IN A span of more than two decades, I had person-to-person meetings with Joseph Gaisano, businessman and civic leader, only a few times in each year, mostly in a SunStar social function or business meeting.
Our interaction had been limited to swapping a few words in such meetings and at times in an occasional phone call. Each Chinese New Year he’d send, with unfailing regularity, a year cake (“nian gao”?). And every Christmas or his birthday, I’d give him a coffee-table book on photos of old China.
What they want, need
Our talks were few and far between and always abbreviated. The one thought he shared with me and I remember to this day took two chats on as many occasions. And it was about retailing goods and producing a newspaper. I was then Sun.Star’s editor-in-chief.
He said something like this: As editor, you decide what to put in the paper. As store owner, I decide what I put on the shelves. (He and the Gaisano clan run super stores and malls all over.)
Yes, I said. It’s about content. An editor decides on the basis of what readers want and what readers need.
He left it at that until a long while later, in another short chat. He said, the editor’s work is more difficult. How’s that so? I asked, briefly stumped before I recalled his comparison of newspaper editing to filling up store shelves.
He said, stores sales tell us what people want. Easier for us retailers. But you editors have to know what readers want and what they need. You must have (the) right balance, (the) right mix. And you don’t have data for that, only your experience, your gut. Difficult, he repeated.
We hadn’t met again. We could no longer pick up our talk on retailing and newspapering. Joseph Gaisano died last Wednesday, June 7. He was 76.
I could’ve told him about the current situation in newspapers. Content is more crucial than ever but there’s the dilemma about using the present platform or mode of delivery. With digital methods that provide news, opinion and information whenever and wherever the consumer wants, newspapers are hobbled by a 24-hour cycle and rigid format. Yet newspapers can be relied on more than ever, amid the glut of bogus news and superficial information. But how can delivery of the newspaper be modified to keep pace with new technology and fresh demands of consumers? Can audiences be segmented as media used to niche them before?
A discussion he would’ve related to.
And in return maybe he could’ve told me about the growth of online retailing that may threaten malls and other brick-and-mortar shopping centers. Digital orders and direct deliveries could make buying at store sites a hassle. Digital retailing cuts down labor cost, space expense and other requirements of on-site marketing, even as the new method still hews to the retail industry’s basic concept: buy or store in bulk and sell in singles.
And that would’ve made us sit down and talk a bit longer than usual.