Staying relevant during the COVID-19 crisis

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By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

THE PRESS had its own share of challenges due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. For newspapers, in particular, that must have mostly meant fewer pages and fewer advertisements.

Nevertheless, with information becoming more essential during this crisis, the press stays active as the narrative of the pandemic unfolds day by day. For its part, BusinessWorld, the country’s longest-running business newspaper, has been covering the business scene that has been largely hit by the crisis.

“Many newspapers could not publish during the lockdown from middle of March up to the end of May. But BusinessWorld is not one of those. We did not miss a single issue throughout the lockdown,” Miguel G. Belmonte, BusinessWorld president and chief executive officer, shared in an interview.

BusinessWorld quickly responded to the disruptions by making significant shifts on operations and approach to its audience. Wilfredo G. Reyes, BusinessWorld editor-in-chief, shared the company’s moves to ensure the safety of its employees including allowing work-from-home arrangements, immediately adopting health protocols in the office, and providing shuttle services for those who need to report to work.

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“Up until this time, working from home was that pie in the sky that so many thought would vastly improve work-life balance. Well, now we know what it’s like,” Mr. Reyes said in another interview.

The editor-in-chief said that previous crises have prepared the press for a trying time like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Those of us who have been here for decades have worked through disruptions like military coups on weekends and in the wee hours of the morning and storms like Ondoy, so we are practically primed for disruption,” he said.

ADVANCED SHIFT TO DIGITAL
Despite few people working in the office, along with yet many content producers continuing their work at home, BusinessWorld has diligently chronicled developments in the context of COVID-19. Moreover, through the paper’s “BW Focus” special reports, BusinessWorld has taken readers through an in-depth look into COVID-19’s impacts across various individuals and sectors — from the job market, to this year’s graduates, to jeepney drivers.

Lucien C. Dy Tioco, BusinessWorld executive vice-president, added that the team applied a “solid make-do strategy” in response to the pandemic’s impact, focusing more on what they can build on regardless of the limitations caused by COVID-19.

“That inspired us to create a series of online fora, to foster that bayanihan spirit of helping the business community cope and adapt with the new normal,” Mr. Dy Tioco said in a separate interview.

In late April, BusinessWorld Insights: An Online Forum Series was launched. It shed light on the pressing issues within the business community as it grapples through the crisis and gradually steps into the new normal.

The first of two phases of BusinessWorld Insights focused on the macro scenarios for businesses to lay out amid COVID-19, with insights gathered from Department of Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II, Philippine Genome Center Deputy Executive Director Dr. Raul Destura, and Philippine Stock Exchange President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon Monzon, among other speakers.

The second iteration, meanwhile, tackled lessons that could be used to thrive from COVID-19. It had McKinsey and Company Partner Simon Wintels, Department of Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, Cobena Business Analytics and Strategy President and Chief Executive Officer Francis del Val, among the panel.

Later in June, this series was followed up by BusinessWorld Insights: SparkUp Entrep Series, which focused on how the start-up community can innovate towards a ‘better normal.’ Currently, a three-part BusinessWorld Insights series is ongoing, tackling digital payments and disbursement.

For Mr. Belmonte, these online fora held by BusinessWorld have compensated for the most-awaited annual BusinessWorld Economic Forum, which will be held in November instead of May due to the current situation.

“It’s a good thing we were able to introduce our online fora. They were practically never used before, but they have been successful. We’ve got good viewership throughout the series and it’s also been a good revenue earner for the company,” he said.

Aside from BusinessWorld Insights, BusinessWorld joined PhilSTAR Media Group’s (PMG) information campaign about COVID-19 in late March. Under PMG’s “Tala Para Sa Kapwa” fund-raising drive, COVID-19 WATCH aimed to provide fact-based reports, intelligent analyses, and engaging infographics and videos related to the pandemic across all PMG platforms.

The COVID-19 WATCH page in BusinessWorld’s website featured stories relevant to the pandemic, such as its grave impact on micro, small, and medium enterprises; the uptrend in remote work; and the change in consumer needs, among other topics. The page also gave updates on the number of daily cases in the country and around the world, and it provided important hotlines from medical institutions, mental health institutions, and government agencies.

BusinessWorld also enhanced its online presence with the B-Side podcast, which was just launched earlier in February. With new episodes released weekly, B-Side has featured conversations relevant to the pandemic. Notably, in one of the episodes, B-Side got to interview PH377, one of the numerous survivors of COVID-19 in the country.

The paper also recently launched the first issue of BusinessWorld In-Depth, an on-demand special digital magazine, that features a comprehensive First Quarter Banking Report with the theme, “Banking in the Time of COVID-19.” It will also release a second issue that compiles BusinessWorld’s COVID-related special reports since the onset of the pandemic, work-from-home stories of several business leaders, and an interactive list of COVID-related B-Side podcasts.

As part of its 33rd multimedia anniversary report, the paper will also premiere BusinessWorld One-on-One online interview series, where Mr. Reyes will speak with top global and local executives who will emphasize the value of leadership and resilience in fighting COVID-19.

BusinessWorld’s content greatly relies on the content need of its audience and I’m proud to say that we have responded well to the community’s thirst for relevant content, especially on the economic challenges brought about by the current pandemic,” Mr. Dy Tioco said.

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