By Samantha Barthelemy
Silvio José Genesini Júnior sees the future of print in a stronger and more credible product. To adapt to a changing media market, the newspaper’s main strategy is to use its offline and online content, together, to solidify its traditional brand, says the chief executive officer of Grupo Estado, which publishes Brazil’s fourth largest newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo.
Named after Brazil’s financial centre, the state of São Paulo, and nicknamed Estadão, the newspaper grew 11 percent in 2010, reaching an annual average of 250,089 daily copies, according to Brazil’s Instituto Verificador de Circulacao.
The country’s three largest newspapers are: Folha de São Paulo (301,243 daily copies), Super Notícia (297,048 daily copies) and O Globo (296,960 daily copies).
Founded in 1875 on republican ideals, Estadão is one of the oldest and most traditional newspapers in Brazil. Its owner also publishes Jornal da Tarde (46,816 daily copies) and owns Rádio Eldorado AM and FM and Agência Estado, Brazil’s largest financial news agency. Like the country’s other leading publications, Estadão is considered an elite-oriented, quality national newspaper.
Genesini is generally optimistic about the future of print, in keeping with Brazil’s larger media climate. Print newspapers are a lucrative product in the country, South America’s biggest media market, and will remain so for at least the next five years, he says.
“If relevant and strong newspapers continue to be produced, it will create a virtuous circle: as more people want to read and buy newspapers, there will be more advertising and, in turn, publications will improve their content quality,” he adds.
While newspapers in countries like the United States, Greece and Switzerland face steady declines in circulation and advertising revenues, Brazilian publications are thriving. According to 2009 data from the World Association of Newspapers, circulation in the country has been growing steadily since 2004, with a record high of 72.5 copies sold daily per 1,000 adults in 2008. Print newspaper circulation and advertising grew in 2010, as Brazil enjoyed slight increases in population, education, literacy and income levels. According to the IVC, total circulation of audited titles increased by around 1.5 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, as publications tapped into previously non-existing markets.
Strengthening the brand
Genesisi says Estadão will continue to focus on the “complementarity” of its online and print products to strengthen the newspaper’s brand.
“Print readers pull the growth of our online audience, and vice-versa, as they navigate through our different platforms, searching for the content of a newspaper brand they know and trust for its quality and credibility,” he adds.
The “recipe” is to produce differentiated print and digital content and eventually combine both. One example is Paladar, a gastronomy section highly popular with print readers, which led to the creation of food events and an interactive online section offering recipes, and restaurant and wine lists, reporting on food-related news around the country and links to blogs and videos.
“Digital media is relevant,” says Genesini. “But our strength will come not from a specific media, but from the different platforms we are able to use, together.”
Beyond the expansion of its online presence, Estadão focuses on strengthening the quality of its product by offering more analytical – rather than the more traditional hard-news – content.
“In a context of fragmentation of the means of communications, an increase in online and offline audience implies a gain in relevancy for our product, and guarantees that more readers have access to quality journalistic information,” says Genesini.
According to Brazil’s circulation body Instituto Verificador de Circulação, the financial crisis led to a 6.9 percent decrease in circulation for Brazil’s 20 largest newspapers in 2009, and a 13.5 percent decline for Estadão. However, Genesini considers the impact on Estadão’s newsroom to have been “minimal,” and says the crisis was a moment of opportunity. It pushed the newspaper towards technological innovations and transformations in the work process, “enhancing overall newsroom production capacity and focus on content quality.”
Estadão recently revamped its publication in partnership with the Barcelona-based consultancy Cases i Associats. The 2010 Project Redesign organised different sections to make information more visible and revamped the columnists’ page. The paper added new sections, including “Planet and Global Vision,” “Sabbatical,” “C2+Musics” and “Business.” Estadão also gained special sections, including “Challenges for the New President,” “Brazilian Dinosaurs,” “Brazil’s Unknown Wars” and “Mexico at War.”
A survey conducted with 200 readers showed the paper was more appealing, organised and easy to read, while still maintaining its traditional depth and quality of information.
Estadão’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup and Brazilian presidential elections included the latest generation information graphics, enhancing illustration of facts and allowing for greater reader interactivity. The newspaper also expanded its online presence through a new partnership with Windows Live Messenger, creating MSN Estadão to broadcast articles, images and videos through one of Brazil’s largest Internet portals. The group recently announced an extended partnership with ESPN Brasil, for the creation of Rádio Estadão ESPN and espn.com.br, both focused primarily on sports news. Estadão ESPN’s team will have 40 members.
“The movement is part of a process for the strengthening of our sports platform, specially given that in the next years Brazil will be hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games,” says Genesini.
Maintaining a destination status online
Genesini guarantees both readers and the news industry are welcoming the changes at Estadão. According to data from the Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística, the number of single visits to the newspaper’s website (estadão.com.br) increased 88 percent between January and October 2010, compared with a 20 percent increase in the national market. Revenues from estadão.com.br grew 81 percent between January and August 2010, compared with an average 31 percent market growth, according to Projeto Inter-Meios, which tracks media investment in Brazil.
The newspaper received numerous prizes for its journalistic work in recent years, including the Prêmio Imprensa Embratel, Prêmio Allianz Seguro de Jornalismo and Grande Prêmio Ayrton Senna de Jornalismo. Its website was appointed by Fundação Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano as one of the four best social network practices in Latin America.
Genesini says the gradual transition to digital media has been smooth, with the newsroom integrated since 2005 and its staff contributing across platforms. While the paper welcomes reader participation through social media and interactive features, Estadão’s staff still faces some difficulties in transitioning from a traditional culture of editing and hierarchy. Like other market players, Estadão is searching for a feasible model to charge for its online content. Genesini knows the future is online, but he says he does not believe this transition will happen overnight.
“Especially since there is no predominant model or money in digital media yet,” in the future “we want to be able to cater to our readers wherever and in whatever way they choose,” he says.
This interview and more will be available in the World Newsmedia Network’s upcoming World Newsmedia Innovation Study. To secure a free copy of the report, please take our survey, available in nine languages.
By Samantha Barthelemy