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Innovating to survive: magazine media in Latin America and Spain

On day two (21 March) of the Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) 2017, two speakers explored the successes their companies are having in Spanish-speaking markets, in Argentina, Spain and wider Spanish-speaking markets with 500 million Spanish around the world.

“In Latin America, innovation is necessary to survive”

First to speak was Agustino Fontevecchia, Digital Director at Editorial Perfil. Over the past 40 years, Perfil has managed break throughs as Argentina’s largest magazine publisher, establishing the highest circulation news magazine in the Spanish language (Noticias) and successful celebrity title in Argentina and Brazil (Caras, the latter in Portuguese). 

Agustino Fontevechia ()

“In Latin America, innovation is a necessity to survive,” began Agustino. “It is not something decided on by the board of directors - it is essential.” He described how an economy in recession and 40 per cent inflation rates has made Argentina a difficult environment to thrive in - yet the company is doing extremely well regardless.

The history of Editorial Perfil

In an interesting start to his presentation, Agustino took the audience through the sometimes turbulent history of the company. “My grandfather and father launched Editorial Perfil in the 1970s, when there was a monopoly on magazine media,” he explained. “Military dictatorships were taking over the continent, just as Editorial Perfil was innovating and growing.” 

Circulation grew dramatically, but not without catching the negative attention of the dictatorship along the way. Eventually, in the mid-1980s, with the return of democracy, it became the number one magazine publisher in Argentina. 

Impressive statistics

Editorial Perfil is a profitable business, with its sites getting 20 million unique visits across Argentina and Brazil each month, as well as 200 million page views. Argentina is currently in an inflationary recession, “but we’re stronger than ever,” Agustino said. The company’s integrated newsroom in Buenos Aires is the largest in all of Latin America. 

Innovating for the future: commercial strategy

“We still use the same legacy print teams,” added Agustino. “But we decided to start from the beginning, building our own CMS which is customisable and scalable to our needs, and we stopped paying third-party providers for sub-par tech.”

The team also has a video platform which has no upfront CDN costs which, while limiting potential profits, has the benefit of avoiding painful costs when fill rates don’t emerge.

Building on this approach, they decided it was better to empower legacy sales teams with new tools rather than reinventing the wheel. A dedicated sales manager with team of digital partners provides support for executives, while special products managers and yield management specialists take care of these specific areas. Executives pitch three interconnected digital proposals: display, special products, and programmatic (as well as print, which still make up the majority of their revenue). 

He added that they consider Google and Facebook to be “the enemies” in an advertising market context. They teamed up with Argentina’s six largest publishers to launch a programmatic co-op: RPA Media Place, to challenge the dominance of these American giants. “And RPA is expanding into neighbouring countries now,” he added. “We live in a world where Google and Facebook dominate; we understand that we have to live in their world, but we’re not going to let them twist our arm. There’s a fight in Europe over this as well, so we want to join that fight.”

“We have the number one podcast audience in Spain”

Agustino’s presentation was followed by that of Andrés Rodríguez, a journalist and entrepreneur who is President and owner of Spainmedia, which he founded in 2007. Publishing a variety of magazines including Esquire, Tapas, Robb Report, and Forbes, Spainmedia has branched out into podcasts of late and has grown an impressive following.

Spainmedia ()

Spainmedia Radio

“We’re independent, launching new magazines and new products. Which is unusual in Spain,” began Andrés. He explained that while they do not make much money through Spainmedia Radio, they have a great and unique position within the country because they have really pushed the podcast business, in effective operating like a radio business would.

They now publish many weekly podcasts, including five with Forbes (Forbes Daily, Forbes Review, Forbes Emprende, Forbes People, Forbes El Golpe), daily programmes, T-Spain, NYT Style Magazine, Tapas podcast (chefs and food trends), L’Officiel Espana, Robb Report, Spainmedia Lab, Doctor Jazz, and El Enganche (sports programme). 

Spainmedia Radio podcasts generally are around 20 minutes long, which he said seems to be the optimal time for listeners: “it’s the time it takes to go for a run, cook some food,” Andrés reasoned. Furthermore, “we create new content every day, and many podcasts are doing really well.”

In 2016, Andrés explained, they attracted half a million listeners: “not that much by some standards,” he added, “however, we’ve the number one podcast audience in Spain by numbers.”

For now, Andrés ended, the company is focused on audio, but video may be in the pipeline in future. “The biggest challenge we have at the moment is to convince central media that our podcasts are worthy of investment,” he said. 

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