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By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran, Special Features Writer
THOUGH THE WORLD continues to grapple with the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, much has changed since the virus’s outbreak. As vaccines reach more and more people by the day and society adapts to the pandemic’s more lasting effects, some semblance of normalcy is beginning to take root.
The Asian Development Outlook 2021, Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) flagship economic publication, projected the Philippine economy to grow by 4.5% in 2021 and 5.5% in 2022, saying that substantial progress in the country’s vaccination rollout would help restore consumer and business confidence. This, of course, is predicated on how the pandemic will unfold globally and domestically.
“Our 4.5% growth forecast is at the lower end of economists’ estimates, so there are upsides to this projection,” said ADB Philippines Country Director Kelly Bird.
“Priority should be given to addressing the scarring effects of the pandemic on private sector employment. Programs supporting workers and firms impacted by labor market adjustments and reforms to boost productivity growth and investment will help counter the negative effects of the pandemic on employment over the medium term.”
This signals good news for the country, which has been hit by the worst economic recession since it began releasing growth data just after World War II in 1947. A new world is thus seen dawning on the Philippines, with new opportunities for a future of growth and financial inclusion.
More than ever, BusinessWorld, the country’s oldest and most respected business newspaper, has a role to play in contributing towards that future. The Filipino business community needs reliable, accurate journalism to keep them updated on the latest news and issues so that they can better maneuver themselves in a changing world; and for the 34th year in a row, BusinessWorld aims to deliver.
A TIME-TESTED REPUTATION
Over the years, BusinessWorld has continually adapted its content to cater to the needs of the Filipino business community, building a reputation of journalistic integrity unlike any other in the industry.
For instance, as the world was forced to move towards digital platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newspaper began holding virtual forums and platforms such as BusinessWorld Insights and the Virtual Economic Forum to provide a platform for business leaders and decision-makers to discuss the most pressing issues of the changing world.
“In its 34-year journey, BusinessWorld has gone through ups and downs, but when we took over the paper in 2015, we knew exactly what we needed to do to bring it to its former glory: Bring its content closer to the evolved business community,” Lucien C. Dy Tioco, executive vice-president of BusinessWorld and Philstar Media Group, said in an interview.
“Apart from its in-depth business-savvy intelligence, we developed new content resources to its fold: digital transformation and technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and management, even championing the local startup scene via Spark Up. We identified two key strategies to reignite its hold to the business community: organizing insight-driven events and upgrading its website. All of a sudden, BusinessWorld became easily accessible, current and relevant.”
Miguel G. Belmonte, the company’s chief executive officer, said that much of the paper’s success can be attributed to its strong Editorial department, which has built a tradition of excellence stemming from the teachings of the company’s founder, Raul L. Locsin.
“The area where we didn’t have to make many conscious changes was in the Editorial department because that’s where the strength of the established Locsin management. We didn’t want to tinker with it too much. It’s already a winning formula,” he said in an interview.
“This pandemic is a major game-changer. It really forced us to make adjustments and adapt to this new environment. Up to now it’s still a learning experience for us, although we’ve managed to understand it better, unlike last year when we were caught off-guard,” he continued. “We’ve learned to live with it from the past year and a half as a business enterprise, we’ve made changes, and now it seems like we’ve found a balance, a formula for the company to be profitable despite the ongoing situation. Not just that, we’ve identified areas where we can still continue to grow, to an extent that might even be better than pre-pandemic years. We’ve been quite successful in that so far.”
For his part, Wilfredo G. Reyes, BusinessWorld editor-in-chief, said that the Editorial department remained vigilant in maintaining the ideals of the paper’s founder throughout the years, and this has led to the development of the paper’s strong track record.
“I think it was important that we kept our eye on safeguarding and improving quality through the major changes our publication has gone through. To this day, we try to make sure that is done at every step of content production, from start to finish. Many times we succeeded, but there were also some failures. What is important is that this effort is constant because there can never be enough quality,” he said.
Making the leap to digital platforms was not easy, however. Mr. Reyes admitted that it had been a years-long process of figuring out how to translate the established traditions of BusinessWorld’s print side to the digital sphere.
“It was heartening to find people who were there to take that leap almost overnight. We had been racking our brains for decades over how and when to make a substantial shift to digital space. This to me is one of the very few good things that happened in this crisis,” he said.
“We cleared a big hurdle with our shift to digital space. This will definitely open doors for more innovations in the near future. The biggest challenge now is finding and keeping the right talent because this is no ordinary 9-to-5 job. And that means understanding what motivates new generations and matching that expectation with the publication’s mission. That, in turn, can sometimes mean changing the way we do things.”
Mr. Belmonte added that due to the current situation, the future of the company is still unclear. However, he is confident that the strength of BusinessWorld’s journalism and its reputation as one of the most trusted providers of business news in the country can carry it through.
“Because of the current circumstances, we don’t really plan too far ahead anymore. There was a time when things were easy to predict five years from now, three years from now. But now everything is so uncertain that it is very hard to forecast what will be happening in the short and medium term,” he said.
“As long as we continue to grow our print side and develop our digital side, I think it’s the simplest solution to existing. We have a very positive attitude. We’re looking forward to the coming months and we hope that next year things will be better than they are right now.”
“[The situation] has inspired us to go into a direction where BusinessWorld will deepen our role in the business community, which is to inspire them back to make their business and our economy grow even more,” Mr. Dy Tioco added. “You will be seeing these into 2022, when BusinessWorld will celebrate its milestone 35th year in what we see as an unfolding of a new changed era. And we are excited to face this with a huge amount of hope and excitement.”