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Newspapers,Philippines

PH Inquirer Diversifies With Care

Manila-headquartered broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer is has been managing the transition between digital and print revenues for 15 years now, after unveiling its first web presence, Inquirer.net, in 1998.

Most page visits for Filipino news sites come from overseas, providing an early boost to digital development as well as an additional fillip to online advertising.

However, the web is also undermining the traditional business model back home, forcing executives to keep cover prices at US$0.43, lower than the cost of producing the paper, at US$0.75 per copy.

Competition for ad revenue from both TV and online is also fierce, especially in the capital where the Philippine Daily Inquirer caters to an ABC audience.

This has encouraged the Inquirer Group to broaden its reach and revenue base with diversification in print – launching a free paper as well as tabloids and magazines – while expanding into radio and TV.

On the buses

Most recently, the company has invested in a network of screens carried inside buses, a play on the mass commuter market.

“We just bought into the company, and it’s very encouraging,” said president and CEO Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, speaking on a panel at this year’s World Newspaper Congress, held in Bangkok.

“We are able to attract a lot of advertisers from the FMCG market that we wouldn’t be able to attract before,” she added.

It hasn’t been an easy ride, however. The group has pulled back from television, shelving plans for a TV show, although it has more recently started ramping up online video.

 

The launch of a free paper, a trimmed down version of the broadsheet called Inquirer Libre, has been more successful.

However, the title only got the nod after market research suggested a minimal overlap with the main flagship daily.

“When we expand brands, we try to do it where the area for cannibalization is low, if at all,” Romualdez stressed.

“We have to be able to manage that. Internally, it’s a real challenge,” she added.

“There are some cases where we waited for the team in print to be able to expand.

“Unfortunately, in some cases the shift or evolution was not quick enough, so the competition was able to get ahead.”

Romualdez outlined how The Inquirer Group is in the process of adapting to the new media landscape, shifting from mass to niche audiences, with a focus more on brand than means of delivery.

Defending the flagship

Nonetheless, heavy investment in the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper – the standard bearer of the company brand – remains key.

The business remains fenced off from other media to concentrate minds on maximizing print revenue.

“One way to ensure you still do everything you can to be able to grow in the print space is to have budgeting and planning by itself,” Romualdez explained.

“You will be tempted to say you have budget here and move it elsewhere. In the past, some titles abandoned print sooner than they should have.”

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