping our core – truth and nothing but – strong.