INQUIRER.net at 15 and the death of print mediaBy Benjamin Pimentel
SAN FRANCISCO – INQUIRER.net celebrated its 15th birthday last week shortly after Newsweek announced that it will no longer publish a printed edition.
The two events were significant for me personally.
Growing up in Quezon City, Newsweek was my window to the rest of the world. I always got so excited every time the courier on a motorcycle drove up to our gate to deliver our copy.
That may sound strange to many young Filipinos today: ‘You got your international news from a guy on a motorcycle? Nowadays, you just click on an icon.’
But that was the way it was back then.
Newsweek was how I learned more about the latest Cold War skirmishes between the US and the Soviet Union, about the fight against apartheid in South Africa, about China’s bid to modernize its economy and even the death of John Lennon.
In a few months, Newsweek the print magazine will be a thing of the past.
On the other hand, INQUIRER.net, the Web version of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, is thriving.
For Filipinos living overseas, that’s good news. In fact, it’s partly because of us Pinoys living in the US, Europe, the Middle East and different parts of Asia that the INQUIRER.net is growing.
Many of us constantly hunger for news from back news. When I moved to the US nearly 25 years ago, that came in the form of news clips, usually from the print edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that my family and friends sent to me.
Instead of a courier on a bike, I found myself waiting for the postman. A thick air mail envelope with the blue and red trim always got me excited. If the envelope is thick, that meant a long letter and lots of news clips.
Occasionally, a friend or acquaintance who just returned from the Philippines would bring actual copies of the newspaper. That was always a special treat.
Those days ended around the time INQUIRER.net was born.
That this news site is just 15 years old — a teenager — makes INQUIRER.net a pioneer.
The Internet has been around since the late 1960s, a creation of the US defense establishment and major US universities. But it wasn’t until 1991 that British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee came up with the code that made the Internet readily accessible to anyone with a computer: the World Wide Web.
In fact, INQUIRER.net emerged when other news organizations, including the New York Times and CNN, were discovering the Web as a new and dynamic way of reaching readers.
In both the US and Philippine media, that change was dramatic and exciting. But in the US, it was also devastating.
I lived through that revolution as a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle. The paper’s Web edition, SFGate, began in 1994, just three years before INQUIRER.net started.
Within a decade, it had a huge following. But that growth and that sudden shift to the Web also meant a sharp decline in print subscriptions and print ad revenue. Online ads didn’t grow fast enough to make up for the losses.
I remember a colleague saying something like ‘We’re in trouble.’
That was pretty much what happened to other US publications, including Newsweek.
The Web had a different impact on the Philippine media. Print publications have remained popular, largely because it has taken longer for personal computers to become more widely used.
In fact, the Web gave Philippine publications, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, another avenue for growth.
Online editions offered a way to reach a huge and growing overseas Filipino community and to build an even broader advertising base. The Web became a way to expand.
My own print media career ended about five years ago when I left the San Francisco Chronicle. I thought I was done with journalism and went into PR. But I was wrong. After only five months, I plunged back into journalism as an online reporter.
It was during that five-month hiatus that I was invited to write for INQUIRER.net. So I’ve had the privilege of being part of at least a third of this news site’s history.
It’s been a blast.
I congratulate the INQUIRER.net team led by editors Abel Ulanday, Lynette Luna, Dennis Atienza Maliwanag, Abe Cerojano and the rest of the staff, Catherine Miranda, Noy Morcoso, Ryan Leagogo, Christopher Lopez and Bernard Esguerra.
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