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MANILA, Philippines – CNN Philippines on Monday, January 29, officially shut down, with losses exceeding P5 billion since operations began in 2015. An estimated 300 employees were affected.
The closure is a grim reminder of the current state of the media industry, especially legacy media, which for many years now has attempted to find solutions to become sustainable in the internet age, to little or no avail. With Sky Cable signing off on February 26 as well, the news network ANC’s fate also hangs in the balance.
US media hasn’t fared well too in January, with outlets such as the LA Times, TIME, and Business Insider slashing jobs, with more expected from others.
Here’s a quick look at the media landscape, and a few familiar reasons why the industry is struggling.
News vs. all the other forms of digital media, influencers
News businesses compete not just with one another, they compete with all other forms of digital media such as user-made videos on TikTok, and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix, CNN, the international version, mentioned in a piece about the future of journalism.
This, the site said, has led to marketers looking to “emerging digital arenas” along with the established tech giants Google and Meta, which dominate the online ad industry. A journalism professor quoted by CNN said, “The ad industry doesn’t need the news industry when there are so many other ways to purchase attention, and so many better ways to target users.”
In the Philippines, “emerging digital arenas” include social media pages and users with large followings. For instance, CNN Philippines’ 2022 financial statement said that it banked on the 2022 Philippine elections to give its bottomline a boost. But the expected impact was less than expected, with money from campaign efforts going instead to online channels by “social media influencers, vloggers, and content producers.”
GMA Network had experienced the same, as we reported. “Advertising revenues remained the lifeblood of the Company, comprising a huge chunk of the total revenue pie. This segment was also the hardest hit due to the absence of election-related placements this year,” GMA Network said.
Pure news content not sustainable in the Philippines?
Business World in its piece on the CNN closure, quoted UP journalism professor Rachel Khan, who said that outlets focusing purely on informational content may not be sustainable in the Philippines.
Khan said that the income of top networks, GMA and ABS-CBN, has always historically relied on their entertainment business, and not news, with Filipinos only really tuning in on news that has “an obvious direct impact on them” such as disasters.
With platforms like TikTok and Facebook offering videos focused on entertainment and amusement, viewers can choose to step away from serious news completely.
Despite the rise of online content though, TV remains big in the country, the site reported, especially in the rural areas underserved by internet companies.
Will journalism survive?
Amid all these struggles and closures that have been going on in the past year or so, Canadian outlet Tyee – whose business model includes crowdfunding and masterclasses taught by reporters, for which it was called a “fascinating case” by The New Yorker in 2015 – said: “But maybe in that dying of the old can come something new.”
A lot of media’s troubles are rooted in Meta and Google sucking up the ad money from businesses that, by their for-profit nature, really care more for where the eyeballs are rather than supporting journalism.
And despite efforts by some governments – Canada for instance – to make Meta pay publishers, the near-trillion-dollar company instead blocked sharing of news content on Facebook and Instagram in the country back in August 2023. The ban remains up until now, while Google has agreed to pay $75 million to news sites annually.
CNN, citing Columbia University research in October 2023, reported that Google and Meta should pay news outlets $14 billion per year for their search traffic and content.
With no other significant recourse from the tech giants, Meta especially, and many corporate brands fleeing to influencers and content creators, Tyee suggested “including different approaches to paying the bills that are more transparent and ethical.” – Rappler.com