Sixty-eight percent of Latin America’s population has access to the Internet. This audience is the target of VíaPaís’ new project: producing Mexico-specific content with a new site intended to capture the local audience. The intention of this project is to strengthen the link with people who consume digital media news.
Taking learned lessons from six years of experience with the media in Argentina and using important knowledge about the type of content users consume from social networks and Google, we have established a two-pronged strategy to capture both groups of readers.
Highlighting the characteristics of these two very different groups
One of these groups is inclined to consume so-called “soft” content about television shows, viral content, celebrities, and influencers using Instagram, TikTok, and others social media platforms. In general, these articles have a very strong engagement from social networks, and especially on Facebook, where they can compete on equal terms with the most relevant media content. VíaPaís has specialised in generating this kind of content with the articles published in the VíaLibre section.
The other group searches for news or “hard” content on Google and different, specific platforms for media, like Google News and Discover.
This is a complicated field where all media sites compete for the audience, and where the reputation and hierarchy of each one enhances the visibility of the articles. This means generating traffic is very difficult, requiring more time and work, so that the articles provide some differential value to the reader and, thus, become more visible. In general, this audience looks for information on politics, economy, interviews, police, or general information.
VíaPaísMéxico’s strategy with soft and hard content
Up to this point we have not revealed any mystery. The question we asked ourselves at VíaPaís was whether it is possible for a new media outlet to obtain readers of “soft” information from social networks and “hard” information from Google.
In this case, without an accurate answer, we decided to create the experience and measure our own results. It is not new to say that “soft” content is usually that which generates media traffic faster. Also, with a fairly simple structure, it is generally easier to repeat. Additionally, it is tempting to search for readers only with this kind of content, but the number of pageviews provides comfort in trying to conquer some users with the hard content that we generate.
We understood that Mexico was a good first step to test this theory. This is because, according to our metrics, entertainment stories are very attractive to that community. For this reason, we took advantage of our know-how to train the new newsroom to generate these types of stories.
However, at the same time, we decided this newsroom should use all the SEO knowledge to produce political, economic, police, and general information articles that are searched in Google, but without competing with the breaking news. The goal was to tell a complementary story or to follow up on specific cases.
What is the current role of media with this launch?
So far, we have analysed the data, established a business plan, and started to execute it. But we must not forget an important question: What are our potential readers looking for?
Can a new media platform establish its own content agenda? Are readers waiting for the news to reach them? All experiences and studies say that this is not the case, since people who consume news tend to do so in media that share their ideals.
Therefore, it is very complicated for a new media product to enter the space unless it understands the rules of the game and can eventually support its strategy beyond the initial results.
Perhaps what we in the media should be asking ourselves is: What do our readers want? What is the reason short videos are gaining so much ground?
Nowadays, when most people are beset by economic problems, the hope that political classes can reverse this situation is collapsing. Where the reality of social network users is often far from the hegemonic achievements shown on them (whether of beauty, wealth, or acceptance), it seems difficult to fight against the escapism that these people make of their reality.
Consuming economic or political news is not an attractive plan compared to watching the “perfect” lives shown on social networks and, thus, feeding the most intimate dreams of a better life.
We might think that the fact people are spectators and do not want to ask questions or be reviewers of their government’s policies is favourable to maintaining the status quo. For a media news site, the real challenge is making that person who is interested in knowing which Mexicans have the most Instagram followers also read about the consequences of the Mayan Train promoted by Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government or learn about concrete actions that can stop the escalation of violence in Mexico.
It is complicated, but we have to try. It is a battle we are not winning, but we will still fight.
Therefore, at VíaPaísMéxico, we want to combine the best of both worlds without abusing the “soft” and trying to give a twist to the “hard.” This is intended to make the content increasingly relevant in Google, with articles that entertain our readers while also contributing something — generating questions or requests about a particular topic.
Are we, the media, entertainers? According to our metrics, yes. But we are genetically obliged not to give up the battle for the diffusion of information that can change people’s lives. And, we need to keep looking for better channels of spreading content, whether through humour, videos, or opinion columns — or simply answer the question any citizen might ask about an issue: How does this affect me? In that second step, that person enjoys questioning what the media itself offers.
What will be the result of VíaPaísMéxico? We have to give it time, measure, evaluate, make decisions, and never stop focusing on the reader and on what we believe they need.