DML Bogotá: Transformation, engagement and new tools

During the second day of Digital Media Latinoamérica speakers discussed transforming traditional media, increasing audience engagement and new digital tools for journalists as well as copyright issues.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | November 1, 2013

The dual transformation of Deseret News

Clark Gilbert, who runs the Deseret News in the U.S., said that only those companies that have completely split the digital operations and news operations have been successful.

The logic of a disruptive business is always at odds with the logic of a legacy business.  One hundred percent of those media companies who have captured 40 percent or more of local internet advertising, have split their operations. “The harder we try to protect the newspaper, the more likely we miss the future.”

He insists on separate locations for digital media. It’s dual transformation, transforming the legacy business and changing the disruptive, new business. The major change they had to face was reducing costs in the news operation – they did it once, slashing costs by 40 percent.

“It was the worst six months of my life,” Gilbert said, but they did it once and have not had to do it again. Other newsrooms, he said, have made smaller cuts every year, so devastating morale.

Regarding digital media, Gilbert said it was crucial that they hire outside of the newspaper world, “you need new DNA.” The digital team produces quizzes, lists, they curate media from the Internet, and websites, such as one of the fastest growing movie review sites. “If I asked my newsroom to do that, none of it would have happened,” he said.

And all of these new products draw users to read more on the newspapers website. “People don’t buy newspapers just for journalism – it’s a dirty little secret of journalism,” in the old days people would buy the paper for coupons, or various other reasons.

Gilbert said the best path was to select a limited number of issues or topics and focus on them and be the best at covering them – editors should forget trying to cover everything. “If you’re not the best, you’re a click away from something better.”

The issues they selected were focused on family values and the community. “We know these beats better than anyone,” he said. The Deseret News launched a national paper, and it’s now the fastest growing national paper in the U.S.

He also stressed the need to create a separate digital ad sales team. “We don’t allow any of our legacy sellers to sell digital,” he said.

Integrating print and digital in Brazil, Argentina

In a discussion, Marcelo Rech, the Executive Director of Journalism for Brazil’s Grupo RBS, talked of their experiences. “Between 2000 and 2007, our old business and digital media was separate, but since 2007 they have been integrated again,” he said.

He said each company had to look at its special circumstances; the environment it works in and the company itself when it comes to deciding whether to integrate or keep separate.

Gastón Roitberg, who heads the multimedia department of Argentina’s La Nacion, said they have had success merging the commercial side, mixing the newspaper and digital media sellers. One problem of having integrated departments is people who apply to work in the digital side, but who dream of working their way in to the newspaper – they can end up a bad employees.

Ken Doctor asked if any of them were doing enough development in mobile, the next big disruption. He argued that newspapers look like they’ll be left behind by the wave of mobile, like they were by the arrival of digital media. “I talk to editors and they still say there’s not enough money in mobile advertising to make it worth focusing on. Yet Google already owns 51 percent of the mobile market. Does this sound familiar?”

Facebook and Google have been smart in how they’ve used mobile ads, as the ads are more integrated, which is important given the small size of mobile screens.

Keep up with the new rhythm of the digital consumer

Sergio Maria, Director of Google’s strategic partnerships for Latin America, took to the stage to discuss the new rules of engagement.

“We need you to produce trusted content so the web can work,” he said, and added: “The pace of change will not slow down, what will change will probably happen faster than what has so far happened.”

Brands are acting as publishers, offering unique experiences to consumers wherever they are. He gave the example of a Brazilian food company that made their own funny videos in a big campaign, which took their videos from 6,000 views to more than a million.

“It doesn’t need to be perfectly produced – content is and will be king,” Maria said.

Last year, Google released Engaging Ads. These ads expand and are interactive, but the user must hover over the ad to start the experience.

Google believes “There’s no offline.” Four-fifths of smartphone users, use their phone as they watch television. A record was set last year, when during a showing of “Castle in the Sky” in Japan, 143,999 tweets were sent in one second.

All content must be made personal. It’s the process of turning users in to members. Customers are telling you what they like, and they want you to factor that in when publishers are producing content.

Programmatic is used to deliver personal messages in real time wherever the user is. This is already being used by advertisers but can also be used for content, too.

If content is king, data is queen, Maria said. Programmatic works by registering a search, then delivering a message alerting the user to various nearby options. It’s important to use location data, so the advertiser has a better idea of what the person may need – no good offering warm clothes if the person is already located in the Bahamas.

Publishers must be ready for cultural moments – how many views came to sports and news websites the moment Colombia finally qualified for the World Cup after 16 years

Programmatic will power 33 percent of all display ads by 2017, Maria said.

Boosting video content in Argentina

Dario D’Atri, Chief Editor of Strategies and New Platforms for Argentina’s Clarin, said the media group launched its major video channel for the World Cup in 2010, when there was tremendous appetite for video and content.

They developed a fictional web series, which was a huge hit on social media and watched some 3 million times. It also allowed for sponsorship, something that made the production possible.

The website has also been hosting live transmissions of major political and cultural events, be it elections or concerts. These live transmissions also allow for more sponsorship. They did 15 in 2012 – but by this July, they’d already done 14 for the year. They also created a youth focused channel, called

New forms to connect with the audience

Matthew Sanders, General Manger of Deseret’s Digital Publisher Solutions Group, began with the central question of his work – how can you get to new audiences offering content which meets their needs?

The Desert News selected a number of issues that were important to them and felt were under-covered in the media; issues focusing on the family, community and religion. These issues, which connect with about 56 percent of Americans, they found were not covered adequately.

“We call that a gap in the market,” Sanders said.

By focusing on these issues, Deseret News has moved from being a local news source to being a national media source.

They’ve expanded by starting websites that share these values, registering the word “family” .com in 100 different languages. These websites have been hugely successful. While the Deseret News has 100,000 fans on Facebook, I love my family has 5 million fans. And they regularly publish news articles on these fan pages.

The value of sharing

Doree Shafrir, Executive Editor of BuzzFeed, discussed the incredible growth of her site. It has 80 million uniqe visitors. Three quarters of its visitors come from social traffic, half are from mobile. A majority of their users are aged between 18 and 34.

They’ve also carved out their niche, aiming squarely at the “bored-at-work” demographic, office workers looking for something interesting. This demographic is bigger than BBC, CNN or any traditional media.

Now with mobile, they’re looking at “bored in line” or “bored while waiting” demographic. This is why mobile is now crucial.

While others praise content, Shafrir reminded the audience that for BuzzFeed the distribution strategy is as important as the idea itself.

“We think about how the story will be spread, on what social media will it be successful, who will spread it. If the writer of a piece hasn’t thought about this, we send them back to the drawing board.”

They analyse every article, looking for how the article was seen, whether on the homepage or via social media. They don’t like articles that are mainly seen on the homepage.

“It means they aren’t being shared,” Shafrir said.

They’ve found articles that have deceptive headlines are rarely shared, so they try to have honest headlines. Their biggest source of traffic is Facebook, but they are putting resources to boost their presence on twitter.

They have also found there are two types of people who come to their homepage: “supersharers” who are looking for that thing to pass around on their social media pages. And they also see spikes when a big news event occurs.

BuzzFeed is confused by the controversy they inspire in the older media. Newspapers have always run lighter content, be it horoscopes or advice columns next to harder news pieces.

People are complex, said Shafrir, they want pictures of funny pictures of basset hounds running as well as hard investigations. “Publishing is now like a Paris café,” she said. You can be reading philosophy then look over at the cute dog, but then return to reading your philosophy.

BuzzFeed is also producing content in Spanish, Portuguese and French via the Duolingo App.

“Social is a way of thinking, not a trick,” she said. You can’t trick someone in to sharing something. What people do want to share is content with a heart, things that reflect their identity, humour and human rights issues. People won’t share things that make them look bad.

Social networks: New tools, but the same mission

Roberto Dias, Digital Platforms Manager of Brazil’s Folha, explained how the newspaper had covered the country’s biggest protests in years. “The protests forced journalists to innovate,” he said.

Folha deployed a drone to get video of the protests from above and send journalists out to cover the protests live with Google Glass.

While amateur reporters received a lot of initial coverage, the most tweeted coverage came from the professional media. Because of the demand for news, they saw a record subscriptions over three months, subscriptions rising 50 percent on the previous month.

Innovative digital narratives

Gastón Roitberg, head of multimedia for Argentina’s La Nacion, described how in a way to attract new audiences the paper has launched a number of data journalism projects.

“We aim to make Argentina more transparent,’’ said Roitberg. In Argentina, where much of government data remains on paper or PDF copies, “the biggest enemy to a data journalist is a PDF file,” because of how difficult it is to download the data.

The project’s goals are to build apps for citizens so they can help in the work, find the story behind the public data, make changes in information available in Argentina and challenge the status quo.

Among some of the big data projects they’ve started are a review of the senate’s expenses and how the government covered up the number of deaths from severe flooding.

Crucially, they’ve established partnerships with interest groups to help sift through the data. The aim of a successful data project should be to take reams of unmanageable pieces of information and present it in an easily understandable and attractive form.

Google, Facebook and intellectual property

Ana Busch detailed how Internet traffic is concentrated in four multinationals – Google (Brazil), Facebook, Google and YouTube. The Brazilian papers’ position is that newsrooms should be investing in good journalism and monetising and protecting their content.

They believe Google News is “an inappropriate use of their intellectual property, without proper monetary compensation.” Without an agreement with Google, Brazilian newspapers progressively withdrew their contributions until finally abstaining from participating in Google News at all.

The newspapers have also rejected Apple’s Newstand because the app would take 30 percent and, more importantly, would hoard all customer data, something that might not be legal. One news organisation, O Globo, has also withdrawn from Facebook, which they claim has had little effect on their traffic.

Florian Nehm, Chief of Corporate Sustainability for Germany’s Axel Springer, applauded the Brazilian move. “We are filled with admiration for their energy and taking this decision.” He said it was vital that old copyright laws be amended to address the new realities of the digital age.

Editors in Poland, Spain and Italy are trying to enact new laws on copyright, but sometimes that can be a slow process. “The individualistic spirit of this fantastic industry means that coming together can be slow.”

Six key take-away points from Digital Media Latinoamérica

WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyrègne summed up the conference with these six conclusions:

1) The audience is huge, so there are massive revenue opportunities.

2) Don’t fear charging as long as you are relevant. Use resources to produce unique unmissable content.

3) Convergence has transcended the newsroom. Take advantage of the massive interest in tablets.

4) Organisation is secondary, the audience is first. Engage with communities.

5) From users to readers to subscribers to members. We are not in the news business, we are building communities.

6) Mobile is changing the rules of the game. Mobile is very competitive.

See more content and comments from the conference on Twitter, under hashtag #DML13.

Reported by Toby Muse.

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