After months of hemming and hewing, holding back the tide, and delaying the inevitable, the Visayan DAILY STAR will have to cease operations at the end of this week as we try to find a solution to the existential threats that we stubbornly thought we could outlast.
When I started www.visayandailystar.com as a pet project to show off my skills upon joining the organization in 2004, I had an inkling that the internet was going to change the world but I never expected it to have such an impact on our community newspaper that was happily chugging along. Business was good and we could afford to subsidize the free website that connected the Visayan DAILY STAR to the rest of the world. It was only a matter of time before thousands of Negrenses were turning to the bare bones but free website for their daily dose of news and opinions from the oldest and most trusted daily newspaper in the island.
As the years passed, the world was changing at a rate that was a bit too rapid for an industry that relied on newsprint, offset printing machines, and news boys. Social media was taking the world by storm, challenging traditional media outlets and distribution networks. Readers became “users,” our loyal readers were growing older, and everything was turning digital. Our website was still there, churning out free content while cannibalizing our street sales. Less people were buying newspapers and advertisers were shifting to the new medium that was smarter and more efficient at delivering measurable results.
We thought we could count on our reliable subscribers and advertisers who had been supporting us through the years but income was dropping while costs were rising. Throughout these compounding struggles, our website remained free, treating Negrenses all over the planet to our award-winning content. After 38 years of never failing to deliver the news come hell or high water, the Visayan DAILY STAR had established itself as one of the most trusted brands in the island.
Our organization had built trust and increased its value to the community but when it comes down to the brass tacks, these intangible assets cannot make payroll or pay for printing supplies. Our reputation may be solid but the business end was facing challenges that were becoming more and more difficult to overcome as the years dragged on.
To be honest, even before the pandemic, our Visayan DAILY STAR was already facing difficulty maintaining operations. Although it always managed to make payroll, it was becoming a biweekly struggle.
So when the pandemic hit, management was forced to take a long hard look at the viability of this little project that an intrepid group of Negrense journalists started 38 years ago. With advertisements barely coming in and newsboys unable to deliver the newspaper because of the lockdowns, we had to face the reality that the current form and structure of the Visayan DAILY STAR was no longer sustainable.
Right now, most people get their Visayan DAILY STAR content for free, either on the website, on social media, or through group chats.
Many of us have probably taken for granted how difficult it is to run a newspaper during these difficult times because our newspaper still comes out every day, without fail, for free.
While it was noble, such a one-sided arrangement was never sustainable and now that the funds have run out, our newspaper will have to take a break.
The Visayan DAILY STAR will try to come back as soon as possible, but we will need our readers’ support. For starters, if we come back online, it will no longer be a free service. We’ve been giving away our most valuable asset at no cost for more than 15 years. I’m hoping that our readers will understand and continue patronize The Visayan DAILY STAR Reloaded even if it means paying for the content that our reporters and editors prepare everyday just for them this time around.
Even with the trust our newspaper has built with the community over the past 38 years, this reload will be challenging. Leveraging that trust and confidence into a viable business model during these uncertain times, despite a tanking economy in the midst of a poorly managed pandemic will test the mettle of the Visayan DAILY STAR reboot team. I hope and pray that the entire Negrense community will have our back when we attempt the comeback as soon as we possibly can.
As we bid adieu temporarily, I pray our readers to support their community newspaper when we do come back. Hopefully our past and present subscribers agree with the new format and everyone who has enjoyed our content free of charge over the past 15 years do not begrudge us when we put a price tag on our product so we can continue providing our special brand of service. Those of us who can spend for Netflix, Spotify, YouTube subscriptions or that regular Frappuccinocan surely spare a few pesos a day to support a community paper that had been part of our lives for the past 38 years and allow it to serve the community for as long as it can.
We will return. This community newspaper will not go away as long as the community will support and value the service we have proven we can provide. Pray for us in the next few days, and if it is not too much to ask, give us your all out support when we come back, hopefully very soon.*