Online innovations make Sun.Star future-proof

WHEN it comes to taking community newspapers to the next level, Sun.Star never fails to exceed expectations.

The media company based in Cebu City has been keeping up with the times to remain relevant and useful amid the rapidly-changing digital landscape. It has undertaken innovative efforts to match the profound and positive changes in the industry - proof of this is www.sunstar.com.ph, whose design has gone from being fixed to responsive, providing an optimal viewing experience for mobile users.

Sun.Star is also excited to introduce its newest mobile application that will serve its readers, advertisers, and community.

As Sun.Star Network Exchange (Sunnex) editor-in-chief Nini Cabaero puts it, the trick is to be up to the challenge. "These innovations make us future-proof." As the whole media landscape changes, Sun.Star digs into its core competence - community journalism - as it ventures into digital territory.

New web design

Sun.Star is the first Philippine community newspaper company to go online. It started as a Sun.Star Cebu website, then was converted into a network website at the same URL, www.sunstar.com.ph, on May 10, 2000, through Sunnex, new media department of the Sun.Star Publishing Inc.

Francis June Ygot, Sunnex web technology officer, said the website must adapt to new digital trends and should embody the latest technologies that not only matter to the business but also to its readers and subscribers.

The Sun.Star website underwent three major design modifications in 2015 alone, transforming it into a more user-friendly layout. The website aims to achieve an optimal user experience that the design was simplified and it is now easier to navigate.

"The bigger job is to keep it updated and maintained," Ygot said. "Constant technical supervision plays a very important role in the execution of the company's mission. This would definitely help increase web presence."

Fresh materials added regularly to the website, accompanied by live streaming of events and video reporting of breaking news, also help increase online performance.

Mobile platform

Sun.Star's commitment to providing the public with news and information at whatever platform leads to the birth of its own dedicated mobile application aptly called, My Sun.Star.

In her one-year fellowship at Harvard University in 2013 - 2014 to study journalism innovations, Cabaero said she found a clear direction to come up with a mobile application separate from the website.

"People spend more time on their mobile devices to look for what is relevant to their daily lives. They would prefer to go to one application to serve them what they want. They do not want the online clutter; they want what is only relevant to them," Cabaero said. Thus, My Sun.Star was added to the Sun.Star family.

Sun.Star understands the need to move toward a greater newspaper reinvention in order to remain ahead of the game. The launch of My Sun.Star shows that the publication is fearless to push its brand on a different platform accomplished with an innovative and forward-thinking approach.

Sun.Star is following closely the mobile trend path to keep abreast of the complex and evolving mobile community. The poet Robert Frost called it "the road not taken." A trek solely for the independent, brave and courageous.

Mobile mindset

But an effective mobile application involves more than just a mobile-friendly strategy. To ensure its mobile presence, it should also understand the mobile mindset of consumers. My Sun.Star addresses the need for content, form and structure different from its website and responsive mobile site.

My Sun.Star will have a daily summary of the news around the nation in its News Bits section. Content will be personalized, based on the reader's preference. Services not available on the website will be introduced on the mobile application.

The mobile application also offers services like Properties, Jobs, Lotto and Obituaries.

"Content on the website may be used on the mobile application, but not everything on the mobile application may be used on the website," Cabaero said.

My Sun.Star, available on the Google Play and Apple store, covers the most important stories from Sun.Star newspapers and networks in 12 major cities around the country. These are Manila, Baguio, Pampanga and Pangasinan in Luzon; Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Dumaguete, and Tacloban in the Visayas; and Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga in Mindanao.

News and information are in English and Bisaya.

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