Column: Multiply Kapatiran

Published on June 24, 2008

I attend business forums with the same readiness I answer invitations to political conferences; it is one way to keep up with trends in both market and state.

Last week’s World Marketing Conference (naturally enough, a pioneering initiative by the Philippines, which is really quite good at this sort of thing) will be remembered not only for being the first of its kind but also for hosting the founder of Multiply, the rapidly growing social networking site.

Peter Pezaris wowed the young crowd who showed up at the brand-new SMX convention hall, not least by avidly posing for pictures. He described Filipinos as “a very warm people,” and noted, not entirely out of topic: “Boy, do they like to take pictures!”

The Filipino’s gregariousness is a big part of Multiply’s “incredibly thrilling ride.” Of the network’s 9 million subscribers, some 2.2 million are from the Philippines. (It is the country’s second-biggest social network, after the much older Friendster.)

In comparison with Facebook and MySpace, the two biggest social networking sites in the world, Multiply is still a small player. Steve Garton, Global Research Head of Synovate, offered a not-unfamiliar comparison. “If MySpace were a country, it would be the sixth biggest in the world.” That is somewhere between Pakistan and Bangladesh, and considerably more dense than the Philippines, which is the 12th most populous country.

Garton could have said the same thing about Facebook, because the news last week said that Facebook (in which Microsoft has a small investment) had overtaken MySpace (which Rupert Murdoch bought, famously, only a few years ago).

But Multiply’s numbers are nothing to sneeze at: almost a billion page views in the most recent month, over 17 million “unique visitors” per month. By that last measure, Multiply would be in striking distance of, say, Australia.

Pezaris was in the Philippines to launch Multiply Philippines, which he explained to me was essentially a business partnership with the ABS-CBN network. This seems to me to be a tweaking of the business model that Multiply has used in the last four years—that, and a leap of faith, that it won’t suffer the fate of Friendster.

A 2007 Inc. Magazine feature on what went wrong with Friendster lays part of the blame on an extraordinary twist in the online network’s fortunes: Many of its subscribers turned out to be Filipino.

“From a business standpoint, the revelation was devastating. Friendster, it turned out, was paying millions of dollars a year to attract eyeballs that were effectively worthless to its advertisers.”

Pezaris’ visit tells us the venture capitalists now see the problem as an opportunity.

* * *

I always look forward to discussions with Nandy Pacheco, founder of the political party Kapatiran, because his ebullience and his luminous sincerity sweep most everything away, including one’s cynicism about politics and Christian commitment.

But I must admit that questions of practice often stumped us. In politics, I am both a moralist and a complete Bismarckian. In the end I worry about what can be done; politics, as Bismarck remarked over 140 years ago, is “the art of the possible, the attainable, the art of the next best.”

My last discussion with him, however, has provoked me to offer some tentative suggestions about how to multiply the impact of his Christian political party, Kapatiran.

What follows is a modest proposal.

* * *

The crux of the matter: Convert Kapatiran into a parish-based political party.

There will be resistance, not least from bishops and priests who will either be scandalized by the mere presence of a partisan political organization among the lay ministers and the Mother Butler Guilds, or paralyzed by diffidence. But I think we will also find a readiness to participate, especially among the engaged laity. Kapatiran’s prospective base consists of the hundreds of thousands of parishioners who signed up for Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting or Namfrel duty— and now want to take the next step.

It will help that Kapatiran, inspired by the Second Plenary Council of 1990-1991, owes its existence to the Church itself. It can reduce its core principles—its party line, so to speak—into a small handful, including the commitment to fight what the late Pope called the contraceptive mentality and the pledge to do away with the pork barrel.

It should design a short, easy-to-replicate formation program—running two days at the most, with a one-day condensed version for use when necessary. To save on costs, it must set up a simple website, where the important documents are easy to access and even easier to print out. Not least, it must insist that party members fund the party, through modest regular donations or (as in the triumphant example of “Among” Ed Panlilio) by donating services as needed.

If a hundred parishes can host thriving chapters, of maybe 50 to 100 members each, by January 2010, Kapatiran may yet reach critical mass in time to make a difference in the May elections.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Column: Multiply Kapatiran

  1. World Marketing Conference should also be held in Pakistan.

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