HOW long do you support a losing website? Two years? Three? Five?
Failing is okay so long as you fail fast, Inquirer director for mobile JV Rufino said in a forum last Monday held as part of this year’s Press Freedom Week celebration.
Speed is even more crucial on the Internet, where one year zips by in just six months. Running a losing website for five years is akin to running a brick-and-mortar business for 10 years.
Fail fast, fail often and learn from these failures to build better products, Rufino said in the forum organized by Cebu Daily News, “Where is Journalism in the Digital World?”
The nature of digital media allows people to start things relatively cheap that it doesn’t make sense to drag on, bleeding money for years. At a certain point, it becomes obstinacy. It doesn’t make sense to keep telling yourself “this will work, this has to work” when data says it’s not working, said Rufino, who also handles venture capital for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Rufino talked about how newspaper content can be delivered in various platforms. The Philippine Daily Inquirer website at Inquirer.net, for example, reflects its print dominance and is the country’s biggest newspaper website, according to Google Trends for Websites.
The company works with NewspaperDirect to turn all its publications — newspapers and magazines — into e-paper content that can also be read in various devices–computers, tablets and smartphones. Rufino said they are the only daily newspaper in the Philippines available on the Amazon Kindle.
With all the talk about the death of print, Rufino said the printed newspaper will stay in the foreseeable future.
It bears noting that the NewspaperDirect service, the same website producing Sun.Star’s e-paper, processes the product of a print newsroom into a content that is consumable on digital devices.
Engage social media
Rufino gave tips on how newspapers can engage social media in sourcing news, telling stories and making content relevant for people. Rufino said they have a strong presence on Twitter, where they have close to 201,598 followers as of this column’s writing. But he stressed that it is important to monetize, which determines the survival of media organizations.
Two days after Rufino’s talk, Sun.Star Cebu and Smart Communications Inc. hosted a forum on making a living off new media and flew in Erwin Oliva, a pioneer in Philippine online journalism and the Yahoo! SouthEast Asia country editor for the Philippines.
Oliva shared with mass communications students gathered at the Cebu Normal University the opportunities in online media and what they needed to do to prepare to harness these. He also talked about skills the next generation of journalists should have in a digital world where people no longer need to find news because news finds them through social networks.
Learn technical skills
Oliva said the next generation of journalists should be prepared to learn technical skills to be effective in digital media. He advised students to start blogging both as a way to build a personal brand and to learn online publishing.
Oliva’s comments are timely and come after a great post by Robert Niles in Online Journalism Review where he debunks five myths on digital media. He tackled first in his article the myth “You can’t support a publication on online advertising revenue.”
“When you hear this line, here’s what the speaker really is saying: ‘I can’t support my publication on my online advertising revenue.’ Just because one manager hasn’t figured it out doesn’t mean that the solution doesn’t exist,” Niles wrote.
I think that has to do with skills and Oliva is spot on in encouraging the next generation of journalists to try blogging. How can you expect your website to earn if the people running it do not have actual experience making money from websites, from online advertising? And yet that’s how some sites are run.
The Sun.Star Cebu-Smart forum also had as speaker Dong Secuya, the founder of Philboxing.com. Dong built a fan site for a then upcoming boxer named Manny Pacquiao, which caught fire as the boxer rose through the ranks. He then started Philboxing.com to expand coverage to other Filipino boxers.
In his talk, Dong discussed how he built the sites and the challenges he encountered — from being jailed for a libel case to his site being hacked while he was watching a boxing match. He clarifies that he is no journalist but still, his site is a major media resource for boxing.
From a fan site, Dong built a media property that is bigger than any of the Cebu news websites. I think Philboxing.com might even be the biggest site to come out from Cebu.
Dong is a long-time website developer and is a pioneer in the local Internet scene. He developed some of the country’s biggest sites in the early days of the Internet. But he admitted, when asked during the forum, that he now makes a living solely on Philboxing.com, which also funds his overseas trips.
Now that should encourage any journalist.