By Ana Maria Martinez Romero
The online newspaper Valencia Plaza launched in February 2010, in the middle of the economic crisis that devastated Spain after the 2008 market collapse in the United States. But despite this inauspicious beginnings, the online outlet that covers economics, politics and culture in the city of Valencia has thrived and today boasts about one million readers each month.
The city of Valencia has two prestigious daily newspapers that date back to the 19th Century: Levante-EMV and Las Provincias. Competing with two established newspapers in a city of 800,000 inhabitants seemed risky, but founders Cruz Sierra and the businessman Enrique Lucas decided not to compete with the giants. “You have to find a niche and try to be the best at that niche”, said its director, Javier Alfonso. In the case of Valencia Plaza the niche was economic and finance stories that featured local businesses.
Targeting local businesses as their main readers and subjects helped boost ad revenues bringing in “more and more expensive advertising”, explains Alfonso. Advertising from local businesses is the main source of the newspaper´s revenue and Valencia Plaza cultivates this community by organizing events such as workshops and company breakfasts. Companies are very interested in these thematic events that are great opportunities for networking. For Valencia Plaza, these events serve to both promote their product and advance their popularity among the companies.
Valencia Plaza expanded their coverage from exclusively economics into cultural events with its an offshoot CulturPlaza. They wanted to offer an alternative to what other traditional newspapers were doing. They featured vanguard art alongside traditional art, which adding new perspectives to the culture scene in Valencia. They constantly expand: in May 2016, they launched “La guía hedonista”, a weekly series focused on Valencian food culture. Every Friday, this gastronomic guide offers critiques of restaurants in the city and interviews with important chefs.
Valencia Plaza also currently offers a third section, Plaza Deportiva, a sports-focused site. Although, the group was not convinced that this section would be well received by its traditional readership, it nonetheless gained the favor of readers. Ediciones Plaza is the only editorial group with Valencian capital. The company that started with just an economic online newspaper has today three websites (Valencia Plaza, Culur Plaza and Plaza Deportiva), the printed magazine Plaza and two regional editions in Valencia and Alicante.
Every month since its 2010 launch, Valencia Plaza has increased its readership, recently reaching one million of visits per month. Valencia Plaza eschews the kinds of stories that go viral as Alfonso points out. They do not cover homicides or celebrity gossip. Instead the most popular pieces with readers are usually in depth features.
After noticing that advertisers preferred print publications, Valencia Plaza launched the monthly magazine Plaza in November 2014. It includes longer features about tourism, environment, science or politics in the Valencian community. With this magazine, Valencia Plaza was able to attract new advertisers who don’t rely on Internet ads to reach potential customers. Due to the higher price of print advertising, the magazine made large profits from the time of its launch.
In October of 2016, Valencia Plaza´s editorial group started another new online project which is off to a promising start, Alfonso says: Alicante Plaza. Alicante is a city of 330,000 inhabitants in the Valencian community, to the south of Valencia and Alicante Plaza focuses on covering the city itself, while sharing regional news with Valencia Plaza.
Beginnings are never easy, but Valencia Plaza had one important advantage: shareholders made a major bet for the product. Even when the first years it was not profitable, they increased their contributions as readers showed their interest in this outlet. All early profits were spent on increasing the number of contributing journalists, to make the expansion of the newspaper possible. Nowadays, Valencia Plaza has 15 journalists in the newsroom and plenty of freelance contributors.
But even as it grows, Valencia Plaza will stick to its core areas of reporting expertise. “Today the front page in all the newspapers were the floods in Valencia and I felt tempted to include them, but we have to keep faithful to our subjects: economics, politics and culture”, says Alfonso.