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INQ7 riding resurgent
wave of online advertising

By Marlet D. Salazar

THE CRISIS that gripped the dotcom business is now history. The whole idea of e-commerce is now resurrected, and the way things are going, the Internet will soon come in full circle to become a dominant medium of information.

INQ7 Interactive Inc. president and chief executive officer Paolo Prieto believes that the worst of the dotcom crash is over, and they are now focusing on meeting the challenge of surviving on their own.

Online advertising is one of the strengths of INQ7 as the website’s revenues primarily come from local and foreign advertisers. With this in mind, Prieto made changes and innovations to take full advantage of it. “We became more creative in our sales, and more customer- (reader) oriented now,” he said. “We want companies to see a lot of advertising opportunities in our website.”

They also opened a lot of better advertising opportunities for companies. One of them is giving prominence to advertisers on the main page as well as in the other pages.

Ramon Lizardo, vice president for business and linkages said, “Advertising is useless without traffic, that is, the number of viewers or readers that actually see the ads or the articles.”

The Philippines’ leading online news portal generates about 33 million pageviews and one million unique visitors a month. It caters largely to overseas Filipinos in the United States (37 percent), followed by readers here in the country (35 percent), and the remaining comes from the other parts of the world.

Marketing a website is different from traditional media.

Lizardo said, “INQ7 banked on its mission to help raise industry awareness and showed advertisers the immense benefits they can get from online advertising.”

And this is where the branding comes in.

Lizardo explained that another important advantage of online advertising is its coverage of two important aspects of marketing. “For INQ7, brand awareness is promoted effectively through exposure to its huge traffic volume; but, also, it can be marketed and even actually sold directly to the end-user since products can be sold and paid for online. This illustrates how online advertising covers the best of both worlds of brand awareness and direct marketing/selling.”

“It is very important for our advertisers--and readers--to be aware of the impact INQ7 has,” Prieto said. He feels that the business sector, so far, is their strong market niche.

Not only does INQ7 have formidable parent companies with GMA Network and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Its content also come from several sources which include the Philippine Daily Inquirer, GMA News and Public Affairs, Cebu Daily News, Newsbreak, and Agence France— Presse.

However, the website also maintains its own editorial team which produces its breaking news.

The Internet’s major edge over other media (or businesses for that matter) is its interactivity.

“It is easy for an online reader to interact with an ad by just clicking on it and finding out the details,” Lizardo said.

This is slowly being realized by the advertisers and the readers as well. Lizardo noted that the website’s revenues are currently at an all-time high. There is an increasing trend in online ad spending. This development is starting to spill over to the country as evidenced by increasing advertising inquiries in INQ7, according to Lizardo.

Advertisers have something to look forward to in the coming years as INQ7 plans to make some layout changes to allow for more ad spaces without compromising the content and without cluttering the site.

Aside from getting more aggressive in advertising and sales, Prieto set more realistic goals and focused on the revenue targets. “We exercised physical discipline by cutting costs as much as possible and getting everybody to pitch in,” Prieto said.

Prieto made changes when he took over the business in 2001. This is also when the critical success factors were introduced.

First of which was the long-term organizational viability of the company.

“Before, we used to think that our parent companies should always support us,” Prieto said. “We are happy to say that this year we are close to breaking even.”

According to Prieto, the biggest change made so far was making everybody (the team of INQ7) realize the critical importance of their end goal in terms of financial goals.

“As soon as everybody realize that we have to work as a team to get to our goals, and we’re financially stable eventually, then that’s when they started to see the big picture,” he said.

This year will also see INQ7 jumping in the bandwagon of wireless technology.

Prieto is very optimistic of the emerging dominance of the Internet. He cites the whole experience of being able to get the breaking news stories in real time.

“When you read INQ7, you have the feel of being in touch with what’s happening around you,” he said.

He believes that the World Wide Web and the information technology in general is a growing market.

“I can see a future with people accessing us (INQ7) through cellphone regularly,” Prieto said.

He also cited, the advantage an Internet business has over regular business because “we have an industry that is already growing and is promising to have a bigger impact on the future.”