Fil-Am papers fighting for life in a digital world
SAN FRANCISCO–Publishers and operators of Filipino American newspapers in the Bay Area are struggling to cope with the technological revolution. Like their mainstream counterparts, they are barely surviving cutthroat competition from digital news media for advertising revenue.
A representative of a Fil-Am paper who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Unlike before, with digital advertising today, advertisers can choose from various options.“
Filipino-owned or controlled papers currently circulating in Northern California include the Asian Journal (LA-based), Philippine News, Philippines Today, The Filam Star, Manila Mail, Balita, Pinas, The San Francisco Post, Tribune. Most are weeklies. A previous player, the Manila Bulletin USA has discontinued its circulation in the region.
One paper is rumored to be bowing out of the competition soon as it continues to “bleed” as it tries to remain afloat despite minimal advertisements. “We are not re-loading our racks anymore, “ an editor recently told Inquirer.net.
An independent newspaper contractor in charge of the delivery of various papers said another publication has apparently reduced its circulation and is dropping off papers only in selected markets in the South Bay. Some publishers are ready to give up and are said to be on the lookout for buyers.
Some publishers put up a brave front. One who declined to be identified said, “We are not affected by ‘competition’–we’ve been operating for years, and as far as we’re concerned, we have loyal advertisers and our circulation remains the same. “
He added optimistically: “Filipino papers will survive because we cater to the Fil-Am market that is, hundreds of thousands (readers) that are concentrated in the Bay area alone.”
“Not many would admit it, but some papers are in dire straits,” a Bay Area marketing consultant said. “Not only digital but the avalanche of apps readily available on your smart phones and tablets have made the printed newspaper business less preferred and less lucrative,” he added.
Mainstream advertisers and some Filipino businesses have even stopped their subscriptions to some Fil-Am papers to cut overhead expenses.
It’s an open secret that not all print advertisements are paid ads. Some papers weather the competition by agreeing to exchange services, like cargo companies delivering the newspapers in key points in exchange for ad placements. “Ex-deals” with advertisers also take the form of grocery supplies or free tickets to dine in Fil-Am restaurants equivalent to the price of the advertisement.
Even if Fil-Am papers try to compete online, the chances of getting “clicks,” “shares,” “likes,” and other feedbacks and SEO (search engine optimization) hits are small if the target audience is mostly older readers who can’t or don’t access the Internet, the marketing officer said.
According to The Media Audit, people who spend more than an hour a day reading newspapers spend 3.7 hours per day online. Internet newspaper reading represents almost 30 percent of time spent with newspapers.
Meanwhile, a survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 42 percent of newspaper readers said they would not miss their city paper much, or at all, if they lost it. Twenty-six percent didn’t think the loss would hurt civic life in their communities, and nearly 30 percent said there would be other ways to get news if their local paper shut down.
Internet advertising has been the fastest growing media segment. According to Magna Insights, nearly 100 million US households have Internet access today and over 90 percent of those households use broadband, with the Internet representing one-third of daily media use.
The benefits of Internet advertising include the availability in real time of direct response and transactional opportunities for consumers; one-to-one marketing any time and place; and a long-term reduction of transactional business costs.
Leading car dealerships in the Bay Area have switched from print to digital advertising. “We get more (hits) from our online websites because clients would like to see the make, model and price of a particular car right then and there,” according to Rene Ingala, manager of an auto dealership in Stevens Creek, San Jose.
“We only place our ads with the Bay Classifieds, which is a lot cheaper and is most widely read when people just want to find cars or SUVs and the like,” Ingala said. “The (price) comparables are updated weekly and we get better results. Besides, he said, the company does not only target the Filam community, but also the larger Hispanic-American community in California that has huge purchasing power.
“Give me one good reason why I should advertise in papers,” said Jerry R., a used car sales agent in Daly City. “We spend $110,000 per month (for advertisement) online where we get more than 50 percent of our leads. “
He said their company spends more advertising money on the websites like Kelly Blue Book, Cars.com, AutoTraders.com and Craigslist, to capture multilingual audiences like the Chinese and Hispanics.
Businesses prefer the online medium where, as one manager put it, “We can minimize our manpower–so as soon as customers fill up our online form, it is easy to follow up with them. That’s how we get good results most of the time.”
A media comparison conducted by Out Of Home Advertising (OOHA), an outdoor advertising company (billboards, etc.) showed that newspapers still play a role in providing news and information. But according to OOHA, “many consumers today use online sources to gather news and information rather than print materials.” Many traditional newspaper advertisers, such as classified and job ads and real estate, have also moved online.
Advertisers in big cities have plenty of options to reach consumers, and newspapers are one of the most expensive, OOHA confirmed. Newspapers can charge as much as $25 for every 1,000 people who might see an ad covering a half page.” Newspapers are also given to ad clutter and a shorter shelf life. And some papers have declined to less than 50 percent market penetration.
In 2011, according to Newspaper Association of America statistics, online advertising was up $207 million industry-wide compared with 2010. Print advertising, though, was down $2.1 billion. So the print losses were greater than the digital gains by 10 to 1.
There are, however, potential growth opportunities for the news industry—in smart phones and tablets. The Newspaper Association of America reported that mobile traffic (tablet and phones) was up 65 percent in a year as measured by page views, comparing September 2011 with September 2010. Thus, traditional newspapers are developing new digital products and revenue streams to cut loose from dependence on print advertising.
Thus, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reported in April, in The State of the News Media 2012, that the newspaper industry is not dying, but neither is it “assured of a stable future.” Filipino American newspapers can certainly attest to that.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.