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<strong>PHILIPPINE</strong> <strong>ONLINE</strong> <strong>JOURNALISM</strong>:<br />


By Manuelita Dela Torre Contreras and Crispin C. Maslog*<br />

Journalism is going through crucial changes – changes that may be considered<br />

most fundamental to journalism since the advent of the penny press. Worldwide access to<br />

information, ubiquitous news, real-time reporting, multimedia content, and interactivity<br />

are just some of the manifestations of this change in the journalism landscape (Pavlik,<br />

2001).<br />

Pavlik is referring to no less than the rise of online journalism. Since the creation<br />

of the first graphical browser for the World Wide Web in 1993, thousands of newspapers<br />

have made their way to the online realm. In the United States, where online journalism<br />

traces its early development, there were more than 1000 online newspapers as early as<br />

1996. By 1999, the number of these newspapers soared to 4900 (Pavlik, 1999; Sproull,<br />

2000; Hall, 2001).<br />

In Asia, there were 11 reported newspapers on the Web as early as 1995; among<br />

them were China’s The China Daily, Malaysia’s Utusan Malaysia, Indonesia’s Kompas,<br />

and Japan’s Asahi Shimbun (Carlson, 2005). Today, most, if not all, Asian countries can<br />

be considered practicing online journalism. In Southeast Asia, for instance, a computer<br />

check revealed that each country has at least one online newspaper.<br />

________________________________________________________________________<br />

* Manuelita Dela Torre Contreras is a master’s degree graduate, and Dr. Maslog<br />

is a former visiting professor of the School of Communication, Nanyang Technological<br />

University, Singapore,<br />

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In the Philippines, online journalism started with the arrival of The Manila Times,<br />

a national daily newspaper, on the Web in 1995, the year after the country acquired a<br />

permanent public Internet connection (ITU, 2002). In the same year, Business World<br />

Online was launched on the Web, making its mark as the first Philippine online business<br />

newspaper.<br />

Various problems beset the early days of Philippine online journalism; among<br />

these were fundamental problems such as limited or lack of infrastructure necessary to<br />

wire the country or to get a basic Internet connection. The Philippines dawdles in<br />

information and communication technology (ICT). In 2004-2005 for instance, it scored<br />

negatively (-0.43) and ranked 67th among 104 countries in the Networked Readiness<br />

Index (NRI), a measure of a country’s readiness to participate in and gain from the<br />

developments of ICT (World Economic Forum, 2005).<br />

This limited ICT directly and indirectly affects the development and use of online<br />

journalism. For one, lack of technology means lack of access to hardware necessary to<br />

access the Internet and the online medium. Likewise, it hinders the people from acquiring<br />

ICT literacy, such as the literacy to use computer applications or the computer hardware<br />

itself. These and other factors are crucial to the tapping and use of online journalism, as<br />

lack of them means lack of or low access to the online medium.<br />

Nonetheless, the online medium is now being utilized in the country for purposes<br />

such as information and communication. Online journalism, for instance, is now being<br />

used for social advocacy. A number of non-government and non-profit groups have<br />

started using online journalism to advocate for their cause by, for example, providing<br />

information on certain issues that are not commonly covered by the mainstream media.<br />

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Also, provincial online news publications help fill the information gap between their<br />

community and their community members living or working abroad or elsewhere in the<br />

country. Likewise, national online news publications have become prime sources of news<br />

and information of Filipinos abroad. They provide a fast and convenient way of getting<br />

news from home. There are approximately eight million Filipinos working abroad (The<br />

Manila Times, 2004). In the first half of 2005 alone, for instance, 502,772 overseas<br />

Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed to work abroad (INQ7.net, 2005). They work in<br />

various continents and regions of the world, such as Asia, Europe, North and South<br />

Americas, Australia, and Africa (Philippine National Statistics Office, 2003). This<br />

diaspora has created a greater need for news from the Philippines, a need that cannot be<br />

readily fulfilled by the traditional media because of lack of access to them.<br />

Online Journalism: Definition and Concepts<br />

Before zooming in on the case of Philippine online journalism, it is important to<br />

first know and understand the definition and concepts of online journalism. Online<br />

journalism is loosely defined as journalism on the Web, which is considered a news<br />

medium in the sense that it allows the posting of news and information (Stovall 2004).<br />

This definition, however, misses important facets that make this journalism distinct from<br />

traditional journalism. Ward (2002) has identified some points that correct<br />

misconceptions about this medium. He proposes that what basically makes online<br />

journalism different is the fact that it is multifaceted and user-centered. Unlike traditional<br />

journalism, which puts audiences at the receiving end of the mass communication<br />

process, online journalism places users in the forefront of this process.<br />

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In terms of content, online journalism requires that all the elements of the online<br />

medium support the presentation of online content. Although the other components and<br />

features (e.g. interactivity) of this medium are indispensable to its full utilization, content<br />

should remain at the core of online journalism.<br />

Ward further asserts that the basic precepts and processes of journalism should be<br />

linked to all the steps of online news gathering, writing, and reporting. Although online<br />

journalism is considered new and different, the core values and principles of traditional<br />

journalism should remain at its base. Journalistic principles and processes have to be<br />

integrated in all the stages of online news production and delivery.<br />

This paper is based on a study conducted by the authors on the history and<br />

development of online journalism in the Philippines. The study aimed to trace, describe,<br />

and analyze the development of the Philippines’ online journalism, using both content<br />

analysis and interview for its data collection. Document research was also done to trace<br />

the history of this new medium in the country.<br />


Online journalism is relatively new in the Philippines. It was only in 1994 that the<br />

country acquired a permanent public Internet connection, although some businesses<br />

started setting up their own connections in the early 1990s. Approximately 90 percent of<br />

the Internet traffic goes abroad, mostly to the U.S., according to an International<br />

Telecommunication Union (ITU) case study. But local traffic continues to grow as<br />

Internet facilities and services continue to improve (ITU, 2002).<br />

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In September 1995, The Manila Times, a national daily newspaper, went online,<br />

paving the way for other news publications. In its initial and testing phase online, it was<br />

serving only 100 local subscribers before eventually going international (Pabico, 1999).<br />

The following month, Business World Online was launched on the Web, establishing its<br />

niche as the first Philippine business paper to venture online. However, unlike The<br />

Manila Times, which utilized a windows-based application that allowed easy navigation,<br />

it was using DOS, a cumbrous system.<br />

During its early years in the Philippines, online news publishing was not exactly<br />

seen as something very economically viable to displace print newspapers from their<br />

throne. Priority was still given to the print medium; putting up an online edition was one<br />

of those done on the side. Business World Online, for example, was put up with the intent<br />

of attracting online readers to subscribe to the print newspaper. If readers signed up for<br />

subscription, they were given access to the online version for an additional monthly fee<br />

(Pabico, 1999).<br />

The early days of Philippine online journalism were plagued with various<br />

problems and limitations; chief of these was the limited or lack of necessary<br />

infrastructures. For example, the fixed telephone system was ineffectual as there were a<br />

limited number of telephone lines in the National Capital Region (NCR), and much more<br />

so in the provinces. This impeded the early and speedy arrival of newspapers and other<br />

news publications on the Web. It also stymied early access to the online medium by<br />

Filipino users.<br />

Provincial news publications came later to the online scene. Their development<br />

can be traced to the Globicom (Globalization of Island Community Newspapers) project<br />

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initiated in 1999, although some provincial papers (e.g. The Freeman Online, The Bohol<br />

Times Online, Sun.Star Network Online, etc.) were already online before this project was<br />

even conceptualized. Globicom aimed at providing a portal where provincial newspapers<br />

could post their news stories and other articles for online access and consumption. It was<br />

also meant to connect Philippine Press Institute (PPI) members online, to promote<br />

interaction among them, and to raise the country’s community press to a higher level<br />

online. The project was an initiative of the PPI, an organization of Philippine newspapers,<br />

in partnership with Business World Online and funded by United Nations Educational,<br />

Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).<br />

Globicom came up with templates for community newspapers that participated in<br />

the project and organized seminars for their publishers and editors. A number of<br />

newspapers were able to go online and sustain their presence on the Web even after<br />

Globicom’s termination. However, according to PPI’s former executive director Ermin<br />

Garcia, Jr., the project was barely successful mainly because of lack of funding and<br />

support from Internet service providers. Also, it should be noted that several community<br />

or provincial papers went online without Globicom’s assistance.<br />

One of the crucial points in the history of Philippine online journalism was in<br />

1998. This year saw the rise of news publications going online, as well as of the<br />

perceived profitability of the online medium. By this time, more and more companies<br />

started to see the advertising potentials of this medium, with the 1997 economic crisis<br />

helping boost online advertising as a cheaper alternative to mainstream media advertising<br />

(Datinguinoo, 1999).<br />

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Now, the Philippines has more than 30 known online news publications, although<br />

some had been inactive for a period of time. This figure includes only those that provide<br />

news as their main service, ranging from online versions of print newspapers to online<br />

daily newspapers, online weekly newspapers, online news magazines, and online<br />

newspaper-television joint ventures. Many of them are based in Metro Manila; the others<br />

are in the provinces. INQ7.net, a joint venture of a television network and a major<br />

national daily, claims the biggest readership.<br />

The low Internet penetration and access and the unequal distribution of Internet<br />

connection in the country constrain online news publications from reaching more<br />

audiences. However, the online medium continues to bring opportunities for online<br />

publication. The number of online news websites has increased, although some had<br />

closed down. All the major daily newspapers in the country have their online versions.<br />

Some non-profit groups (e.g. Bulatlat.com) have started taking advantage of the online<br />

opportunity to put their causes forward by, for instance, providing news, discussion, and<br />

analysis not commonly found in the mainstream media.<br />

Understandably, Philippine online news publications experience the highest<br />

number of visits, mostly by Filipinos abroad as well as foreign observers, during crucial<br />

events and periods. For example, during the impeachment trial of former president Joseph<br />

Estrada in December 2000, abs-cbnNEWS.com recorded an average of 1.5 million visits<br />

per day, reaching five million during the peak of Estrada’s overthrow from power. On<br />

ordinary days, it gets around 300,000 hits a day (Torres, 2004).<br />

Philippine Online Journalism: Early Promise<br />

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Overall, Philippine online journalism is still in its infancy. Although some<br />

publications went online as early as 1995, most of them can be considered young, while<br />

the others are relatively new. Hence, experimentation, adjustment, and alteration are<br />

evident among them. Some did not go further than the experimentation stage and had<br />

folded, while the others keep up and continue to make some progress. Although this<br />

progress is slow, the country’s online journalism is likely to advance once the<br />

fundamental shortcomings and pressing problems are addressed and resolved.<br />

Online Access<br />

The Internet has low penetration in the Philippines mainly due to lack of<br />

sufficient ICT infrastructure and the high cost of Internet subscription and the necessary<br />

hardware (only 2.7 percent of households having personal computers as of 2000,<br />

according to ITU). The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) reported<br />

1,852,333 Internet subscribers in 2003. In 1999, the Internet penetration was recorded at<br />

0.62 percent, and 2.46 percent or approximately 2.0 million users at the end of 2000<br />

(ITU, 2002). In 2003, there were 3.5 million recorded Internet users in the country, while<br />

in 2004, the number jumped to 11.8 million, both at residential and commercial levels<br />

(ITU, 2004; IDC, 2005).<br />

Most of those with Internet access are in the NCR and those abroad where access<br />

is better and easier. Many Philippine rural areas do not have Internet access because of<br />

lack of fixed telephone line, which is necessary for dial-up connection, the most common<br />

and cheapest form of Internet connection in the country. Fixed telephone lines are<br />

concentrated in the NCR, which has 43 percent of the 6.5 million fixed lines in the<br />

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country (NTC 2003 Status Report, 2004). What makes the situation more difficult is the<br />

fact that some rural, far-flung communities do not have electricity or regular supply of<br />

electricity. According to a National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) data, 2.8<br />

million Filipino families living below the poverty level do not have electricity (The<br />

Manila Times, 2003).<br />

Insufficient and inefficient ICT infrastructure leads to inequality in access and use<br />

of the Internet. This inevitably leads to what is called ‘digital divide’ within the country<br />

between the areas with sufficient infrastructure (notably the NCR) and those without or<br />

with limited infrastructure (mostly far-flung provinces and communities). It can be<br />

deduced here that there is also unequal or uneven growth of ICT literacy between these<br />

geographic areas. These factors consequently contribute to the uneven access to and use<br />

of the online medium.<br />

Kinds of Philippine Online News Publications<br />

Most Philippine news websites are online newspapers, many of them Web<br />

editions of print dailies, weeklies, or semi-weeklies. The others are online news<br />

magazines and television-newspaper joint ventures. These publications come out in<br />

various frequencies, most of them daily. The rest come out less frequently, such as<br />

weekly, semi-weekly, and bi-monthly. The presence of these less frequent publications<br />

does not seem apt on the Web because of the nature of the medium itself. As they are<br />

updated less often, their content seems too old to be considered news.<br />

More than half of the identified publications, both provincial and national, are<br />

published in English. Even those using both local language and English dominantly had<br />

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more articles written in English. Among the few news websites published in local<br />

language, only one is province-based; the rest are all Metro Manila-based.<br />

With several provincial news websites folding up in the last few months and<br />

years, by the time the study was being conducted, there were more Metro Manila-based<br />

than province-based online publications. Their ratio shows a big discrepancy, considering<br />

the number of provinces in the country and their geographic size and coverage compared<br />

to that of Metro Manila. This gap may still widen if small community news websites<br />

continue to close down mainly because of financial constraints.<br />

Table 1.0 Online news publications based on scope of coverage or audience reach<br />

National online news publications<br />

Online newspapers:<br />

Abante Online<br />

Abante Tonite Interactive<br />

Balita<br />

Business World Online<br />

Chinese Commercial News<br />

Kabayan News Online<br />

Malaya<br />

Manila Standard<br />

Pinoy Weekly Online<br />

PJI Journal Group<br />

Philstar.com<br />

Tempo<br />

The Daily Tribune<br />

The Manila Bulletin Online<br />

The Manila Times<br />

TODAY<br />

Online television-newspaper publications:<br />

abs-cbnNEWS.com<br />

INQ7.net<br />

Online news magazines:<br />

Bulatlat.com<br />

Cyberdyaryo<br />

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Provincial online news publications<br />

Online newspapers:<br />

Bandillo ng Palawan<br />

Daily Zamboanga Times<br />

KAIBA News and Features<br />

Mindanao Times News Online<br />

MindaNews<br />

Sun.Star Network Online<br />

Sunday Punch Online<br />

TarlacNews.net<br />

The Bohol Chronicle<br />

The Bohol Times Online<br />

The Freeman Online<br />

The Ilocos Times Online<br />

The Mindanao Daily Mirror<br />

The Palawan Times<br />

The Visayan Daily Star<br />

Tribune Eastern Visayas Online News<br />

Online news magazine:<br />

Nueva Ecija Journal

(Sources: Philippine Journalism Review, http://www.pinoypress.net, http://www.worldnewspapers.com/philippines.html,<br />

http://www.yehey.com/search/categories.aspx?c=903)<br />

Content<br />

Content-wise, most Philippine online news publications are still stuck in the basic<br />

level of online content development. More than half of the publications use shoveled<br />

content or content that is taken from a traditional medium, mostly newspapers. These<br />

publications are all online versions of print publications, which serve as their sole source<br />

of content. Most of those with print counterparts simply shovel content from their print<br />

edition, adding some refurbishings and features such as links to other articles or sections,<br />

a search engine, and feedback mechanisms for readers. Publications without print<br />

counterparts mostly have limited content; recycling or re-using of old articles is common<br />

among them.<br />

Five of the identified publications run a combination of both original and<br />

shoveled contents. They all have traditional media counterparts (newspaper or television<br />

network), and are regularly updated for breaking news. These publications, however,<br />

vary in their amount or quantity of original content and shoveled content. INQ7.net, for<br />

instance, has far more original content than Philstar.com, as it runs original or web-only<br />

sections besides its breaking news. On the other hand, Philstar.com carries only breaking<br />

news for its original content. Five of the news websites run original content because they<br />

are solely web publications.<br />

Two news websites can be considered in an advance stage in terms of content.<br />

They are characterized by their original articles and more interactive and sophisticated<br />

features appended to their content to make reading and navigation easier. Other features<br />

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are also present, such as sending of articles through email, instant sending of comments<br />

on articles, text-only option, and article index. INQ7.net, for instance, can be considered<br />

in an advance stage. Although it posts articles from its print counterpart, it runs original<br />

content and features several sections targeted at specific niches of audiences (e.g. Global<br />

Nation for Filipinos abroad, Roadtrip for travelers, YOU for young audiences, etc.).<br />

Besides, it has features, capabilities, and services comparable to those of major<br />

international news content providers.<br />

Sections and Articles<br />

Most of the news websites carry the usual newspaper sections, but the number of<br />

these sections varies between the national-based and the province-based publications.<br />

The national websites have more variety and choices of sections, ranging from news<br />

sections such as breaking, national, Metro, provincial, and other news to more specific<br />

sections such as business, features, and lifestyle. However, the presence or number of<br />

these sections is never uniform among the publications. Even among the major news<br />

websites based in Metro Manila, their number of sections varies; some have more, some<br />

less. The commonly missing sections among the provincial publications include breaking<br />

news, business, international news, lifestyle, and audio-visual.<br />

Stories are more on national and local news. Some national publications carry<br />

international news from wires, but these are limited in number. Some do not normally run<br />

international news, unless there are events of national or international concern. Province-<br />

based publications do not commonly run international news. Readers’ interest is more in<br />

local news. For instance, community members based overseas would prefer to read more<br />

about their community, municipality, or province than about other countries.<br />

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The publications have various numbers of articles, although most of the national-<br />

based with print editions carry more than 50. On the other hand, most province-based<br />

with print counterparts have an average of 21 to 30 articles. Those with the least number<br />

of stories are a weekly publication and a bi-monthly journal, both province-based.<br />

Understandably, provincial publications have less content as their ambit of coverage and<br />

audience reach are relatively small. Those with print counterparts have an obvious edge<br />

over those solely web-based in terms of content. They have a regular source of articles<br />

besides, in the case of a few big publications, their original content.<br />

The frequency of content updating of most of the websites is tantamount to the<br />

frequency of their publication. That is, if the publication is being published weekly,<br />

normally it is also being updated weekly. Only a few publications (INQ7.net,<br />

Philstar.com, Sun.Star Network Online, Balita.org, and abs-cbnNEWs.com) update their<br />

content (mainly their major news articles) constantly. These are the publications with<br />

breaking news, and once again, they are mostly national-based. Many of the publications<br />

are updated daily or regularly, as most of them are online daily newspapers. The least<br />

updated is the one with the least frequency of publication – Nueva Ecija Journal, which<br />

is a bi-monthly online news magazine.<br />

Content Availability<br />

In terms of content availability, majority of the publications have accessible<br />

archives, most of them free of charge. Only one, Business World Online, has paid access<br />

to all its archive. INQ7.net also practices paid access, but its last seven days of issues can<br />

be accessed for free. Most of the accessible archives carry past issues dating back up to at<br />

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least one year. The longest archive duration is 11 years (Business World Online), and the<br />

shortest is five days (The Daily Tribune). The average or most common duration is one to<br />

two years.<br />

The most common type of archive searching is by date, as most of the past issues<br />

of the online publications are compiled based on their date of issue, commonly by month.<br />

Only a few archives can be accessed or searched using more than one option, such as<br />

both by date and subject or key words. The other types of searching are by author and<br />

section, although very few publications use these.<br />

It is interesting to note that of the seven publications without accessible archive,<br />

five of them are Metro Manila-based, which include two of the considered leading news<br />

websites in the country. (See table below.)<br />

Alternative means of news delivery such as through SMS and news mail are<br />

available, but only to a limited extent. Only a few big publications offer SMS news<br />

service.<br />

Online News Publications<br />

Abante Online<br />

Abante Tonite Interactive<br />

abs-cbnNEWS.com<br />

Balita.org<br />

Bandillo ng Palawan<br />

Bulatlat.com<br />

Business World Online<br />

Cyberdyaryo<br />

INQ7.net<br />

Malaya<br />

Manila Standard<br />

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Table 2.0 Online news publications’ archive availability<br />

Archive<br />

Accessible<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

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Archive not<br />

Accessible<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

With<br />

Charge<br />

�<br />

Without<br />

Charge<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

Mindanao Times News<br />

Online<br />

MindaNews<br />

Nueva Ecija Journal<br />

Philstar.com<br />

Pinoy Weekly Online<br />

PJI Journal Group<br />

Sun.Star Network Online<br />

Sunday Punch Online<br />

TarlacNews.net<br />

Tempo<br />

The Bohol Chronicle<br />

The Bohol Times Online<br />

The Daily Tribune<br />

The Freeman Online<br />

The Ilocos Times Online<br />

The Manila Bulletin Online<br />

The Manila Times<br />

The Mindanao Daily<br />

Mirror<br />

The Visayan Daily Star<br />

Multimediality<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

The presence of multimedia features or the multimediality of the subject<br />

publications is at a modest stage. Download options and audio and audio-video services,<br />

for instance, are a rarity. Similarly, useful links to related information in major articles<br />

are largely absent. The other options include download of the front page of a few<br />

publications’ print counterparts and some data.<br />

In terms of multimedia services or features, overall the subject publications<br />

cannot be considered in an advance stage, as most of them have only basic features such<br />

as simple images. The use of graphics is also low, as most of the publications have simple<br />

and basic design and layout.<br />

Content Services<br />

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�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

�<br />

Among the services available in the subject publications are email newsletter,<br />

news through SMS (short message service) or mobile phone, results of licensure<br />

examinations (e.g. medical, engineering, and bar examinations), and “about us” section (a<br />

section that provides information about the publication). Only a little more than half of<br />

the news websites carry information about the publications themselves or the<br />

organizations behind them. The study underscored the value of such information as it<br />

allows the readers to know the people or the organization behind the publication and<br />

helps them gauge the credibility of the news website. It is particularly useful to new<br />

users.<br />

Only a few national publications, most of them big and leading media<br />

organizations, offer SMS news service. Those that post examination results are all<br />

national publications; the same with news mail service. Other services available include<br />

online community bulletin and currency converter.<br />

Links in Articles<br />

Links in major news stories are mostly to other articles in the same section, and<br />

not to related articles. There lack links to related information within the story. Only one<br />

publication (INQ7.net) is noted to have these links, which readers can follow through to<br />

get more information about the same topic or story. Similarly, it is the only news website<br />

with links to related photos and audio-video clips. There is not a single publication whose<br />

major news articles have links to related information in other websites. Some stories have<br />

links to other articles and sections in the same website, but apparently they have no<br />

relation to the stories.<br />

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Features<br />

The interactivity of the subject publications varies, with a few offering advance<br />

interactive features and the rest offering only basic ones. The most common interactive<br />

feature present among the subject publications is email, followed by links to other<br />

websites, site search engine, and then feedback section. Forums and/or message boards<br />

can be found more on the provincial news websites. They serve as a channel for the<br />

exchange of information between users within and outside their communities, including<br />

community members based in other countries. Site map is also a useful feature to readers,<br />

especially when the news website contains many sections, features, or services. However,<br />

this is not commonly featured by the subject publications. Polls and chatrooms are also<br />

minimally featured. Not all these features, however, guarantee interactivity as some of<br />

them may not be functional or have some problems.<br />

Majority of the publications provide only one email, which is mostly at the<br />

publication level or for the whole publication. Overall, the subject publications offer<br />

insufficient feedback mechanism through email. Most of them provide only one email,<br />

which might not always be functional and does not guarantee a two-way communication<br />

between the publication and its users.<br />

Other online features available include article index, text-only option, help, and<br />

article sending through email, but these are not being fully utilized by the online news<br />

publications. Article sending through email is slightly being used, mostly by national-<br />

based websites. Article index and text-only option allow easier and faster reading, but<br />

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they are also hardly being utilized by the publications. Help section is not commonly<br />

used either.<br />

National-based vs. Province-based<br />

In terms of content, national-based publications have an edge over the province-<br />

based understandably because of their nationwide scope and coverage and their economic<br />

advantage, as most of them have long-established print and/or television network<br />

counterparts. On the other hand, community or province-based news websites have<br />

limited coverage and audience reach. Most of them cover only the community, city, or<br />

province where they are based.<br />

However, interactive features-wise, these publications are not far from each other.<br />

If most provincial news websites lack features and capabilities for them to be considered<br />

interactive, so do most national news websites. Hence, improvements in terms of<br />

interactivity and capabilities should come from both national and provincial publications.<br />

Perils of Philippine Journalism: Problems and Limitations<br />

Online news publications are not without disadvantages and limitations. In the<br />

Philippines, the root problems are not in the medium itself or its features and capabilities<br />

or the lack of these. Fundamental issues such as lack of resources and technology and<br />

limited access to the Internet and computer hardware are more pressing. For instance,<br />

lack of necessary technology is prevalent in rural areas where there is no fixed telephone<br />

line necessary for basic Internet connection. Notwithstanding the presence of fixed<br />

telephone lines, economic factors hamper people from acquiring the necessary hardware<br />

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and software, from subscribing to an Internet service provider, and even from acquiring<br />

telephone lines.<br />

Such fundamental issues lead to other problems. Limited reach and low number<br />

of users leave many uses of the online medium untapped. Such disadvantage is greater in<br />

the countryside, a result of what is called ‘digital divide’ where NCR residents are getting<br />

most of the opportunity to use the medium because of better technology and higher<br />

Internet access.<br />

Although these issues are apparently fundamental, economic or financial concerns<br />

among Philippine online news publications stand as the most pressing problems. Almost<br />

all of the study’s informants contended that lack of profit or income from the online<br />

medium is the biggest concern troubling Philippine online news publications. Most of<br />

them acknowledged the fact that most, if not all, news websites in the country are not<br />

making any money. One of the main reasons for this is the expectation of users that all<br />

the information on the Internet, including online news, should be free.<br />

One of the specific problems among Philippine online news publications is the<br />

lack of regular updating. A number of publications have not been updated for months and<br />

even years. This problem may be traced to lack of staff to do news reporting and writing<br />

and to do regular updating mainly because of economic constraints. This problem has<br />

even led some province-based publications to close down. Even some national online<br />

newspapers suffered from late or lack of updating.<br />

Limited number of stories or lack of news articles and lack of in-depth reporting<br />

pose more problems to small publications. For some news websites, lack or limited<br />

number of stories is a cause of delay in their content updating and results to recycling or<br />

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e-use of past articles. However, this problem is not so much with publications with print<br />

counterparts, which serve as their main source of online content.<br />

Majority of the online publications use English, an advantage to foreign readers<br />

and those more comfortable using this language. However, although English is used in<br />

official transactions and by various institutions in the country, many Filipinos hardly use<br />

it, particularly in mundane conversations and dealings. They use Filipino or their local<br />

language or dialect instead.<br />

The specific problems identified by the study are summarized in the table below.<br />

Table 3.0 Summary of specific problems identified<br />

Content:<br />

� Lack of constant or regular updating of content<br />

� Practice of “shovelware”<br />

� Use of print style of writing<br />

� Lack of original reporting and writing on and for the Web<br />

� Limited number of stories or lack of news articles among small publications<br />

� Lack of in-depth reporting among small publications<br />

� Recycling or re-use of past articles among small publications<br />

� Use of English by most of the identified publications<br />

Interactive features and capabilities:<br />

� Focus on form rather than on interactive features<br />

� Newspaper-like features<br />

� Failure to effectively tap the interactive features and capabilities of the online<br />

medium<br />

Economic factors:<br />

� Low online advertisements<br />

� Financial problems such as lack of profit or income<br />

� Dependence of some publications on outside funding<br />

Services:<br />

� Lack of information about the publication or the media organization behind it<br />

� Lack of or limited feedback mechanisms<br />

� Lack of archives among some publications<br />

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� Sporadic archiving<br />

Infrastructure and technology:<br />

� Limited and poor telecommunication infrastructure and information<br />

technology<br />

� Costly computer hardwares and softwares<br />

� High cost of getting Internet connection<br />

� Low access to the Internet and computer hardwares<br />

� Electric power failures in some provinces and poor Internet service<br />

Human factors:<br />

� Lack of knowledge among journalists about the nitty-gritty of online<br />

publishing<br />

� Lack of or low interest and motivation among journalists to learn more about<br />

online publishing<br />

� Lack of reporters and writers<br />

� Lack of staff to maintain the news sites and do technical work<br />

� Lack of priority by publishers<br />

Others:<br />

� Limited reach and low number of users leave many uses of the online medium<br />

untapped<br />

� Semi-weekly, weekly, and other less frequent publications not very effective<br />

� Reluctance among adult audiences to use the online medium<br />

� Lack of government support<br />

� Divide between information technology haves and have-nots<br />

Uses and Benefits<br />

Despite the problems and limitations discussed earlier, Philippine online news<br />

publishing is slowly progressing, especially in terms of its uses. The number of online<br />

news publications, although some had closed down, is an indication of this progress. We<br />

can categorize the benefits and uses of online journalism into four areas: 1) as a source of<br />

news and information, 2) as a communication channel, 3) as an alternative means of<br />

publication, and 4) as a means for other services.<br />

1. Source of news and information<br />

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The coming of the online medium means a new source of news and information;<br />

it means that sources of news are no longer exclusive to the mainstream media. But this<br />

medium is not intended to, or will not oust the long-existing traditional media. Instead, it<br />

simply serves as an alternative to and complements these media (print, radio, and<br />

television) in providing news and information, at least to those with online access.<br />

An edge of the online medium as a content provider is that it gives readers an<br />

access to past issues of news publications through their archive. This saves readers from<br />

the burden of searching for old issues or articles at libraries or other data providers.<br />

Similarly, as most, if not all online news sites are accessible to anyone with access to the<br />

online medium, readers get news and information for free, and, equally important, they<br />

get them fast.<br />

The online medium is especially of value to the Philippines because of its millions<br />

of people working or living abroad. For these Filipinos, at least to those with Internet<br />

access, the online medium is the easiest and sometimes the only way to get news and<br />

information from home.<br />

There have been apprehensions about the impact or role of online journalism in<br />

the country, considering the lack of necessary infrastructures and the immense gap<br />

between those with Internet access and those without. However, the presence of Internet<br />

shops or cafes all over the country, particularly those areas with Internet access, is said to<br />

help fill this gap. These shops are particularly advantageous to those without Internet<br />

access at home because of their relatively low service cost.<br />

2. Communication channel<br />

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One of the characteristics of the online medium that tell it apart from the other<br />

media is its being real-time. Broadcast media such as television and radio may be<br />

immediate, but they cannot compete with the content capacity of the online medium.<br />

It is also one of the media commonly accessed by young users. Thus, it enables<br />

news publications to reach the younger population, who are known to have more access<br />

to and prefer more the online medium.<br />

Finally, this medium helps lessen the problem of print media distribution or<br />

circulation because of the country’s archipelagic geography. Most media outlets are<br />

based in the NCR, and circulation to the provinces is hampered by transportation<br />

problems and constraints. The presence of news websites allows wider access not only to<br />

national publications, but also to province- and community-based publications.<br />

3. Alternative means of publication<br />

The online medium undoubtedly offers an alternative means of publishing.<br />

Especially to small publications, it offers a cheaper option and a practical alternative to<br />

cope with the spiraling costs of production and printing. Likewise, it allows community<br />

or provincial publications to be accessed and read nationally and internationally, chiefly<br />

benefiting community members outside the country.<br />

Similarly, it gives progressive and reform-oriented groups (e.g. groups of reform-<br />

oriented journalists) a cheap means to advocate for their causes and to provide readers<br />

alternative news and information, as well as analysis and discussion of issues that are not<br />

commonly covered by the mainstream media.<br />

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4. Means for other services<br />

Besides providing news and information, some online news publications offer<br />

other services such as community assistance. A number of provincial news sites, for<br />

instance, carried a section meant to help needy community members. The Bohol<br />

Chronicle, for example, provided a link that featured individuals, especially children,<br />

needing help and asked for donations from readers.<br />

Certain online news publications, mostly community-based, also provided a<br />

forum for users, most of them Filipinos based abroad. The message boards of these<br />

publications, for instance, provided a space for the exchange of correspondences between<br />

local and overseas-based users.<br />


The online medium seems to offer promising opportunities in the field of<br />

publishing and mass communication to a developing country like the Philippines, where<br />

most traditional media belong to a few owners. Constraints have been present though<br />

since the introduction of the Internet in the country. One of these is the lack of sufficient<br />

infrastructures and facilities needed for the country to link itself to the wired world and to<br />

adapt to the fast-changing ICT environment. However, this does not completely prevent<br />

online publications from developing and progressing. Although a number of problems<br />

and limitations continue to persist in Philippine online publishing, opportunities are<br />

slowly being tapped. The perils are there, but the promise is great. ###<br />

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Common Internet Terms<br />

Chat room – a place on the Internet where you can use email for discussions with other<br />

people<br />

Domain or Internet domain – a part of the Internet that belongs to a person or<br />

organization where they can access email or display documents on the Internet<br />

Forum – a place on the Internet where people can leave messages or discuss particular<br />

subjects with other people at the same time<br />

Hyperlink – a connection that allows you to move easily between two computer<br />

documents or two pages on the Internet<br />

Hypertext markup language or HTML – a way of marking text so that it can be seen on<br />

the Internet<br />

Hypertext transfer protocol or HTTP - a set of instructions made by a computer program<br />

that enables your computer to connect to an Internet document<br />

Interactive – describes a system or computer program which is designed to involve the<br />

user in the exchange of information<br />

Internet – the large system of connected computers around the world which allows people<br />

to share information and communicate with each other using electronic mail or email<br />

Multimedia – using a combination of moving and still pictures, sound, music and words,<br />

especially in computers or entertainment<br />

Portal – a page on the Internet that people use to search the World Wide Web and that<br />

enables them to access useful information such as news, weather and travel, or a<br />

company that provides these pages<br />

Website – a set of pages of information on the Internet about a particular subject, which<br />

have been published by the same person or organization, and often contain color pictures,<br />

video and sound<br />

Web browser or Browser – a computer program that enables you to read information on<br />

the Internet<br />

World Wide Web – the system of connected documents on the Internet, which often<br />

contain color pictures, video and sound, and can be searched for information about a<br />

particular subject<br />

Source: Definitions lifted verbatim from Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.<br />

Website: http://dictionary.cambridge.org<br />

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http://www.world-newspapers.com/philippines.html<br />

http://www.yehey.com<br />

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