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LO ÚLTIMO
THE NEWS
Last week, the Washington Post released the first episode of “El Washington Post,” its new, twice-weekly Spanish-language news podcast.
 
SO WHAT
The Washington Post is hoping to be an early mover in the burgeoning Spanish-language podcasting market. Feeling the limits of growth among its core audience of English-language speakers in the United States (currently, the Post has between 85 and 100 million unique visitors in the U.S.), the Post believes a Spanish-language podcast can draw in new audiences. 

Given the rich traditions of radio broadcasting in many Spanish-speaking regions, podcasts have slowly been gaining a foothold in Spanish-speaking countries over the past few years. Voxnest, a podcast tech company, reported this spring that 4 of the top 5 countries with the fastest-growing podcast listening rates are Spanish-speaking. Caroline Guerrero, CEO and co-founder of Radio Ambulante, NPR’s only Spanish-language podcast, predicted a surge in Spanish-language audio late last year, writing that “in some ways, digital audio was made for the Spanish-language audience: With more than 400 million Spanish speakers from more than 20 countries, there is great potential to aggregate huge audiences with niche offerings.”

With “El Washington Post,” the Post sets out to attract Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S. as well as those in “Latin America, Spain, and elsewhere,” according to executive editor Marty Baron. Each 20-minute episode explores three to four global news stories and features analysis from WaPo reporters and contributors. The first episode, for instance, featured an exclusive interview with former President of Bolivia Evo Morales. 

The Post is optimistic about its ability to draw in these large audiences successfully. It expects to support the show with advertising, and it has an experienced team — the project actually was pitched by host Juan Carlos Iragorri, an award-winning Colombian journalist. The Post also recognizes the nascent state of Spanish-language podcasting and doesn’t see a lot of news competition yet: “We like the idea of going into a space where there wasn’t a lot of competition and yet it was a platform that we were doing a lot of work on already,” said Garcia-Ruiz.
 
LOOK FOR
Whether “El Washington Post” will prove to be a success with audiences, particularly among those outside the U.S. who may be less familiar with the Washington Post brand. Fernando Hernández Becerra also points out that unreliable internet connection is one reason why podcast listening has failed to gain momentum in Mexico in particular. 

Also look for whether other U.S. outlets will launch their own Spanish-language audio offerings. In the past, Spanish-language editorial offerings at some publications have been met with financial challenges. In September, The New York Times shut down its Spanish-language platform, NYT en Español, after three years of operation, stating it did not see a path to converting audiences to its subscription products. Buzzfeed News and HuffPost have also closed their Spanish-language divisions in the past few years. 

Finally, look for whether the Post will leverage its Spanish-language editorial offering to drive digital subscriptions. “El Washington Post” marks the second Spanish-language editorial offering launched by the Post this year: It launched “Post Opinión,” an op-ed section with translated and original Spanish-language pieces, in August 2019.
THESE MADE US SMARTER
A new report from the Reuters Institute finds that the number of news podcasts has grown globally by 32% between January and October 2019. Though news podcasts make up only 6% of existing podcasts, 21% of the most popular podcasts episodes in the U.S. come from news podcasts. 

Also, the Shorenstein Center and Institute for Nonprofit News co-published a case study on Mother Jones that explores the publication’s success in recent years. In 2019, Mother Jones reported a total audience size of 8 million visitors a month. By the end of this year, it expects to close a five-year $25 million fundraising campaign. 

Lastly, the Agora Journalism Center published a new report, “Local Journalism in the Pacific Northwest” that highlights the changing landscape of local newsrooms as they adopt new tools, practices, and business models.
WHAT'S NEW WITH...
SOCIAL MEDIA // The Economist reports that a third of its site traffic now comes social platforms. Since changing its social media strategy in April 2019, monthly referral traffic from social media platforms has grown by 180%. Among the changes is a renewed focus on the best-performing content as opposed to content volume. The Climate Issue briefing, for instance, has brought in the most subscriptions from digital output in the past six months.

INNOVATION // The Texas Tribune announced that it’s creating a 3-year, $4 million revenue and training lab (nicknamed RevLab) to coach news outlets on implementing sustainable business practices. The Texas Tribune also hopes to use RevLab to test new revenue-generating products and ideas such as “ethical paywalls.” So far, RevLab has received $2.5 million in funding from the Facebook Journalism Project and is now seeking an additional $1.5 million from other supporters.
 
AI // Forbes Media has acquired a majority stake in Quantalytics AI Labs, which uses AI technologies to make investment recommendations. Quantalytics will initially serve as a resource for reporters, but the publisher eventually hopes to repackage Quantalytics as a standalone digital subscription product. 
 
CLOSURES // Vox Media’s Curbed, a real estate and urban design blog network that was acquired in 2013 for $20-$30 million, is shutting down its local sites in New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, and D.C. According to a spokesperson from the company, the publisher plans to expand its sites for Austin and Boston.
 
DATA TOOLS // Google’s new data analytics tool, Trending Topics, uses real-time search queries and publicly-facing tweets to help newsrooms make data-informed coverage decisions. Partly funded by the Google News Initiative, the tool was built in response to “a big influx of requests” from publishers for better data insights.

S-POD-IFY // In its recent “Wrapped” campaign, Spotify reported that podcast listeners have grown more than 50% since the beginning of the year, with a 39% increase in podcast hours consumed by listeners quarter over quarter.

NEWSLETTERS // Apple News has launched a “Good Morning” daily newsletter. Previously, users could receive email notifications from Apple News on the latest news stories. The newsletter features headlines and curated summaries written by Apple’s editorial team. This initiative comes after a report that Apple News+ has struggled to attract subscribers since signing on 200,000 users at its launch in March.

COMMERCE // Complex Networks is building a sneaker marketplace and editorial app in 2020. The site will be built on the publisher’s current sneaker site, Sole Collector, which it acquired in 2013. The publisher is expected to exceed $200 million in revenue this year. Axios reports that 15% of this revenue comes from commerce.

LAYOFFS // A crowd-sourced spreadsheet reveals that Gannett has laid off over 200 employees across its publications last week. The publisher, which recently merged with GateHouse Media, had previously stated that it had set a savings target of 8%. According to Gannett CEO Mike Reed, employees make up 50% of the company’s cost structure. Poynter’s Rick Edmonds estimates that around 960 employees total will eventually be laid off. 

PODCASTS // Last week, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced “Audio Reporting” as a new journalism prize category for the 2020 prize cycle. U.S. newspapers, magazines, digital natives as well as independent American producers and radio broadcast outlets will be able to submit audio stories. The prize will be awarded “for a distinguished example of audio journalism that serves the public interest, characterized by revelatory reporting and illuminating storytelling.”
SUBSCRIBER SPOTLIGHT
Eleni Sharp
Executive Product Manager, BBC Research and Development
@EleniGuest
 
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role at the BBC.

I come from a creative background: I did art school and got a design degree, and then worked in advertising. I then found my way into digital to join the BBC about six years ago as a product manager on the homepage and started to do more strategic work. As part of that, I did a day a week in Research & Development and then eventually moved over to a product role within Research & Development, which I love.

Can you talk about some of the projects you work with at BBC R&D?

We’re working on industry-leading projects all the time. At the moment, I lead an innovation portfolio within research and development. 

We’ve got Taster, which is an audience-facing platform that we completely developed from the ground up. It’s a place to try new ideas, new technologies, new formats, new talent. It works with all different channels and stations within the BBC but also people outside the BBC to test ideas and innovations out with audiences.

We’ve launched MakerBox recently, which is a new product from R&D. The idea is that we can get new tools and technologies like interactive tools, augmented reality, and virtual reality out into the hands of creative people in the industry, not just inside the BBC. We want to get R&D’s thinking and our vision of the future into creative storyteller’s hands, so they can actually start making things with these new tools.

We explore a lot as well with AR and VR through Reality Labs, which is really exciting. 

We’re also looking at some completely new service ideas for the BBC, like, what is a public service Internet proposition that uses people’s data in a more ethical way? What might a new service that isn’t built exclusively with traditional linear content look like? It’s at a very early stage of concepting.

We also have team within the BBC called News Labs, which is a partnership between news and research and development and looks at new innovative formats within news.

That’s the exciting thing in the BBC: There’s so many different teams and the potential for partnerships and collaborations is so big. We’ve got fantastic technology, fantastic content, this public service remit; those things together make for such an interesting space to actually create stuff with. It’s a dream brief in some ways because there’s so much potential.

Can you give me an example of a BBC News Labs project?

They’ve been working on something which we call object-based news, but it’s kind of hyper-personalized, really. How could you take a piece of news, cut it into lots of pieces, and then as the user, you get your news for you, which is maybe personalized depending on your location, how much time you’ve got, what device you’re on. Everybody can get a different slice of this news. 

What is the broader strategy that ties together these initiatives? How do they relate to the BBC’s mission?

Everybody within R&D is obsessed with re-inventing the BBC with continuous experimentation with new technologies and new formats for audiences. We’re always trying to understand how people are using technology for good and looking at what impact that’s going to have. 

For us, we prioritize what we’re doing by looking at audience behavior or the internal business needs from the BBC, but then also external industry trends. We might see something pop up — it could be voice, it could be AR — that influences our work as well.

Some of the ideas in Research & Development, we’re looking at an 18-month turnaround, and some are almost 10 years out. It’s such a broad portfolio. A lot of work that we do is around informing strategies and helping to make priorities around budgets. It could also be doing things like white papers or changing industry standards as well.

What is something interesting you’ve seen in media from an organization that’s not your own?

Sky News launched a project called Under the Radar, which monitors political activity online. What they do is track apps and analyze who’s spending what and how they’re targeting. They’re also working with researchers as well to understand what technology is doing to democracy.

There’s also doteveryone, which is an organization that was set up by Martha Lane Fox. They’ve got a really interesting ethos, which is around using technology for good and to make life better for people. For example, they have this idea of just enough Internet and around the sustainability of the tech industry. I think that’s a really interesting concept at the moment, and it’s something we’re starting to look at in Research & Development as well: how do we keep technology in the BBC sustainable?
 
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Read the rest on Medium.
 

Two weeks ago, we asked if you’ve noticed paid posts from news organizations on social media platforms. 69% said yes, and 31% said no.

This week: We’re wondering if you wish there were more comics journalism like this.

Yes!
Eh, I feel indifferent.
No.
What's comics journalism?

__

The Idea is written by Atlantic Media's strategy research team. Send thoughts, tips, and your Spotify Wrapped 2019 playlist to idea@atlanticmedia.com. 

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