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How successful cases explore digital transformation to enable new journalistic products

Journalists, directors and editors from various news outlets in Latin America gathered in the panel “Lessons and innovative cases,” at the 15th Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, to present success stories that link technological tools to good practices in the profession. Some themes in common among the strategies are the desire to win back an audience that is increasingly skeptical of the media and to enable products that explore digital transformation.

For Pulzo, from Colombia, a way to get closer to audiences was to form alliances with regional news outlets, influencers and bloggers, who are paid to have their content published, after a process of SEO optimization, choice of tags and audience segmentation.

“There is a lack of trust in the media, especially among young people. They don't believe in institutions, they don't believe in those who have money, they don't believe in those who have success in some way, because they don't know how they managed to get there,” Pulzo's CEO, Hernando Paniagua, said. “The audience has an enormous desire for humanization. That's why influencers are gaining a lot of space in media. People who probably didn't have a journalistic training, but they show their faces, say their names and have very interesting stories, and have a lot larger audience.”

Collaboration between professionals from different regions, but on a continental level, is also the hallmark of CONNECTAS, creator of #CONNECTASHub, which unites journalists from 19 Latin American countries for a process of collective construction. According to its founder and director, Carlos Eduardo Huertas, the structure of the work is based on four principles: fraternity, solidarity, identity, and journalistic partnership.

“The idea is to invert the membership or subscription model. We should not create an expectation of 'what do I get [from the audience],?' but rather create a commitment of 'what do I give [to the audience]?' This creates a totally different dynamic,” Huertas said.

To generate quality information and create a profitable product, it is necessary to combine technology and business development and strategy and focus on the audience, with design and user experience, without neglecting good journalism. That's what the News Product Alliance is based on, according to the project's executive director, Felicitas Carrique.

“One solution for products is to think and make strategic decisions faster and in a methodological and systematic way, limiting the possibility of error and learning quickly. It is about changing the way we see the problems and challenges we face,” Carrique said.

Another innovative product that stands out in the region, Visión Latina, by Grupo Octubre, from Argentina, uses artificial intelligence to elevate Latin America to a leading role. The idea of the project is to create a knowledge base through a facial recognition system that identifies outstanding figures in the local political sector.

“On the one hand, we want to make the group's digital assets available, so that they can be consumed and sold with technology. At the same time, we want to make technology available that allows the rest of the media in Latin America to publish content and have an automatic detection of personalities,” Mariano Blejman, director of Grupo Octubre, said.

Before implementing a digital transformation in the media, however, it is necessary to conceive a concrete project, be it a restructuring or a specific convergence work, added Juan Simo, digital editor-at-large of Todo Noticias, from Argentina. In addition, he called out the need for major media outlets to regain clarity about the purpose of journalism, without the obligation to be “audience leaders” jeopardizing the work.

“The bond we have with the audience is essential. Sometimes membership and subscription are spoken of as opposite models, but what unites both, with their differences, is the emotional bond that audiences have with the journalistic products that we develop and the work that we do on a daily basis,” Simo said.

Diversity

Promoting greater space for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) also occupies a fundamental role among the objectives of innovative journalistic products. Journalist and coordinator of the Knight Center's online course on the subject, Mariana Alvarado defended cultural change, starting with the mastery of the concept of “diversity,” which still confuses many journalists and editors across Latin America.

“When we talk about diversity, we are not just referring to having a gender perspective. The level of ignorance we have on this subject is impressive. We are trying to promote this idea, that we also refer to people with disabilities, the anti-racist agenda, migrations and all the minorities that we find in our countries. And these minorities, if added together, are the majority,” the journalist said.

Based on the still marked racial inequality in the continent, and more specifically in Brazil, UOL developed the Origins Project, a special project that used DNA tests to trace the ancestry of 20 Black Brazilian personalities. The project won awards such as the best journalistic work in digital journalism, by the National Council of the Public Ministry in Brazil, and the design excellence in the social issues category, by the Society for News Design (SND).

“The focus is not on technology, but stories. How can people know where their relatives came from and how to reconnect with the past, because this is very important in Brazil,” Lilian Ferreira, general manager of BI, Metrics and Strategy at UOL, said.

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