Saturday, February 13, 2016

Latin America spawns scores of innovative news sites

Latin America has spawned a rich breed of online news publishers who are challenging mainstream journalism. These digital natives have achieved significant influence by innovating with digital tools.

They often aim to provide an alternative to the traditional voice of mainstream media, which are usually linked to political and business interests that have long predominated in these countries.

"Digital-ness" of highly influential websites. 
These are among the findings of a new study of 67 native-born digital news publications by Ramon Salaverria of the University of Navarra (Spain) and Summer Harlow of Florida State University. The study, published in the journal Digital Journalism, is an ambitious effort to measure the innovation, influence, and goals of these 67 digital natives -- "Regenerating Journalism: Exploring the 'alternativeness' and 'digital-ness' of Online-Native Media in Latin America".

And while the scholars have not set out to create  a viral listicle a la Buzzfeed, they have created two tables in their article with fascinating detail, one of which I have condensed (at left).

The rankings of "digital-ness" are based on measurement of each site's use of multimedia, interactive elements, and degree of audience participation. All 10 listed here were rated as "highly influential" by the researchers, based on measuring their per-capita Facebook and Twitter following and their global ranking in the Alexa audience measurement service.

Versión en español

Alternatives with change in mind

Since there is no comprehensive directory of digital publications, the researchers did their own systematic search among the 20 Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The 67 they identified from 13 countries all were active in September 2014. Interesting new ventures like Ojo Publico in Peru, Efecto Cocuyo in Venezuela, and Nomada in Guatemala launched too late to make the cut.

Of the 67 sites, 38 were non-profit, 27 were commercial, and two could not be determined by the researchers. As for their "alternative-ness" to the mainstream media, 48 sites aimed to be innovative or alternative and the rest had traditional goals and positioning.

For those of us who are trying to identify the best practices in digital media and help create a road map for sustainable, high-quality journalism, this article offers a wonderful model. The researchers have developed quantitative and qualitative methods to measure each publication's contribution to their community and, by extension, to our knowledge.

The rankings in this article introduced me to some media I was unaware of and also reaffirmed my own perception of who are some of the leading innovators making an impact in Latin America.

I was surprised not to see any media from Brazil in the rankings, so I sent an inquiry to Prof. Salaverria by email. He answered that none of the media there qualified as "highly influential" based on the study's criteria of measuring social media followers as a percentage of total population. Given the country's large population (200 million), no website had a sufficient number of followers.

On a personal note 

I had often thought that one of the best ways to share successful business and journalism models in digital media for Latin America would be to create an online database and information hub in Spanish. As it happens, a friend and colleague, Janine Warner, had been thinking along the same lines.

Janine has launched to do exactly that, and I am participating as an adviser. The Sembra Media team is now building a searchable database alongside teaching materials, instructional videos, and more. We invite your contributions. We are excited to see where the effort takes us.


From Poynter, 25 ideas for nonprofit newsrooms
ProPublica develops nonprofit investigative journalism for the digital age 
An investigative journalist leaps from print to digital 
12 revenue sources for digital news organizations 
5 dirty words journalists have to learn to say without blushing

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