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April 17 2012

13:32

Spain's iPad Mag, Vis à Vis, Shows Growth, Points to New Path

In a small office in Alcala Street, in the center of Madrid, a team of seven young entrepreneurial journalists are working overtime to produce the next issue of digital magazine Vis à Vis.

Conceived exclusively for the iPad and launched in January, Vis à Vis is an interactive, visual and modern publication that wants to reinvent journalism.

The first edition of the magazine recorded up to 42,000 downloads. The third edition was released on April 1, and the team's expectations are very high.

"Journalism is going through a phase in which either you undertake your own idea or you have to conform to the reality of market," said Laura Blanco, the magazine's editor in chief.

Together with Ángel Anaya, she holds the reins of this initiative that forged its roots during their first year at college. The seven editorial staff members are between 23 and 25 years old and studied together in the Spanish city of Valencia. After working on a project involving the editing of a print magazine, they decided to launch their own publication online.

"With the emergence of digital platforms, the entire printed press industry started wobbling," Blanco said.

When the iPad appeared on the market, she and her colleagues realized that it would be a suitable platform for a lifestyle magazine, because it could combine quality content with interactive features.

"In August [2011] we reached Madrid with much uncertainty, but with a lot of hope and enthusiasm," Anaya said. He confessed that the magazine is "his creation" and passionately narrated the gestation process of the idea. In the beginning, the group of friends had to rely on family support to fund their project. When they asked for a small bank loan, they were told that they were "too young to take that risk."

"Free Forever"

Vis à Vis is exclusively edited for the iPad, with all the possibilities that it offers, and a distinctive feature is that it's free of charge. "Free forever," reads its motto.

"Nowadays, it is very difficult to ask people to pay for something they know they can have for free," Anaya said. That is why he bet fully on the digital environment from the start. "In addition, we had observed over the years that tablet readers' profiles were moving from executives with high purchasing power to young readers."

The magazine's content consists of interviews with prominent figures in the areas of sports, television, fashion or gastronomy, presented in a personal "vis à vis" (face to face) setting. "We try to create a special atmosphere with each character. Interviews are always done in a kind of 'petit comité'," Blanco said.



Who's behind Vis à Vis? A meeting with the editorial team. Video: Gina Gulberti


Vis à Vis runs on a basic concept: All content types must be able to be consumed at different times of the day. "From extensive articles that you can read calmly at home during the weekend, up to short and more visual articles that you can rapidly go through on the bus or on the underground, that's what Vis à Vis is all about: a magazine that escapes the ephemeral concept of the paper," Blanco said.

The editorial team relies fundamentally on the power of social networks for its advertising strategy. "Word of mouth worked very fast," Anaya said. The first issue of the magazine launched on January 4 and recorded about 42,000 downloads. In February, the second issue had already reached approximately 38,000 readers within two weeks.

For the third edition, the team has already secured the first advertisements that will finance the project. "Brands are seeing a great advertising potential in the interactivity offered by the iPad," Anaya said. "They are contacting us directly."

Reinventing journalism

Thanks to their enthusiasm, Anaya and his colleagues have gradually overcome, step by step, the challenges posed by a society very anchored in the printed press. Some people have praised the magazine as a great initiative promoting journalism, while others have shown more skepticism with regards to long-term development of the project. Other times, though, some people have become so excited with the project that they have offered to help.

"It is a risky venture to undertake a business in times of crisis. But if you don't do it, you will never be able to aspire to anything better," Blanco said.


image
Laura Blanco and Ángel Anaya hold the reins of the initiative.


While Blanco and her colleagues don't see their magazine's only-for-iPad design as a restriction, they don't reject the possibility of producing future versions of the magazine for other platforms. "We are covering a market in full expansion," Anaya said.

The figures seem to prove it: Last February, Apple registered 25 billion downloads from its App Store, and the recent launch of the iPad 3, or New iPad, has beaten records worldwide, with more than 3 million sales in the first four days.

In a media world that's evolving, Vis à Vis relies on two crucial elements for its success: the enthusiasm in reinventing a distribution model and the obstinate belief in the possibility of a new way of doing journalism.

Gina Gulberti holds a Master's degree in Multimedia Journalism. In 2011, she obtained a Robert Shumann scholarship for journalists and worked for the audiovisual unit of the European Parliament in Brussels. She has worked for different Spanish media outlets such as RNE (public Spanish radio), Onda Cero radio and ADN journal. Her interests include Web 2.0., audiovisual production, European policies and independent journalism. Now based in Madrid, she is collaborating with digital newspapers while working for the press office of La Fourchette in Spain.

ejc-logo small.jpgThis piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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January 20 2012

08:22

Data journalism awards

Yesterday saw the launch of the first (surprisingly) international data journalism awards, backed by the European Journalism Centre*, Google, and the Global Editors Network.

There are 6 awards – 3 categories, each split into national/international and local/regional subcategories: investigative journalism; visualisation; and apps.

Each comes with prize money of 7,500 euros.

The closing date for entries is April 10. It’s particularly good to see a jury and pre-jury that isn’t dominated by Anglo-American traditional media, so if your work is unconventionally innovative it stands a decent chance of making it through. There’s also no specification on where your work is published, so students and independent journalists can enter.

The one thing I’d like to see in future years is the ‘visualisation and storytelling’ category expanded to include non-visual storytelling – there’s a tendency to reach for visualisation as a way to communicate data when other methods could be just as, or more, engaging.

*Declaration of interest: I am on the editorial board for the EJC’s Data Driven Journalism project.

January 20 2011

08:00

A university without walls

This post forms part of the Carnival of Journalism, whose theme this month is universities’ roles in their local community.

In traditional journalism the concept of community is a broad one, typically used when the speaker really means ‘audience’, or ‘market’.

In a networked age, however, a community is an asset: it is a much more significant source of information than in other media; an active producer of content; and, perhaps most importantly, at the heart of any online distribution system.

You can see this at work in some of the most successful content startups of the internet era – Boing Boing, The Huffington Post, Slashdot – and even in mainstream outlets such as The Guardian, with, for example, its productive community around the Data Blog.

Any fledgling online journalism operation which is not based on a distinct community is, to my thinking, simply inefficient – and any journalism course that features an online element should be built on communities – should be linking in to the communities that surround it.

Teaching community-driven journalism

My own experience is that leaving the walls of academia behind and hosting classes wherever the community meets can make an enormous difference. In my MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, for example, the very first week is not about newsgathering or blogging or anything to do with content: it’s about community, and identifying which one the students are going to serve.

To that end students spend their induction week attending the local Social Media Cafe, meeting local bloggers and understanding that particular community (one of whom this year suggested the idea that led to Birmingham Budget Cuts). We hold open classes in a city centre coffee shop so that people from Birmingham can drop in: when we talked about online journalism and the law, there were bloggers, former newspaper editors, and a photographer whose contributions turned the event into something unlike anything you’d see in a classroom.

And students are sent out to explore the community as part of learning about blogging, or encouraged to base themselves physically in the communities they serve. Andy Brightwell and Jon Hickman’s hyperlocal Grounds blog is a good example, run out of another city centre coffee shop in their patch.

In my online journalism classes at City University in London, meanwhile (which are sadly too big to fit in a coffee shop) I am currently asking students to put together a community strategy as one of their two assignments. The idea is to get them to think about how they can produce better journalism – that is also more widely read – by thinking explicitly about how to involve a community in its production.

Community isn’t a postcode

But I’ve also come to believe that we should be as flexible as possible about what we mean by community. The traditional approach has been to assign students to geographical patches – a relic of the commercial imperatives behind print production. Some courses are adapting this to smaller, hyperlocal, patches for their online assessment to keep up with contemporary developments. This is great – but I think it risks missing something else.

One moment that brought this home to me was when – in that very first week – I asked the students what they thought made a community. The response that stuck in my mind most was Alex Gamela‘s: “An enemy”. It illustrates how communities are created by so many things other than location (You could also add “a cause”, “a shared experience”, “a profession”, “a hobby” and others which are listed and explored in the Community part of the BASIC Principles of Online Journalism).

As journalism departments we are particularly weak in seeing community in those terms. One of the reasons Birmingham Budget Cuts is such a great example of community-driven journalism is that it addresses a community of various types: one of location, of profession, and of shared experience and – for the thousands facing redundancy – cause too. It is not your typical hyperlocal blog, but who would argue it does not have a strong proposition at its core?

There’s a further step, too, which requires particular boldness on the part of journalism schools, and innovativeness in assessment methods: we need to be prepared for students to create sites where they don’t create any journalism themselves at all. Instead, they facilitate its production, and host the platform that enables it to happen. In online journalism we might call this a community manager role – which will raise the inevitable questions of ‘Is It Journalism?’ But in traditional journalism, with the journalism being produced by reporters, a very similar role would simply be called being an editor.

PS: I spoke about this theme in Amsterdam last September as part of a presentation on ‘A Journalism Curriculum for the 21st Century’ at the PICNIC festival, organised by the European Journalism Centre. This is embedded below:

Slides can be found below:

September 23 2010

09:45

#picnic10: Watch the Future of Journalism session live

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) has a great line up of speakers for today’s PICNIC conference – “a renowned festival-cum-conference that blurs the lines between creativity, science, technology, business and society”.

The programme features a keynote speech from Jeff Jarvis, director of the interactive programme at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, hot on the heels of CUNY’s new entrepreneurial journalism plans.

Mark Glaser, executive editor of MediaShift, will focus on the successes and failures of traditional media when it comes to digital; while new City University London lecturer Paul Bradshaw will set out a journalism curriculum for the 21st century.

The full programme is available via the EJC’s event page and you can watch a live stream of the day’s events below:

ejcnet on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

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