MANILA -- Summit Media, the publisher of popular magazine titles in the Philippines, is going full-digital in the latest blow to the print media industry.
The company late last week announced it was folding its six remaining print titles, completing an all-digital transformation that began a few years ago.
Summit Media is owned by the Gokongwei family, which also controls JG Summit Holdings, a food and beverage, airline, and real estate conglomerate.
It is the first major Philippine publisher founded in print to make such a move, which comes on the back of a growing presence online. Summit Media has 20 million unique monthly users visiting its 15 websites -- including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Entrepreneur -- while its social media platforms are followed by 33 million users, the company said.
"Today, we embrace the way our highly connected audiences now prefer to consume content," President Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng said on April 11.
"As we follow them from print to digital, we will continue our relentless pursuit and delivery of quality, up-to-the minute content and a dynamic and engaging editorial experience -- this time aided by data, which now pervades and informs many of our editorial decisions," she said.
Broadcaster ABS-CBN, which has a publishing unit, has reduced its print titles to four from more than a dozen during its peak.
Summit Media, which focuses on lifestyle publications, has countered the trend of Philippine newspapers, which have seen their revenues and earnings plunge in recent years. The company's net income rose 26.3% to 127.9 million pesos ($2.5 million) in 2015 from 101.3 million pesos in 2012, according to the most-recent available data from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Advertising revenue rose 39% to 930.8 million pesos from 669.4 million pesos over the same period, while revenue from circulation fell 18.7% to 396.5 million pesos from 487.7 million pesos, suggesting that online ads may have provided a boost to advertising revenue.
The development is a "bad omen" for the Philippine print media industry, according to Nestor Cuartero, a veteran newspaper editor and former coordinator for the journalism program at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
"We used to look at this development from a distance, happening only on foreign shores, until it hit so close to home," Cuartero said. "Summit Media's closure of all its magazines in print sends a chilling signal to the rest of us in the so-called traditional media."
"We used to think the digital wave is still light years away to be able to affect the local print media. And now, this," he added.
Summit's move reflects a wider upheaval in the media industry as more readers consume content online than in print, resulting in a decline in traditional advertising revenue. PwC, a global consultancy, estimates total newspaper advertising revenue in the world is poised to lose roughly $23.8 billion from 2012 to 2021.
Across Asia, the print media industry is also facing challenges. In 2015, the Jakarta Globe ceased its print operations, while the following year Singapore Press Holdings, the publisher of The Straits Times, said it would trim its workforce by 10% in the face of shrinking circulation.
Meanwhile, the increasingly challenging economics of the newspaper industry has been exacerbated by politics in the region and the growing animosity between the press and governments.
Last year, owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the influential newspaper that had been publicly blasted by President Rodrigo Duterte for its coverage of him, agreed to sell the paper to tycoon Ramon Ang, a friend of Duterte. The deal has yet to be finalized.
The Cambodia Daily, meanwhile, was forced to fold after being slapped with tax evasion by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.