Today, in Content for the Latin World, Portada interviews Alejandro Nieto, Vice-President of Programming for Union Radio. Union Radio is a holding company that owns more than one thousand radio stations in Latin America.
 
Alejandro Nieto tells us how the group manages content, multi-platform integration, World Cup strategies and marketing policy.

Portada: How is general content managed for all stations?  Is there a general integration platform or do you have different regional programs?

Alejandro Nieto: Union Radio has both country brands (such as Cadena Ser in Spain, or Continental in Argentina, for example) as well as brands with a presence in several countries, or even in all countries in which it operates (such as 40 Principales).  This holds true for both radio and Internet, as well as our other divisions.  Besides the station brands, there is also some content that is shared, even if the program names are changed— such as Hoy por Hoy, Carrusel Deportivo, Hora 25, etc., which are broadcast on Cadena Ser, Caracol, Continental, W Radio, ADN, etc.

In any case, our product has many constant features which serve to identify Union Radio stations. Our stations are very strong in local content, yet they have a global vision.  Put another way, the general programming of our stations is handled according to a global model, but executed locally.  The content has shared values, references, culture and sense of humor.

Regarding organization, each country has its own operation and management team for handling content.  Each team produces its own products and shares them with the rest of the group through a digital platform that integrates all of our operations.  Content managers are responsible for integrating these teams according to global guidelines, radio style, format migration and common products that are used by all, thus allowing us to achieve better efficiency in terms of quality and, of course, costs.  All our stations share an identical radio structure, in which news services form the backbone of all station programming.  In addition, formats that are successful in one country can be adapted to all markets according to local needs, and we also create global programs on topics common to all countries, such as sports, opinion, music and special events and broadcasts.

We also have a global news agency, with journalists located in all geographic areas providing unsurpassed coverage.

As for Internet, our radio stations have their own websites.  But they all follow a similar structure and are linked.  From Caracol Colombia you can link to W Mexico, etc.  In the case of our 40 Principales (Top 40) stations, in addition to having a website in each country, we have a portal (los40.com) that serves as an integrating platform for all countries.

P: What percentage of your content is self-produced, as opposed to obtained through content providers?

AN: Our content is 100% produced by us. We also generate content for others through GLR Networks, a group company that produces and distributes news, sports, entertainment and music programming to affiliated radio stations in the U.S.

P:  How do you adapt your general content to each country or region?

AN: As I noted previously, common elements are utilized in all countries and successful formats are adapted according to each market.  What is local becomes global through these formats, since there is content that is compatible for all countries, such as sports. Successful formats in one country are then tried in another, but their execution is 100% consistent with the culture of each country, and is carried out by the operational team and talent of the country adopting said content. An example of this is the hit radio show La Luciérnaga of Colombia’s Caracol Radio, an information and opinion program with a healthy dose of humor, whose format has been adopted by other member countries of the group, but with different names and styles imprinted by the radio talent of each country. The program has become a ratings success at our Mexican radio station (W Radio), where it is known as Weso, and at Miami’s Radio Caracol, where it goes by the name De Regreso a Casa.

That said we carefully select topics and personalities for our pan-regional programs so that they are interesting in all countries we broadcast from.  An example of this is our global Hora 25 program, which each week features the most important and influential figures in the region discussing the latest issues. Or sports, where at the end of the day we provide a recap of the day’s most important news, not to mention our broadcasting of special events, where the strength of the media becomes more evident, such as in the recent earthquakes (Chile and Haiti).  The content must be of interest to all, and that is what we keep in mind when developing common content.

In the case of 40 Principales, we have built a great, integrated community of Spanish-speakers through our music format, not only on radio but also on the Internet.

P: What benefits does radio offer that are not found in other media?  What audience specifics does it offer its advertisers?

AN: Radio is the second largest media in terms of audience in each country, and has greater penetration than cable. Union Radio’s stations also hold the top spots in audience share in the countries where we operate. Overall, we have the largest Spanish-speaking radio audience, with a presence in 10 countries and over 1,222 stations in our network, which add up to a solid audience of 26 million listeners daily. In addition, our online presence includes 40 websites and 13 million Internet users monthly.

The most obvious benefit radio is its immediacy and the fact that it is compatible with other activities, making it very effective for advertisers. Radio offers advertisers a friendly space in terms of production costs, variability, and immediacy and frequency of message.
 
Every business evolves and today’s reality may be different within a few months. Therefore, radio allows advertisers to change their campaigns and adapt them to the current state of their business. And all of this at a low cost. In addition, we integrate advertising with program content, providing another advantage in comparison to other media.

Plus, our radio stations offer the opportunity to reach a broad spectrum of targets with a portfolio of products to suit all tastes and ages in both radio and the web. We have news, music, sports, health programs, etc., that attract young adults, men, women, etc.

In the case of music products, we offer the possibility of integrating radio and internet strategy with big concerts and popular events, such as basic and Top 40 concerts, our Premios 40 Principales (Top 40 Awards), and live performances of famous artists.

P: How will the group handle World Cup broadcasts?

AN: On the occasion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Union Radio is pulling out all the stops to offer our 26 million listeners quality programming, and we are availing ourselves of the best radio professionals in each country.

To that end, Union Radio will have a production unit in South Africa consisting of journalists from all countries that we broadcast in, which will be dedicated to meeting the demand of our listeners on everything related to the event.  We have about 100 people there, including technicians and journalists, and 2,000 kilos of equipment.  It is the largest deployment we’ve done to date to cover the World Cup.  We will broadcast an average of 10 hours of daily programming. Victor Hugo Morales, from Argentina's Radio Continental, a sports symbol in Latin America and a permanent point of reference in journalism schools, will be covering his ninth World Cup, 24 years after he gave Maradona the nickname "cosmic kite" following Argentina's mythical second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.  Hernan Pelaez and Ivan Mejia will lead the coverage for Colombia’s Caracol Radio.  Francisco Javier Gonzalez will coordinate the W Mexico team, the only radio station in Mexico to hold broadcast rights to the World Cup in South Africa, while ADN Chile will cover that country’s team matches with a group led by Rodrigo Hernandez, Rodrigo Sepulveda, Francisco Mouat and Juan Francisco Guarello.  Spain's Cadena Ser will have a team of 11 journalists from its sports desk, led by José Ramón de la Morena, Manolo Lama, Jesus Gallego and Pepe Sunday Castaño.

All of our radio stations, in turn, will broadcast pan-regional programs:

• 'Sudáfrica 2010' (South Africa 2010), which began broadcasting in March, is a program where commentators take on the role of fans.
• 'Minuto Mundialista' (World Cup Minute) offers hourly updated bulletins on World Cup news.

Also, as I mentioned previously, we’ve produced a joint global web section for talk radio stations that will serve as the main information center for World Cup news.

P: How do you plan to stand out among competing World Cup coverage?

AN: With our style, news, commentary, and renown professionals from each country.

Our broadcasters and commentators have a broadcast style that is not limited to just narrating the games. Instead, they turn them into an entertainment program, making it both informative and entertaining for the listener.  Plus, we have reporters from every nationality on our team, allowing for more varied commentary and opinions.

Furthermore, this World Cup is a special one for radio due to the time difference with South Africa, allowing listeners to tune in from any place regardless of what they are doing.

P: How do you think radio as media should respond in the face of Internet growth?

AN: Internet competes more with newspapers and television than it does with radio. Radio continues to be a strong media, because you can listen to it while doing other things such as working, driving a car, studying and doing other activities that cannot be done simultaneously while using other media.
 

In any case, the growth of the Internet requires radio to integrate itself and also allows it to expand its offerings. In other words, radio programs complement the web. Radio needs to respond by diversifying its operations to the Internet, adding much more programming, and segmenting and multiplying its offerings.

As far as content, radio should strengthen itself locally, have the best and most influential communicators, and be prepared to generate content regardless of the broadcast platform. This allows it to have a presence in both analog (its current media) and digital format (all media). In other words, Radio Union’s strength lies in its ability to create content and opinion for any platform.

Other Articles in the Series "Content for Latin World":

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