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Interview: Ernesto Cortes “We Are Aware of What Such a Drastic and Radical Change Means”

Ernesto Cortes, Managing Editor of Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, talks to us about the newspaper’s re-conceptualization, design changes, expectations, and its synergies with new technologies and the digital world.


Ernesto Cortes, Managing Editor of Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, talks to us about the newspaper’s re-conceptualization, design changes, expectations, and its synergies with new technologies and the digital world.

Portada: What is the scope of the paper’s new design?

Ernesto Cortes: "It’s a total redesign, unlike anything we’ve done in the past 100 years.  And that is no exaggeration. We’ll be celebrating our 100th anniversary in a couple of months, and El Tiempo is renewing itself to pave the way for its next 100 years. That is the reason for our complete change, with new formats and better news distribution to bring stories closer to our readers; to keep up with the modern need for dynamic and timely information, as well as provide a very important component of service features to our readers. The changes include everything from the use of color (which will be total) to the newspaper’s masthead, which will shift from its traditional black lettering to white lettering on a blue background. 

In addition to the new design, color, fonts, etc., the greatest change will be the paper’s division into three main sections: a blue section, called 'Must Know,' containing all the important news that people need to know to stay informed; and presented in a lively, accurate, and timely fashion. There will no longer be section pages, but rather a mix of relevant information that people can identify immediately, without having to go elsewhere in the section to find it.

A second, orange section, called 'Must Do,' will contain useful information for readers, with an emphasis on features for our audiences? Dining, Entertainment, Fashion, Health, Movies, TV, Travel, Books.  We’ll also be keeping our experts’ columns on these topics.

The third section (green) will feature full-length articles, in-depth stories, and big reports and articles for fans of these genres— an area that is once again gaining ground. The section will devote space to addressing topics at greater depth and will also include, of course, our opinion pages, editorials and regular columnists.

As you can see, this is not only a design change, but a new way of providing information to audiences who ? thanks to new technologies ? are also demanding that print media offer a new way of reporting the news and telling stories.”

Portada: What can you tell us about changes to the website?

Ernesto Cortes: “On October 3rd, the launch date for our new print edition, will also usher in big changes at The website will also follow the same ‘Must Know,’ ‘Must Do,’ ‘Must Read’ news philosophy.

The site will be more open, with more photos and multimedia tools (videos, galleries, audio). The focus will be on big stories, improved site navigation, and deep interaction with readers and netizens.

Themed sections will also be eliminated from the home page, so that readers do not have to click on too many icons in order to find a story. The idea is for them to reach the news more quickly and easily. Every article will be identified with its corresponding section, so that when the reader clicks on it, he or she will automatically be taken to an area offering a variety of other related topics and news features. The key here will be the way stories and articles are presented, so that people will want to click through and read on."

Portada: What are your expectations for this new product?

Ernesto Cortes: “Our expectations are very, very high. We are aware of the task at hand, the challenge involved and ? above all ? what such a drastic and radical change means for the newspaper and its readers. But we've dedicated almost a year to this project and done a very careful job of creating the best newspaper we can offer for these modern times, at a moment in which many other print newspapers, by contrast, have succumbed to the tsunami of new technologies.

But it is also the confirmation of a very important fact that El Tiempo has been leading up to for more than five years? convergence and multimedia. Just as these new technologies are being incorporated into the newsroom today, it should be noted that, in this case, El Tiempo’s redesign is what also led us to come up with a new concept and design for our website. That is synergy and irrefutable proof that multimedia has been successful and will continue to be successful. And of course there is nervousness; it's like starting from scratch, only it’s happening at a moment of intense competition and expectations on behalf of the reader."

Portada: What led to the redesign of the newspaper and web site?

Ernesto Cortes: “Definitely, the need to continue to prove that El Tiempo Publishing (Casa Editorial El Tiempo) is and will continue to be an innovation leader. That throughout history, we’ve been icons of the Colombian and Latin American press, and that we've moved forward boldly in the face of new challenges. And of course, the need to demonstrate that, with more than 100 years under our belts, we are not only a centenarian newspaper, but a newspaper that is ready to take on the next one hundred years.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that audiences, new formats, the Internet, mobile communications, advances in television, and social networks, have all shown us that we need to keep up with the times, that we cannot be careless, and that the press— far from disappearing, can still prove to be a big player in these new trends. That is the challenge.”

Guido Conterno, Executive Director of GDA, spoke to us about the company’s efforts to integrate its website, newspaper and magazine formats. Could you tell us more about it?

Ernesto Cortes: “It's been part of a convergence process that began about seven years ago and came to fruition 3 years ago. There is no other way to survive in modern times. Either you take advantage of the accumulation of resources you have at hand ? namely, print, digital and audiovisual ? in a more effective or creative way; or you simply disappear. It is inconceivable today to do journalism that is rooted in the nostalgia of the past; we need to focus on doing multimedia. That’s what El Tiempo is doing.

In fact, we’ve already entered the mobile news area; we’re on Kindle (we were the second in Latin America to do so) and now we're entering the iPad world. In addition to our local television station Citytv, we will be launching a 24-hour cable news channel on October 5th, featuring national and international news. Another big bet will be the launch of ‘Mio’ (Mine), a daily aimed at another wide group of readers, which will debut ten days later.

El Tiempo may be 100 years old, but it’s definitely on the road to modernity. Our management, reporters and editors know that, as do of course our readers and advertisers. We have the human resources, the support of our shareholders and the credibility. Our goal is to remain true to our motto: Whoever has the news, has El Tiempo."

Related article:

Colombia´s El Tiempo Redesigns its Newspaper and Website

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