New York Times launches website in Spanish to compete directly for readers in Latin America

For decades, The New York Times has reached news consumers in Spanish-speaking countries by selling its content to Latin American and Spanish newspapers through The New York Times News Service.

Now, the U.S. news corporation is going after that audience directly with the launch of The New York Times en Español, nytimes.com/es, which launched on Feb. 8, backed by a team of Latin American journalists based in Mexico City.

Many of the most important newspapers in Latin America are clients of the New York Times News Service and pay fees for the right to publish, in print, online and mobile, content from the Times' journalists. Some have been publishing a weekly print edition of the Times.

The Spanish-language and Portuguese-language newspaper markets have been so important for the Times that they are the only regions of the world where the news service offers packages in the local languages, according to the company's site.

"For Spanish and Portuguese-language media organizations aiming to extend their coverage on key events, The New York Times News Service provides a curated selection of in-language news analysis and commentary, paired with images and video, for use in print, online and mobile environments," according to the news service website.

The Times planned to launch a Portuguese site in Brazil in 2013, but the project never materialized. The only other language in which The Times publishes is Chinese.

The New York Times en Español is free, for now, but many of the Latin American newspapers that purchase the rights for the Times content are behind paywalls. It is unclear if there will be changes with the News Service now that the Spanish-language site has launched or if there are distinct differences between the two products and their content. Requests for interviews about this project made by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to the Times over the past two weeks were not granted.

For now, it seems that the business model of the Times en Español is based on advertising. "Launch sponsors" are Spanish development corporation Acciona, Mexican banking company Banamex and Formula 1 Gran Premio de Mexico. Yet, Nieman Lab reported that The Times is looking for more digital subscribers.

Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, international president for The Times, told Nieman Lab that the company hasn’t planned for a pay system in 2016.

“We have a lot to learn from our Latin American readers, and we need to understand their needs and preferences. As we do, and over time, we will find the solutions to best engage them and, in turn, develop a subscription relationship.”

The new site features original journalism and up to 15 articles from news, opinion and culture that will be translated from the main New York Times edition each day, according to a company press release. Some of the original articles will be translated into English and published at NYTimes.com.

On the day it was launched, the most prominently featured stories were about Central American migrants and reproductive health debates in Brazil around the Zika virus. However, not all coverage will be on Latin American countries. For example, there is also content covering the Islamic State in Afghanistan, a recent study on schizophrenia and the U.S. presidential primaries.

The project was developed by deputy international editor Lydia Polgreen and strategic consultant Paul Walborsky. The Times estimates its potential audience at 80 million people, according to Nieman Lab.

Elias López, who has worked at The Times as a staff editor on the foreign/national desk since 2007, heads a team of six journalists based in Mexico City.

Alberto Arce is the former Honduras correspondent for the Associated Press; Paulina Chavira has extensive experience in communications instruction and consulting; Dulce Ramos is former editor of Mexico City-based website Animal Político; Venezuelan journalist Albinson Linares was editor at Netmedia and Bizz magazine; Verónica Calderón was a journalist and editor at Spain’s El País for eight years; and Paula Duran is former political correspondent at Colombia’s Semana magazine.

Coverage will also come from correspondents based in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.