Philippine publications and the digital revolution


It is a sad day whenever a full–fledged magazine or a newspaper publication in the country shuts down its operations and bids goodbye to readers.

It is like an earthquake, or an upheaval, for the nation’s media industry when no less than six affiliated major publications stop printing at the same time, and their parent company announces the print editions of the brand will henceforth become totally digital.

We were beset by these thoughts as we digested the announcement by Summit Media that the company is ending its 23 years of print operations and turning its attention to nurturing its digital platforms.

In the official statement, Summit Media said, “This month, Summit Media completes its full digital transformation,” the company said.

Affected by the decision are the six major magazines of Summit Media: Cosmopolitan, Preview, YES, Top Gear, FHM, and Town & Country.

These are not gigantic publications, but each attained some success in its own way, and readers will feel their loss when they can no longer hold the printed copy in their hands.

This industry development is a reflection of how deeply the digital revolution in media technology is impacting the Philippine media industry and changing its prospects for the future.

Briefly stated, the digital revolution consists of this, to use the words of one business analyst: “The world’s media, telecommunications and information technology industries are undergoing a period of unprecedented and profound change. Dramatic technological advances combined with market liberalization and globalization have together engendered the ‘digital revolution.’”

“A dramatic consequence of this is ‘convergence,’ a ubiquitous but loosely defined term commonly understood to denote the blurring of boundaries between the media, telecoms and information technology sectors.

“There is broad consensus between academics and practitioners that technological advances are bringing these sectors closer together and have the potential to transform them entirely.”

The revolution clearly enveloped in a big way Summit Media’s 23-year magazine publishing business.

In the company announcement, Summit Founder and President Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng said the pursuit of quality would continue as Summit Media transitions into the digital platform.

She declared: “Today, we embrace the way our highly connected audiences now prefer to consume content. As we follow them from print to digital, we will continue our relentless pursuit and delivery of quality, up-to-the minute content and a dynamic and engaging editorial experience—this time, aided by data, which now pervades and informs many of our editorial decisions.”

Further, Gokongwei claimed that the Summit brands are already thriving online as Cosmo.ph, Preview.ph, Pep.ph (for YES!), Topgear.com.ph, FHM.com.ph, and Townandcountry.ph.”

As in life, the change is more complex than that, however. It takes time for the technological shift to take root and time for editors and journalists to adapt to it. Above all, it takes effort to get readers and advertisers to go along for the reorientation and the ride. Nothing is ordained in this revolution.

We take interest in the developments at Summit Media, because they bear a message for us here in the Times as well. We, ourselves, are not immune to the digital revolution, and we are already adopting some of the changes and processes to establish our presence in the digital age. It is not lost on us that many of our readers today are reading this editorial online and not just on the printed page.

The Manila Times has now lasted 119 years, tirelessly tackling the challenge of making events and developments in the country and the world more intelligible to its readers and the nation.

Technology should not threaten this history. It should enrich it as we make our way toward the future.

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