PPI News Commons Launch – Chairman’s speech

Good afternoon. Lovely to see you all and welcome to these PPI twin events of project launch and press awards. They are the highlights of today’s program that we are hoping you will find both exciting and inspiring. But allow me to digress a bit to mark an equally important milestone in the course of our journey with PPI: That of our coming full circle and back to where we left off about three and a half years ago.

I still vividly recall the first time I stood before you on a similar occasion as today but in a different venue. It was my official introduction to the PPI family with what back then was a sea of unfamiliar but friendly faces. But any anxiety I felt simply vanished in the warm reception of the moment. Shortly thereafter the pandemic disrupted things and ended the customary face-to-face gatherings. My inaugural appearance at a PPI grand event was my first and last for the next thousand days.

Fast track to the present, with the scourge easing up, relative normalcy returns. We now find ourselves gathered again in person though with a cautious approach. The same exuberance of friendship and goodwill still fills the air. Only now I see more familiar faces with hearty smiles willingly shared across this hall. Indeed, a fitting sort of coming-out occasion after l-o-o-o-n-g months of virtual reality via zoom and other technological wonders. Yes, we are back in the real world of human warmth that can be likened to the coming of a new dawn. And today’s event officially mark that. Thank you all for taking part in this special day.

Now back on the original track of presenting to you a trailblazing PPI project: The PPI NewsCommons. I will not dwell too much on details as most of you are already aware of what we have been working hard
on even while the pandemic was raging. But for those who are hearing this for the first time, I will briefly walk you through the genesis of the project and its path moving forward. A short video on its progress will conclude this presentation.

PPI NewsCommons was borne out of our desire to give a new page to the community press on which they could map out a road in the digital age. We knew then as now what the newspaper industry has been going through since the so-called “new media” have made inroads into the
traditional news zone, a situation exacerbated by the pandemic outbreak. The current economic headwinds swirling around our sector put a lot of pressure on publishers and owners of legacy news outlets on how to carry on and survive well into the future. So, the seed of innovation and creativity came about through a news-sharing digital platform.

How does it work? Simple cooperation and willingness to share news materials are all that is required to keep the platform viable. Active members have the privileged to use materials posted on the website, provided proper credits are given to the original source. This allows them to expand their content and reach in an instant. They can also leverage the wider market base of the platform for advertisements.
And all for free and without impinging on the editorial independence and operational autonomy of individual members. More importantly, revenues generated collectively through the NewsCommons will be shared based on an approved formula by platform members themselves over and above of what they can exclusively raise individually.

For prospective clients and advertisers, here is a one-stop shop for a cost-efficient marketing and sales tool. No need to do a shotgun approach when you can target with bulls-eye precision your markets, demographically and geographically. The NewsCommons has the widest reach by any local media outlets combined, with a network of over 70 community press scattered all over the archipelago. Their annual collective reach in terms of website visits is 45 million and 24 million in terms of Facebook followers. You will see those facts and figures in beautiful graphics later.

So, where are we now after the seed planting? Well, the seed survived the delicate stage of germination and grew to sprout, and has become a small, sturdy plant. But the hardest part of its cycle is just beginning. Will it finally morph into an adult plant? Well, it all depends on how much sunshine and needed care it will get in the process. So it is with the PPI NewsCommons. After today’s launch, it will take literally the whole community of PPI members to move it to success. After all it was
created for you and by you. Take a cue from the positive response of the market this early, an encouraging sign to trust into the platform’s future. The potential is great, limited only by one’s choice.

One last point I would like to make. PPI NewsCommons is not the panacea for all the woes of the community press. We did not intend that to be. Rather, it is one proactive response to the challenges buffeting our industry. It is a simple innovation that can spell a big difference in how we do things to survive in the unforgiving market out there. We cannot just be managing decline. We must invest in our future and retool. The 21st-century is a highly technological society.
The already dizzying pace of scientific and technological advances will certainly be going to be much faster than before. We either be equipped for it or be swept away by the rushing torrent of the future.

Enough from me now. Thank you all. Over to you, Kier.