Rosalía Lloret is the Chief Digital Officer at PRISA News and has a wealth of wisdom and experience having worked in online news, information and entertainment for more than 15 years.
We were lucky enough to grab some time in her manic publishing schedule to ask for her insights on the survival of print journalism, how digital publications can support investigative journalism and generate revenue and how damaged her profession has been by the phone-hacking scandal.
Find Rosalía’s full biog here and register here to see her live at TEDx Transmedia 2012.
Hi Rosalía, the theme of this year’s TEDx Transmedia, WEKids, is about harnessing child-like wonder and courage to make media that has a social impact. What do you see as the potential of that approach?
The Internet is still in its infancy: re-shaping continuously, surprising everyone with new ideas, services, business models and walking clumsily sometimes. Even early pioneers in the Web must keep their eyes wide open to all this change. They must maintain a sense of wonder… The rules are not carved in stone yet.
The subheading is Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters; which do you most identify with and why?
I’m not very fond of big labels, but I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to shift minds around Internet and digital. I’ve been successful many times. But I also have found myself putting forward the same old arguments a decade later.
What are some of the resistances to digital that you repeatedly face? What arguments do you find haven’t been won yet and why?
I face resistances now and then from ‘traditionalists’ (fortunately, less and less nowadays) who are reluctant to change – those who believe that your success online is always going to harm your ‘traditional’ business. And many times it is just the opposite.
What did you want to be as a kid? What were your dreams and aspirations?
I wanted to be a journalist - to learn facts, places and people first-hand, and to explain them to my fellow citizens.
TEDTalks are renowned for their inspiration, energy and focus on the personal. Can you give us a taster of what you want to bring to Rome?
A mind wide open to change, and the consequences of that change. A rejection of fundamentalism: from traditionalists but also from ‘digitalists.’
What attracts you to speaking at TEDxTransmedia in Rome?
TED is a very prestigious hotspot for ideas and debate
You’ve had experience across a number of different editorial outlets. What’s your opinion on the current state of online news and features? How does it differ between countries in Europe?
Quality media brands are doing very well online. Contrary to what some people said, these brands lead the News and Information online rankings in almost all countries of Europe, but need to enlarge their digital revenue base.
What’s an example of an online brand you think is doing particularly well? Why is it successful?
The New York Times, Guardian, Financial Times, Spiegel, El Pais… All of them are online News leaders in their respective countries according to Nielsen or Comscore. All of them have prestigious brands that users ultimately rely on, most especially in this age of a million information players, social networks, etc.
How would you like to see online editorial reinvented for the future, if you think it needs to be?
It needs to be reinvented to stay true to its original purpose: to filter, select and explain the news for the citizens of a community (also a global community), and to do it with quality journalism and a point of view. I think that this quality ‘gatekeeping’ is more important than ever in the avalanche of information we live on.
What is currently vital in designing engaging editorial content online?
To understand the different times, attitudes and needs of online users when they access online news on different devices.
Is there an online business model for newspapers that works?
There are many online business models that work, depending on the size of the media brand, the audience, the type of content, etc. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Each outlet has to find the most suitable one/s.
Which newspapers have developed a sustainable digital publishing business? Why is it working out for them?
Financial Times, New York Times and Economist are developing a business from digital subscriptions. Spiegel, El País and The Guardian rely on digital advertising. But all of us are considering a mix of different models.
Many complain about the accuracy and reliability of news online with outlets reproducing the same content (and mistakes) and little money around to fund investigative reporting. How can investigative journalism be supported in an online market?
Investigative reporting is very expensive and few outlets will be able to afford it. A number of big global brands and also some niche media companies will continue to do it. And easy publishing/microblogging will facilitate more ‘leaks’ from insiders in companies, institutions, etc.
Regarding the accuracy and reliability of media online, it is as good as the people that a media outlet allocates to work for it. The brands that have undergone a ‘Digital first’ strategy and dedicate their main newsroom to the digital news, as elpais.com does, also have their best quality content online.
How is elpais able to do this? Is it independent of the print model? Does it rely on commercial and financial support from print? Would it survive without the print product?
El País has only one newsroom that works for all its products: paper or digital.
Where’s the important journalism being done now?
A good part of the most important quality journalism is still being done in traditional media outlets. But there are new entrants - like The Huffington Post, Politico or even some personal bloggers - that are doing very relevant agenda-setting journalism
Some journalists complain that the Huffington Post relies on free contributions rather than paying for content. How can a journalists make a living from their profession in this context?
The Huffington Post pays for all its journalists (more than 400 in the USA), including those that have recently won the Pulitzer. Besides their production, there are hundreds of free contributors (politicians, scientists, artists, teachers, actors, NGO representatives, lobbyists, etc.) who send random and voluntarily posts (never commissioned) to be published at the HuffPost because of the visibility they get there. Very similar to what they do on Twitter, Facebook or their own blogs.
What do you think of citizen journalism?
I think there are some citizens doing journalism, as always (journalists are citizens, aren’t they?), and many more citizens that contribute to the creation and improvement of journalism, as ‘sources’, commentators, etc. The first part has grown a bit thanks to easy publishing tools like blogs, and the second has grown exponentially thanks to social networks and micro-blogging tools like Twitter; but I don’t think this second part should be called ‘journalism’
When do you think print newspapers will disappear, if ever?
I don’t think newspapers or dailies, as a concept, will disappear. But paper-based dailies will disappear when sales numbers don’t compensate for their high printing and distribution costs.
How much as the phone hacking scandal damaged the journalistic profession and what are the consequences?
It has seriously damaged the journalistic profession, especially those who attribute all the professional press a superior ‘ethics’ in contrast with non-professional bloggers, citizens, etc. We, the quality media, have to do a especial effort to differentiate ourselves with a faultless culture and practices, to keep our trustworthiness in front of the users.