There is no more social culture than in the Philippines—and there is nothing more social than in videos and videos shared,” shares Julian Persaud, managing director of Google Southeast Asia.

Indeed, Filipinos have embraced the Internet in a truly remarkable way. With at least 30 million Filipinos regularly accessing the Internet to study, shop, search for ideas and opportunities, create new businesses and connect with each other, the Philippines not only has a large number of people going online; more importantly, its online population is growing quite rapidly compared to the rest of Southeast Asia—“And the west,” adds Persaud.

“North America is growing at only three percent, Europe at eight, but the Philippines is growing at a remarkable 16 percent. In fact,” he says, “the Philippine Internet population is larger than the population of many Southeast Asian countries.”

The rise of citizen journalism

The Philippines’ tight embrace of the Internet is nowhere more apparent than in YouTube, an online video sharing community that allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally created videos.

Launched in 2005 and acquired by Google in 2006, YouTube sees over 3 billion video views every day—a number that has grown over a billion from just 2 billion last year. “We see an incredible amount of video uploaded to YouTube every day, with 48 hours of video uploaded every single minute,” reveals Adam Smith, director for Product Management, Google.

YouTube, shares Smith, is also moving away from being a desktop product. “It is now an essential product for everyone on their mobile phones,” he says, pointing out the site currently attracts 400 million views a day on mobile phones alone.

“And particularly here in Asia,” he adds, “which is an area of focus and real area of growth for us, YouTube has become the ultimate democratic form of media.”

Because anyone with a video cam, a web cam or a mobile phone camera can now upload a video for free on the site and connect with potentially millions of people around the world, YouTube has emerged as an important tool for “citizen journalists.”

“We’re now witnessing regular people who find themselves smack in the middle of historic events able to capture these events and broadcast them on YouTube,” Smith shares. “The end result of all this creation is an unbelievable breadth of content.”

“Filipinos have a particular affinity for being world citizens,” adds Persaud, “and for all these reasons, our investment on the Philippines and in Southeast Asia is a long-term initiative.”

Promoting transparent governance

Last October 13, YouTube made its official debut in the Philippines when it launched a localized version of the website. The brand new YouTube Philippines is the online video sharing community’s first localized platform in Southeast Asia.

“Filipinos have consistently made up a very large audience and community on the YouTube platform,” says Smith, adding that Filipinos account for the highest view counts in the Asia Pacific region. “We see tens of millions of views a day from the Philippines, and Filipinos watch over a million hours of videos every day. Those are just amazing, amazing statistics,” he says.

Every time YouTube launches in a given country, it gives opportunities for local users and partners to showcase local content and service popular geographically relevant content.

One prominent addition to YouTube concurrent with the launch will be two updated Presidential channels from His Excellency Benigno Aquino III, namely RTVM and the Official Gazette, both created to make the government more accessible to the Filipinos.

“Through social media, particularly the new RTVM and Official Gazette channels, Filipinos around the world can see and hear their government in action, and just as importantly, use these channels to make their voices heard,” says Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary of Communications Development, Ricky Carandang.

The RTVM channel will be a free accessible means through which Filipinos, or anyone interested in Philippine culture, can watch the President’s public appearances, as well as view archived government media interviews and events that date as far back as 1987.

The Official Gazette, which will be headed by Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III, serves as the main portal for video content for the Philippine government and will feature infomercials and public service announcements from the office of President Aquino.

In addition, President Aquino will also participate in YouTube’s World View, a live interview series that has seen different leaders and luminaries answering questions from people from all over the world.

“Our president will be joining the ranks of U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, all of whom have participated in the series, when he’s interviewed on November 4 this year,” Carandang shares, urging Filipinos to participate in the event by submitting questions to www.youtube.com/worldview. “President Aquino will be the first Asian head of state to do so,” he adds.

Helping build brands

In addition to the Presidential channels, YouTube also forged partnerships with top Filipino media companies like ABS-CBN, GMA Network, Inc., and TV5. Howie Severino, vice president for Multimedia Journalism of GMA and editor-in-chief of GMANews.tv, says the partnership with YouTube was a no-brainer.

“Our network is expanding very rapidly globally and we know that YouTube is in many places that GMA still isn’t. So primarily for us,” he says, “YouTube is a powerful means of extending our brand. In fact, we’re already using YouTube as a way of pulling content in and pushing content out.”

The online platform also provides new applications for business. Chad Sotelo, country marketing manager for Personal Care and Cleansing at Procter & Gamble—which has been in the Philippines for 76 years and playing in 15 categories in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry—shares that the launch of YouTube Philippines enables the company to find new ways to reach and create quality engagement with consumers over and above traditional media.

“Since the advent of digital, and the launch of YouTube, we’re noticing two things,” Sotelo says.

“One is that Filipinos love to talk, and they love to talk back. One of the things we like to say in office is that in the past 76 years, bulk of that time we’ve been speaking to consumers and only in the past four years did we start listening. And for a 76-year relationship where you’ve been speaking 97 percent of the time, the other party would have a lot to say,” he says.

As more and more businesses reach out and engage with Filipinos over YouTube, Sotelo says that companies are finding that consumers have a lot of opinion not only about what a company stands for, but also about its products and what it tries to talk about.

“With the advent of YouTube Philippines, we are simply amazed by the creativity this brings to life. We’re very excited to see what Athings we can do with YouTube for all our brands in this country, and how else we can further create an engaged relationship with our consumers,” Sotelo shares.

YouTube’s localized launch also means revenue for local content providers, spelling income opportunities for local musicians, independent filmmakers and artists on top of global exposure. Revenue will be generated when advertisements are displayed against YouTube’s partner’s videos.

“Reaching an agreement with YouTube is a step forward that creates opportunities for artists, one of which is receiving fair payment for the use of their works on YouTube,” affirms Debbie Gaite, general manager of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Francis “Brew” Reyes, co-founder of PinoyTuner.com shares Gaite’s enthusiasm. “I don’t think I have to explain how massive an impact partnering with YouTube will have on our community,” says Reyes.

Published in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin, October 24, 2011

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