Innovation in Spanish journalism

The Spanish economic crisis brought with it, among many other outcomes, a great crisis of the media. The leading newspapers got in debt so they had to restructure their models and, eventually, fire many people.

Some of those experienced journalists, suddenly unemployed and disappointed with the old mainstream Spanish media, put their knowledge up together the talent and enthusiasm of other young professionals. Some very successful new media came out from these innovative initiatives.

“Creativity is about thinking things and innovation about carrying them out,” said Juan Luis Manfredi, Senior Lecturer at the University of Castilla La Mancha, moderating the panel-discussion Innovation in Spanish journalism at the International Journalism Festival 2015.

The conversation was joined by the journalists Ignacio Escolar, founder and director of; Jordi Colomé, co-founding El Espanol (lead by Pedro J. Ramírez); and Daniele Grasso, founder and coordinator of the data journalism desk at El confidencial.

They spoke about the current Spanish media panorama, representing the view of what Luis Manfredi defined as “some cases of general press that is standing up to big traditional media”.

Regarding new digital media, funding seems to be always the first issue to tackle. While all the three media still rely on classic publicity to some extent, they also came out with new business models.

El Diario, for instance, gets 30% of its revenue from its subscribers, who pay five monthly euros in order to have some advantages, such as daily exclusive access in advance to some key articles.

El Confidencial, on its side, gets some money from the organization of promotional events. In addition, it has  published as well some branded content which, in Daniele Grasso words, “can be tremendously interesting as long as you make clear to the reader who is paying for it”.

Talking about finance, these new publications have something in common: all are owned in some percentage by its own workers. “The fact that the director of El Español [Pedro J. Ramírez ] is the majority shareholder is one more reason to make our readers trust the media,” said Jordi Colomé.

Other critical feature that is making these three media popular is their fearless approach to the actuality, when the mainstream Spanish media seem to be scared to talk about many issues and many people.
“Our strengths have been writing the most uncomfortable news, and finding a business model that gives as the independence to do it,” said Ignacio Escolar, whose newspaper has unveiled more than one scandal about political corruption in the recent years.

In his case, he admitted that most of the subscribers do not pay so much in order to receive the exclusive treatment, “but to support the existence of a good independent journalistic work”.

Finally, the speakers talked about the importance of taking good advantage of the technology available to carry out a successful online media.

“We have to distinguish ourselves not just because of what we tell but also because of how we tell it,” said Colomé. “Mobile devices and social media are today in the top of El Español’s approach”.

As an expert in data usage, Daniele Grasso added: “we work to create objects, contents and apps that are useful both for the readers and for the journalists”.

Teresa López