La Nación, one of Argentina’s leading newspapers, has been on a journey of constant transformation during the five years that Editor-in-Chief José del Rio has been at the helm. Driven by a digital-first and data-driven strategy, it has maintained strong emphasis on deep, investigative content.
With this approach, the newspaper has bagged a range of regional and global awards and is a regular winner in WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media LATAM Awards, including, in 2022, first place in the category Best Digital Journalism Project.
For Del Rio, his tenure has been characterised by a lot of change, both driven by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as internally.
“These five years have been even more turbulent than previous years,” said del Rio, who will also be speaking at WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress, taking place from 28 to 30 of September in Zaragoza, Spain.
La Nación has invested heavily in visualisations and digital storytelling, and is experimenting with new verticals and content series, driven by user needs. There is also strong emphasis on subscriptions, with subscriber numbers now close to 400,000.
In conversation with WAN-IFRA, Del Rio talked about learnings from the pandemic, current projects and the future evolution of the newsroom.
WAN-IFRA: What are you most proud of since taking up your position?
José del Rio: It’s an honour to work in this position, surrounded by such a talented team. I have 357 journalists and each one is passionate about news, passionate about investigation and information. During these five years of management, everything has changed a lot. First, because we had to go through the pandemic, but above all because we have changed a lot in the way we operate.
We incorporated very strong areas within the newsroom, such as data, a new area focused on subscribers and one that relates to conversational journalism. Our work on visualisations has also evolved a lot.
The pandemic was a learning experience, showing us that we could do things differently, that we could work differently. It also made us value in-person teamwork. Before, you took it for granted in your routine, it wasn’t something you valued the way you do today.
Are you creating and hiring new roles in the newsroom or are there certain teams or projects that you are investing more in now?
Yes, we have invested a lot in visualisation and digital storytelling. There is a new digital art team and they are aiming to tell stories in an increasingly innovative and disruptive way.
We have also invested in new verticals, including one about wellness, with proactive life stories that cover everything related to health, self-care, and nutrition.
We also created another new story team, which is not a team that exists as a section in the print edition, but a digital one. Every day you have between three to five new and fresh stories. A whole series of new content was created exclusively for subscribers. The strategy was not to put something we had already published behind the paywall. Instead, everything that was to go behind the paywall would be new content and new series.
How does audience data factor into editorial decisions?
We have always had data teams but today we have a cross-company data team – a data team that gives us inputs to work with – and a data team within the newsroom led by journalists. What is interesting about this is that they use journalistic judgement to sort out what is important and what is not. Once they detect what is important, new information dashboards are generated. For example, we now have a real time subscription dashboard that allows you to see who is subscribing to which article.
Our own metric measures which articles are valuable for subscribers and, in turn, we have all the data related to time, permanence, new areas of work and areas of work that need to be optimised.
For me, having a data-driven newsroom is like having the best of both worlds. You have the journalistic judgement of the editors and the talent that is part of our team underpinned by science. It’s a very virtuous combination.
Do you have a long-term sense of where La Nación will be in 2030?
The medium-term objective always has a maxim that aims to be or seek to become the leader in quality journalism. This has three specific focuses: one is linked to being pro-republic, as we usually call it. Another very specific and important focus is to try to build a better country, something that has to do with the construction and purpose of our media. And the third, as a role within our country, is to question the powers that be, regardless of which political party is in power, always investigating and inquiring.
The rest has to do with generating new audiences. We have a specific team that leads our social, audiovisual and digital networks and is in charge of questions about how to build these audiences of the future, where to find them, how to attract them, and we create specific projects to capture these new audiences.
The idea is to adapt to the language of each medium, but without losing your essence. What my position required of me was to increase my listening skills and to try to understand that there are things that I may not understand, and that implies that we are doing them well.