Thursday, April 6, 2017

'Know your clients, give them what they need'

Ingelmo: "Clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic."
Manuel Benito Ingelmo has blended his knowledge of data, technology, and journalism to establish a news service with some of the biggest media in Spain as his clients.

His data-visualization service,, just finished its most successful year, and Ingelmo continues to innovate and improve his products.

He and a team of two programmers have developed software that pulls data from public databases and produces graphics in minutes for media organizations to embed in their web pages. They can also customize the data geographically so that a newspaper in the city of Seville, for example, can get the latest unemployment figures for its area.

"We're very fast," Ingelmo says. "Speed matters. Our clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic. They want it right now," he told me recently in a Skype interview from his home in Vitoria, northern Spain.

Porcentual gives each client some customized code -- an iframe -- that they can embed in their website to produce timely graphics in a matter of minutes. "Publishers want an automated process that is easy to manage." Publishers can then use a graphic that contains relevant, newsy data rather than pluggin in a generic photo, as they might have in the past. 

Steady evolution

Ingelmo, 43, launched the project five years ago when he was laid off from his job as a business journalist at a small daily in Salamanca, northwestern Spain. (In 2015, I described how he started the business.)

His two programming partners are based in the Canary Islands. They have upgraded the website and their product offerings to respond to what the company's 60 clients say they need. 

"Common sense is more important than knowing all about certain things," Ingelmo said. "Working in a newsroom for many years helps you learn many things about the needs of a media client. When you put yourself in the client's shoes, you can offer them what they need." 

Among Porcentual's clients are major newspapers such as La Vanguardia, the Joly Group newspapersEl Huff Post, and the Atresmedia groupamong many others. In all, these clients control more than 100 media brands. 

Public debt in Spain has grown to nearly 100% of GDP (PIB) in Spain. From Porcentual. Click to enlarge.
Clients pay an average of about 60 euros a month each to subscribe to the service, so a rough estimate of base revenues is 3,600 euros ($4,000) a month or $48,000 a year. Many other clients pay per graphic or for special services, such as election coverage. 

Porcentual also licenses the software it developed to media organizations that want a simple way to create web graphics using their own data. 

Some recent graphics showed a major company's results, an uptick in the number of mortgages (hipotecas) after seven years of declines, and a comparison of pension benefits by region, which allows users to compare differences in monthy payments between the wealthiest and poorest areas. 

Retirees in Asturias get about 870 euros a month compared to 1306 in Basque Country (País Vasco). Click to enlarge.
Porcentual's website is not meant to generate traffic volume; it is used only to highlight what clients are posting on their sites. The number of times the graphics are viewed on client sites varies from around 1 million to 5 million a month, Ingelmo said. 

He and his team normally plan to produce two graphics a day, based on data releases from various government ministries and other sources. However, if a major news story breaks, that will always take precedence.

Self-employment's advantages

Ingelmo recently spent several days in Madrid teaching in a master's degree program on data journalism. He urged the students to consider working for themselves. He told them he sets his own hours, is his own boss, and makes more money now than he ever did working for media organizations.

"I am without doubt having the best experience of my professional life," he told me. "I found the niche I needed to keep progressing. I'm learning how a journalism business works, how big newsrooms work." 

Porcentual won recognition in 2014 for being one of the most innovative journalism sites in the country. 

In a previous interview, in 2015, Ingelmo summed up well his idea about working for yourself:
"Not everybody can be Bill Gates. But between Bill Gates and failure, there are lots of possibilities for earning a decent living."


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