THERE’S no ‘resting on his laurels,’ so to speak for Abe Olandres founder of news and reviews website YugaTech despite currently earning 300,000 subscribers on their YouTube page, a little over 300,000 followers on Facebook and over a million visitors on their website.
“Who knows what’s the next best thing. Who knows what’s exciting and what’s not. Who knows what’s new and what should be prioritized,” says Abe also known by his username “Yuga,” as if still chasing for that elusive dream. Although YugaTech has been soaring to new heights in the digital world, Abe had to work his way up from a humble 12 square meter bedroom where he started blogging way back in 2002 using the turtle-paced ‘dial-up’ internet and just devoting an hour per day just to fill blog content. He recalls that the internet was still in its “infancy” then.
There were limited sources such as Tsinoy.Com and Pinoy Central.Com and these sites would only update at 12 midnight. “It still feels like a newspaper,” Abe said. It was then that he had an epiphany saying “I thought to myself that there must be a new way to consume content.” And since he cannot look for an alternative, he toyed with the idea why not just start on his own via blogging.
He started blogging in 2002, only to do it full time in 2014. He then became his own consumer. When he started his blog, he just shared it first with ten people. “Just to share my thoughts and share discoveries with people who are like minded,” he said. Abe confessed that he does not like writing and even flunked the subject at high school in Ateneo. This forced him to polish his English via a website. But writing became a habit until it was his life’s cycle. And his idol-writers Ellen Tordesillas and Manuel Quezon III continued to fuel and sustain his passion for it. During those times, the phrase “agent of change” was still alien to him. But little did he know that deviating from the traditional way of content distribution, he was slowly “changing the norm.”
He then shares his lessons. “What I learned in the digital age, with a digital crowd is that you have to take it from the “bottom up.” And everyone in the team needs to listen to our audience what they want, what they are expecting to read and what they most desire.” “Social listening is a huge tool for us. Understanding what people want and what is most relevant to our audience is. What should be published first and not exclusives.”
“So, our formula there is listen, engage with our readers, and iterate in all platforms.” “I have to understand that content would always be king. With the advent of Google, search is queen and then much later on when Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter came, social media is the Knight on Shining Armor.” Being the rolling stone that he is, Abe did not want to gather moss, so to speak.
So, when he encountered YouTube, he decided to do the “shift.” “It’s YouTube or bust,” he said. Although he cringed the idea of showing himself on video, he eventually “gave in to the inevitable” showing a video clip personally guiding his viewers to their newly refurbished headquarters complete with his team and the equipments they use for their production. Because of YouTube, he had to step out of his comfort zone learning various softwares on editing while half of his team transitioned to doing videos for YouTube.
He added that the traditional distribution of content has greatly changed. Gone was the “long form” and people just wanted to consume “bite-size” content. “People want “snacking,” he said. At present, Abe’s YugaTech still stands at the crossroads. “We do not stop from there. We always question our processes, our editorial guidelines, we question our decision on making what stories or which platform to prioritize. It is hard to base where you go next year.
It is always our motto to innovate or someone else will.” After 17 years, now with 12 full time and three part time employees and perched on a spruced up 120 square meter studio in Bangkal, Makati, for YugaTech’s Abe the search still continues for the “next best thing” and this wide expanse of the digital landscape is just waiting to be discovered. (By Giovanni A. Flaviano. Photo taken using an IPhone 11 series courtesy of Globe Telecom)