Monday, November 10, 2014

A one-man band: journalist, designer, salesman

Erick Falcon started out as a journalist. Mainly he liked writing about science, technology, and fine food in long feature articles as a freelancer for the Sunday magazine of El Universal newspaper.

That might seem like a strange mix, but he lives in Ensenada, Mexico, on the northwest coast, about 65 miles south of Tijuana. Ensenada, with population of about 470,000, is in the heart of Mexico's wine country and also is a center of research, in particular the Center of Scientific Investigation and Higher Education.

In 2010 he wrote about agriculture in the desert (Spanish, PDF), an article that Reuters recognized as the best environmental reporting for Latin America in 2010. He wrote in Spanish and English, including for Cosmos magazine in Australia.

Then late in 2011, everything changed. El Universal decided to shut down its magazine, Dia Siete, that had been his main source of income. He was not going to be able to earn enough from his other freelance sources. Then his wife suggested that if the magazines wouldn't hire him, he should start his own.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Latin American news sites lag in innovation

Versión en español.

It was a bit depressing to hear the results of a study of 34 digital media natives during the Third Latin American Forum of Digital Media and Journalism.

Overall, these sites showed little interaction with their audiences in social media, little use of maps, graphics, and visualizations, and little consideration of the business side of journalism before launching.

The Center of Economic Research and Teaching hosted the session Oct. 9 in Mexico City. (Videos of all the sessions here, in Spanish.)

In Latin America, 4 digital pioneers create solutions

Versión en español.

Four digital journalism pioneers in Latin America have four different solutions for the problem of how to finance an independent news organization.

For Daniel Moreno, director general of Animal Politico in Mexico, one strategy has been to launch a brand extension called Animal Gourmet, a publication about fine dining, which attracts a new group of users and advertisers.

Jorge Zepeda Patterson, founder and publisher of Sin Embargo (On the Other Hand) in Mexico, has patient investors and a model of online advertising.

For Juanita Leon, founder and publisher of La Silla Vacía (The Empty Chair) in Colombia, the solution has been constant innovation. Besides landing grants from NGOs, the site generates revenue from its club of Super Amigos, from universities, and from sponsorship of online discussion groups.

And Oscar Castilla, executive director of a new investigative journalism site in Peru, Ojo Publico (Public Eye), is still looking at many possibilities, including support of universities and NGOs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cancun: A strange tale of media censorship by cloning

I have never heard of a case like this anywhere.

The weekly magazine and website Luces del Siglo (Lights of the Century) in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico, has seen its editions replaced by counterfeit versions with the contents twisted to favor the governor of the state.

The publisher, Norma Madero, said yesterday in an interview with El Universal newspaper, that this "cloning" of her publication has occurred 38 times in the past three years, six times to the printed edition on newsstands and 32 times to its online edition.

The magazine has consistently criticized Roberto Borge, the governor of the state of Quintana Roo, which is home to the tourist centers Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Madero has accused Borge of being responsible for distributing phony copies of the magazine. The governor denies any knowledge of or involvement in the "cloning" of Luces del Siglo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Students rack up media bills of $177 a month

"I never thought about how much I was spending on media. I just took it for granted, and now I realize that it is more than I would have imagined." -- student at Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico

I recently surveyed 22 students in a seminar on how much they spend on media every month. Bottom line, these students at an expensive private university in Mexico are spending the equivalent of about $177 a month on various types of media.

I asked them to include all kinds of media expenses, including those paid for at home by their parents. Many of these expenses were not part of anyone's budget 15 years ago:
  • Internet at home and on mobile devices, mobile apps
  • Telephone at home, mobile
  • Movies at cinemas, on physical media, online, streaming, apps
  • Television, on cable, on physical media, streaming, apps

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Opportunities abound in business journalism

"Business journalism is a wonderful career".
Versión en español.

MEXICO CITY -- Francisco Vidal Bonifaz has worked as a business journalist in Mexico for three decades, and he sees lots of possibilities for growth in this niche.

There are not many journalists with training in this field, either in Mexico or other countries. And there are few media that are focused on the economy, finance, and business.

Vidal Bonifaz believes that there is room for new business media on the web, especially at two ends of the spectrum: in breaking news that covers the ups and downs of markets, and in longer pieces that explain the significance of these movements. "There is a story behind every number," he likes to say.

If he were creating a new digital publication, "I would eliminate all the stuff in the middle. No stories of 300 words. I would focus on the two extremes," he told me in an interview in Mexico City.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Video on media entrepreneurs from S. Africa, Malaysia, Costa Rica

Source Fabric in Prague, which provides free, open-source content management systems for news organizations around the world, invited me to speak at their conference in the Czech Republic in October 2011.

They made a video of my presentation (below), which was about digital news entrepreneurs in South Africa, Malaysia, Guatemala, Costa Rica and other countries. (The first 30 seconds are pretty cool. I just saw the video for the first time last week after doing a search in YouTube.)



The conference, called Mediafabric 2011, had over 250 guests from five continents to explore the intersection of journalism and open technology.