With short videos, less text and a lot of humor, Latin American sites are looking for the formula to attract millennials

This story is part of a series on Innovative Journalism in Latin America and the Caribbean.(*)

Millennials came of age alongside the internet and consume news and information differently than previous generations. As in other parts of the world, Latin Americans have created niche sites with content made to reach this population.

Less text, more images, short videos, lists, memes and humorous headlines are their hallmarks.

While some rely on entertainment and viral content, others combine those elements with political or social topics of interest to this community.

Stories about a 6-year-old’s Selena-themed birthday party appear alongside news of the Colombian peace process or opinion columns on immigration policy in the U.S. Others made their mark with emotionally-evocative or inspirational articles, like this one about the first model to enter the runway in a wheelchair in Ukraine.

The Knight Center consulted five millennial-oriented sites in Latin America and the U.S. in order to find out how they attract this segment of the population.

Sites aimed at the millennial population are characterized by their informal language. They have put seriousness aside to connect with the audience by speaking their language.

While these sites tend to combine information and entertainment, some lean more towards either side of the scale.

Upsocl, which emerged in Chile in 2013 with the aim of offering inspirational and fun content in the style of Upworthy, has found that entertainment is the product most consumed by millennials on the internet. Its creators are aware that they don’t have the journalistic authority to publish news, so it's a field they don’t meddle in.

"Everything that is entertainment works for us. Going beyond that is dangerous because we don’t have authority to talk about that. Giving opinions does not work for us and in fact generates a lot of criticism, because we do not have that informative power," Irene Ruiz del Portal, marketing director of Upsocl, said to the Knight Center. The site quickly triumphed with its curious, controversial articles with intriguing headlines that became a frequent staple on Facebook.

Other sites have opted for informational content, despite theories that speak of Generation Y’s disinterest in news that goes beyond its comfort zone.

The Mexican site Sopitas, founded in 2006, was one of the pioneers in its country in adapting the news to the consumption habits of the new generations who are less prone to buy newspapers or to watch a TV newscast.

"We try to bring certain topics of relevance to everyone. When you show them the information a bit more digested, in a more everyday kind of language, they understand you better," Francisco Alanís, founder of the site, told the Knight Center.

"We continue to live in an ecosystem where there are many media outlets, but few have the credibility for certain issues. We feel that we are an alternative with a lot of credibility for this audience. I think it's just the way we say things," he explained.

In the same vein, Remezcla, a site founded in 2006 and aimed at Latino millennials in the United States, offers stories in formats and language that are essential for reaching this generation.

“I would call our voice informal, but informative. One of the struggles in the age of social media is that it rewards viral things. People tend to put comedy content and things that are easy to get quick clicks in,” said Andrea Gompf, editor in chief of Remezcla, to the Knight Center.

“We really challenge ourselves to tell informative storytelling and still make it something that people are interested in, and that creates a healthier and stronger brand. Viral stories have a very short life. Something can get shared a million times, but in a week no one is going to remember it and nobody is going to remember who made it,” she added.

In Mexico, Click Necesario, a site launched in 2015 by the creators of Animal Político, sought to offer journalistic content to millennials through a platform that combined comedy with information.

"Rigor is not counter to creativity. New audiences don't need just informational part, but also the fun and entertaining part. Entertainment was the way to get journalistic information," said Omar Bobadilla, multimedia coordinator of Click Necessario, to the Knight Center.

The media is the audience

The age of the people delivering information to millennials is an important factor for them to be able to connect with their audience. Most of these sites have teams composed of people of the same age as the target audience.

The Remezcla team, for example, is made up of 25 full-time employees and no one is above 30. In the case of Sopitas and Upsocl, the average age of both teams is 26.

“We are the audience that we are trying to reach. Editorially, we joke around that this is a ‘by us, for us’ endeavor. That gives us a lot of insight: we are creating stories in the narrative that we want to see about ourselves in the world,” said Andrea Gompf, from Remezcla.

Combining journalists and creative advertising, news and literature contributes to the authenticity and freshness that Generation Y demands. This mixture is present in the staff of Remezcla and Upsocl, as well as the now-defunct Click Necesario.

"All team members fit within the creative profile. They are very young, those who are in charge of curating content are people who have just finished university or this is their first or second job," said Irene Ruiz del Portal of Upsocl.

Super powerful social networks

Millennials co-exist, are informed and entertained, and communicate through social networks, and media outlets know this very well.

"Today's social platforms have become new media. They are the ones who own the audiences. You have to become friends with them and understand how they work because they give you the power to amplify your message in a big way," said Ruiz del Portal at Upsocl, whose five video channels live only on Facebook.

A distinct case is that of Sopitas, whose audience from social networks does not surpass 50 percent, and there are still many users who enter the site directly and from organic searches, thanks to the fact that the site launched before the Facebook and Twitter boom.

"We rely little on direct traffic from social networks. We keep recording direct access to sopitas.com. I attribute it to the fact that, being one of the first, we continue to be at the forefront of the minds of people who enter the site directly to see what there is," Francisco Alanís explained.

Media should only ensure that the headlines, summaries and images of their publications are attractive enough to capture their audience, and let the social network algorithm do the rest.

"The user does not go to the Upsocl Facebook page, but accesses our news from their feed. The fact that it is relevant content, of quality, means people share it a lot and that it ultimately becomes viral," Ruiz del Portal added.

While all millennial media are present on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, the top three are the most profitable networks.

"We knew that what we published had to be consumed wherever they were. This is how we define different types of content for different social networks," said Ariel Tiferes, the director of digital content for Muy Liebre, a site of the Argentine newspaper La Nación that emerged in March 2016.

Its diversification and impact on the different social networks led to Muy Liebre’s recognition last October as Best Digital Product at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers Awards (WAN-IFRA) awards.

"If I had to give a formula for the success of Muy Liebre, I would say that it is to understand how each social network works and to make content according to that premise,” Tiferes said.

Straight to the point

Media aimed at millennials know they must get right to the point. "Millennials like to see interesting content, very quickly and go directly to the important thing. The fact that our videos are so short (40 to 60 seconds) fits into their way of consuming content on social networks," said Ruiz del Portal of Upsocl.

The creators of Muy Liebre planned from the outset to reach the audience without lengthy introductions. As a consequence, the videos they produce do not exceed a minute and a half in duration.

Another factor is the use of cell phones. “Seventy percent of our readers are consuming our content on their phone, not on desktop computers. The way that people read something changes when you are looking at it on a smaller screen. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are not willing to consume longer form content, but I think that you have to adapt that content to the vehicle that they are consuming it from,” said Andrea Gompf, from Remezcla.

Brands hunting for millennials

Upsocl is a good example of how to take advantage of millennials' attachments to social networks and their buying habits. The Chilean site applied a good formula to capitalize on the diversity of its readers: audience segmentation.

"What we are looking for is to continue to grow in more segmented audiences. Commercially, that gives us a lot of power: to be able to offer very segmented audiences with very particular interests to brands," Ruiz del Portal explained.

Upsocl created five native video channels on Facebook: Sabores (short cooking recipes), Pixi (videos with animation and text), Lulu (tips for women), Simple (DIY style tips) and Activa (fitness recommendations).

The Chilean site decided to open offices in Mexico, Spain and Colombia in order to facilitate commercial agreements for branded content – the strategy of non-intrusive advertising that consists of creating editorial content linked to a brand – with transnational companies.

"What we do is generate content that follows the editorial line of Upsocl but that involves the brand, and the DNA of the brand is impregnated in that content. For us, it is the new way to reconnect with audiences, intrusive advertising is no longer effective," Ruiz del Portal said.

Click Necesario closed in early 2017 due to financial problems. Its exit from the internet shows that branded content is not always an infallible method. However, it remains the preferred business model for digital media.

“Commercially, we couldn’t explain well what we were trying to do. I think that we couldn’t do that part of advertising content within the website in order to keep it alive. We never could define an adequate commercial strategy to show all the potential we had with Click Necesario,” Omar Bobadilla explained.

In the case of Remezcla, branded content adds to its revenue as a creative agency and marketing services agency for companies, while Sopitas combines branded content with traditional advertising that is not intrusive.

"Traditional advertising is effective if you know how to use it. Sometimes they put formats that are annoying, like box banners or 'take overs'. We seek to create alliances; a big part of our efforts is to convince our customers to join in the coverage that we are going to do anyway," Francisco Alanís of Sopitas said.



SITE: Upsocl
HEADQUARTERS: Santiago de Chile, with offices in Mexico City, Madrid, Bogota and Lima
UNIQUE USERS: 33 million, on its website and its 5 video channels on Facebook
FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 21 million (in total on all six channels)
AUDIENCE AGE: 18 to 34 years
CONTENT: Entertainment, advice and viral content
BUSINESS MODEL: Branded content
MOST SUCCESSFUL STORIES: 11 cosas que todas las buenas parejas hacen (11 things that all good couples do) (6 million visits)


SITE: Muy Liebre
UNIQUE USERS: Average organic reach of 4 million users on Facebook in a month
AUDIENCE AGE: 18 to 24 years
CONTENT: Entertainment and viral content
BUSINESS MODEL: Branded content
MOST SUCCESSFUL STORIES: “El Sueldito” song video (43 mil views)


SITE: Remezcla
HEADQUARTERS: New York, with offices in Los Angeles and Mexico City
UNIQUE USERS: 1.5 million
AUDIENCE AGE: 22 to 35 years
CONTENT: News, entertainment, sports
BUSINESS MODEL: Branded content, advertising and marketing services


UNIQUE USERS: 6.5 million
AUDIENCE AGE: 18 to 34 years
CONTENT: News and viral content
MOST SUCCESSFUL STORIES: Estos son los resultados del PREP en las elecciones 2016 (These are the results of the preliminary election result system in the 2016 elections) (4 million views)
SITE: Click Necesario
YEAR STARTED: 2015 (ended in 2017)
UNIQUE USERS: 8 thousand daily visits on average
AUDIENCE AGE: 18 to 30 years
CONTENT: News and viral content
BUSINESS MODEL: Advertising and branded content
MOST SUCCESSFUL STORIES: Video explaining the origins of tacos al pastor (2.9 million views)

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.

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