We’re taking a break – here’s what we have achieved since 2012

Vanuatu Digest logo

Vanuatu Digest is taking a break while we reconsider our future plans. We’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you and to look back at what we’ve achieved since we began publishing in July 2012.

First of all, a big thank you to Bob Makin, our principal contributor and one of the founders of this website. Bob has given decades of service to the people of Vanuatu. His long experience as a journalist in Vanuatu is one of the reasons why Vanuatu Digest has been successful. Many of you know this website informally as ‘Bob’s Blog’, a testament in itself to Bob Makin’s work. We wish Bob the best for the next step of his journey and hope that he isn’t away from us for too long.

And a big thank you also to you, our readers – and of course to our many contributors, advisors, and commenters over the years who have made Vanuatu Digest an interesting read.



This is also a great opportunity to take stock of Vanuatu Digest’s five-year history.

Bob Makin began his ‘Daily Digest’ of Vanuatu news back in 2011, sending it out via email to a hundred or so recipients daily. In 2012 I suggested to him that a blog format might be more suitable, would reach a wider audience, and be easier to self-manage, and so this website was set up on wordpress.com in July 2012, to automate the publishing process for Bob as fully as possible.

Bob’s idea was to provide a summary in English of the day’s Vanuatu news, drawing on newspapers, radio and other online sources, while offering his own unique take as well. This proved to be a winning formula – within a year, 3,000 people had subscribed.

Nick Howlett, Editor of vanuatudigest.com

Nick Howlett, Editor of vanuatudigest.com

I became involved again in 2016 as editor and helped triple the website’s readership by providing additional editorial direction, by bringing in Vanuatu-related content from other contributors, and by improving the website’s presence on social media.

Today, an average of 9,000 people read our posts on the website, on email, on Facebook and Twitter daily. Not bad for a small Vanuatu online publication promoted only through word of mouth!



To date, we have published 1,880 posts since 2012, and these have had over 865,000 page views over that time; that’s almost 500 page views per day.

Clearly, demand exists for online news about our country. This is especially true locally – our Vanuatu readers constitute the largest single part of our audience, one-third of our total readership on average.

We also have a significant readership in countries where Ni-Vanuatu people live, work and study, though exactly how many other Ni-Vanuatu readers we have outside of the country is hard to know.

50% of our audience comes from Vanuatu’s major tourism markets, while the rest are located mostly in the UK and France (the colonial powers of the New Hebrides) or Vanuatu’s trading partners. Over time, we’ve managed to find readers in 231 countries and territories – every place on Earth except for Djibouti, Iceland, and Niger!

When we started as Vanuatu Daily Digest, we were the only Vanuatu news publication online other than the national newspaper. We were a pioneer in Vanuatu’s online news space with our daily news summaries.

Our subscriber list reflects this: it shows that we are read by key influencers in Vanuatu, regional leaders, international donors, diplomats and regional media such as RNZI and Radio Australia.

The digital news space in Vanuatu has evolved greatly since 2012. The national daily newspaper has picked up its online game; several other online news sources have opened (and shut), with varying degrees of success (and notably, of quality).

Demand for our news service has continued to grow, however, albeit at a slower pace; underserved Vanuatu news platforms like Twitter have been growing especially quickly, and we have also identified other untapped areas where we could grow our audience.

Ironically, just weeks before Bob decided to end his involvement and we took the decision to take a break, we had our busiest ever period: during the Ambae volcano evacuation, we peaked at almost 11,000 page views, serving almost 9,000 unique visitors per day.

I’m very proud of the role the Vanuatu Digest has played during natural disasters such as this, getting Vanuatu’s message out to the world. Our website has helped to focus attention on our country when it has been most needed.

As an editor, however, what I’m most proud of the role Vanuatu Digest has played in improving access to quality information, and how the publication has contributed to lifting the level of political and social debate. We didn’t always get it right – that’s a task that no publication can do 100% of the time. But as digital news pioneers, we were able to shine a light into some of Vanuatu’s dark places – giving international publicity to news that was previously only locally known. Vanuatu is better off today because of this contribution.

For a free publication, produced on a voluntary basis, I believe we punched well above our weight, and it appears our audience agrees – here’s the list of our 25 most popular posts from the last five years:

1 Breaking news: Vanuatu Govt orders evacuation of entire 11,100 population of Ambae
2 [UPDATED] Unofficial election results: record number of independents; Bohn, Lini, Boedoro get the boot
3 Zika virus outbreak possible in Vanuatu, says WHO
4 Easier travel between Vanuatu and Russia as visa waiver agreement comes into effect
5 Ambae volcano: Vanuatu Government declares State of Emergency
6 Cyclone update: Tatiana to the left of us, Winston to the right
7 70% of Ambae’s population forced to evacuate following volcanic eruption
8 Vanuatu youth leader receives Queen’s Young Leader Award at Buckingham Palace
9 Get lost in paradise with Miss Vanuatu, Valérie Martinez 
10 Unofficial party tally – 2016 General Election
11 Did this Vanuatu ‘zombie director’ really broker a North Korean arms deal?
12 Would you like to swap lives with someone from the UK for two weeks, all expenses paid?
13 Drugs, arms, racketeering: the dark side of Vanuatu’s tax haven
14 Breaking news: US military team recovers remains of WW2 airmen in Santo
15 Pascal Anh Quan Saken’s CV
16 Official results – 2016 Vanuatu General Election
17 A new Muslim in the Pacific : Islam in Vanuatu
18 Air New Zealand, Qantas suspend all flights to Port Vila
19 US model fined Vt 70,000 for obstructing officials on board Phocea
20 Vanuatu’s forgotten people
21 Ambae volcano’s crater lakes make it a serious threat to Vanuatu
22 How did Vanuatu, reliant on tourism, fail to maintain its main international runway?
23 Drug bust on Tanna; Earthquake, tsunami and potential cyclone (!) danger passes; Visa-free visits to NC; VBTC money goes walkabout
24 New Zealand Air Force survey flight gathers valuable data on Ambae volcano
25 Pascal Anh Quan a.k.a. Vu Anh Kuan a.k.a. Ahn Quan Saken


The future

The Vanuatu Digest team is currently investigating options to make operating the website financially viable, and we hope to resume publishing again in the near future.

But for now, we will be taking a break from publishing our website, our Facebook page and our Twitter account. Everything will stay online, but will be updated only infrequently. Make sure to stay subscribed so you don’t miss out when we start up again.

In the meantime, please email me on info@vanuatudigest.com should you have any queries, reminisces, ideas – or indeed, any offers of support!


Tankyu bikwan yufala evriwan,
Nick Howlett


Au revoir from Bob Makin

Bob Makin

An announcement from Vanuatu Digest’s main contributor Bob Makin:

“I am finishing up here until further notice.”

“My future plans with Vanuatu Digest are on hold owing to temporary or more permanent relocation. I know that the Vanuatu Digest is appreciated by those who love Vanuatu and I regret having to end my involvement for that reason more than any other.”

“Thank you for having stayed with us since July 2012.”

—Bob Makin

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