Portada takes a look at the latest developments in big publishers’ monetization strategies in Latin America. How can general monetization efforts align effectively with approaches to winning over Latin American readers?
By Gretchen Gardner, a member of Portada’s Editorial Staff
Big publishers have been grappling with how to monetize and take advantage of the huge opportunity that Latin American audiences, particularly the wealthy and educated, represent for over a decade. But as technology and people’s interactions with the digital world evolve, so do the best strategies.
In recent years, those looking to monetize the LatAm market have prioritized investing in new technology, making good use of social networks and adapting content to mobile. And the biggest publishers know that they need help: many are hiring specialized firms with knowledge of particular LatAm audiences and geographical regions to create different pages for people with certain interests and even develop different financial models for the monetization of this growing demographic.
But some big publishers seem to be focusing more on changing the way their consumers as a whole interact with and read the news. The Washington Post has undergone major changes since Jeff Bezos acquired it in 2013.
Diana Backlund, International Brand Strategic Advertising Manager at the Washington Post Company, implied that the publisher is more focused on the Big Picture, “expanding editorial coverage, audience and influence and amplifying engineering for experimentation and invention.” New in the newsroom are engineers that work side-by-side with journalists to find the best way to stimulate growth and reader engagement.
Publishers like The Guardian have followed suit, creating teams of editors and journalists that work exclusively with data to track site visits, bounce rates, devices used, comments and search terms in different audiences. This kind of technical approach to journalism has proven successful for the Post as well.
“In two years our USA audience has grown to 59 million uniques and another 18 million internationally. We were also named the Most Innovative Media Company of 2015 by Fast Company. We’ve introduced innovations like Project Rainbow and technologies such as Clavis, which is our own first-party data on readers,” Backlund notes.
Clavis is an industry leader providing analytics in the form of data, analysis and insights on different markets to help clients optimize performance and engagement. Interestingly, Clavis is more associated with consumer goods brands, with a roster of clients like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Mondelēz and Mars, which speaks to the importance of branding in today’s media climate, and the shift from publishers identifying as simply providers of content to providers of value.
comScore recently reported that these changes at the Post have increased its audience by 59% and page views by 95% – and for the first time, it came in ahead of The New York Times (and only 13 million unique visitors less than Buzzfeed.) Clavis helped the Post do this by identifying common denominator interests among readers across different demographics.
Today, major publishers are well aware of the importance of advertising to priority audiences. The Washington Post’s Backlund acknowledges that there was “no question that Latin America is a primary focus for The Washington Post for audience and, as a result, advertising.” But developing targeted, valuable content seems to be the number one priority.
If a video does better on Facebook leave it there: give people something to talk about; give them something extra.
“We continue to develop content that is relevant and important for business and government leaders not only in the United States, but in Latin America and across the globe,” Backlund says. But is that content targeted to the Latin American consumer in Spanish or Portuguese? “Not yet,” Backlund says. In fact, regardless of their geographical location, the type of audience that the Post covets has advanced English skills.
Aligned Interests, Regardless of Geographical Location
Instead of targeting particular demographics, the Post has found that its readers can be characterized as global thought leaders whose interests may be aligned regardless of geographic location. In terms of defining ad categories, Backlund says that their readers are “affluent, educated, professional and world travelers.” The publication chooses to offer “audience solutions” for a broad range of needs, such as “branding solutions, tourism, advocacy,” among others.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
Other major publishers have catered to unique LatAm audiences with supplements and magazines to appeal specifically to their affluent, educated Latino readers. In many cases this has meant publishing in Spanish and/or Portuguese. The Wall Street Journal began publishing two new versions of its luxury magazine WSJ Magazine: WSJ Magazine Brasil and WSJ Magazine América Latina, in October 2014. The New York Times started publishing a bi-monthly version of its New York Times T Style Magazine, T Mexico, in 2014. Both the Times and the WSJ publish international supplements with curated content from its regular coverage in Latin American newspapers.
Spain’s Grupo Prisa and Unidad Editorial
At a 2015 Digital Media LatAm conference in Mexico City, some other valuable strategies for monetizing the Latin American growing audience were introduced. Mobile strategy is king, as users are increasingly connected to their smartphones as opposed to laptops or PCs. Digital platforms that facilitate the best mobile experience possible keeps users coming back for more. Need proof? Antonio Caño, director of Spain’s El País, recently pointed out that the base of the publication’s readership now came from smartphone users. BTW: Spain’s El Pais, owned by Grupo Prisa, has a substantial Latin American and U.S. Hispanic digital readership, including editions in Brazil and Mexico. And Grupo Prisa-owned sports newspaper, As, also has Latin American digital editions, as does its competitor Marca, which is owned by Unidad Editorial.
Newspapers must think of themselves as brands to survive in today’s media climate. Mariana Marcaletti, the international news coordinator at Buzzfeed, commented that brands need to “connect and adapt: don’t ask people to go to your site; go to them.” And gone are the days of print media, so publishers must let their consumers dictate how they like to get their news. “If a video does better on Facebook leave it there: give people something to talk about; give them something extra.”
Marc Lavelle, director of interactive news at The New York Times agreed, adding that digital media gives journalists the tools to integrate a story with text, video, graphic and photos, all of which give the reader added value. And in such a competitive arena, added value and effective alignment of content with technology will determine the winners and losers in monetizing Latin America’s informed readers.