August 23, 2019
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Journalism in digital age must rethink how to reach its audience

By Gina Baldivieso

Santa Cruz, Bolivia, May 22 (efe-epa).- The challenge of journalism in the digital age continues to point toward determining what the audience's content and format preferences are, with the additional task of reaching a public whose attention is fragmented by the sheer amount of news and information accessible via their mobile devices.

This is one of the premises explored at the first Digital Journalism Forum by Agencia EFE, Spain's international news agency, in Bolivia, a forum held on Wednesday at the Hotel Marriott in the eastern city of Santa Cruz and sponsored by Repsol, Fonplata, Tecnicas Reunidas and Viva.

The main speaker at the forum was Agencia EFE's director of Digital and Business Development, Juan Varela, who besides being a journalist is also a consultant and communications executive with 30 years of experience in Spain, the United States and Latin America in online, audiovisual and print media.

The main thing for a journalist making the jump to digital is "understanding people, what they want, what the content is, but also what the formats are that interest them most," and how to ensure that the news they receive will be ever more interesting and attractive, Varela said.

"I think that that is the big challenge for journalism, which is the ongoing challenge although today it is increasing for us because the fragmenting of people's attention is very important," he said.

It's also about ensuring that the news has "more space in the lives of people and more screen time" on their mobile phones, which is the most-used device these days to access news and which Varela said "has completely revolutionized access to content and news."

"We in the media have to adapt ourselves and be able to share and distribute the best news possible with the best possible formats, by the closest device and which people feel is the most immediate," he said.

In an age when losing one's mobile device can become "one of the biggest tragedies of your life," journalists and media outlets have to be aware that when someone has that identification with a device like a cellphone "the content has to respond to those expectations," he added.

"It's all a challenge for the media, because there are no schedules here, there's no programming, one can access it 24 hours a day from anywhere and we have to be able to put the best news where the majority of the audience prefers to access it," Varela remarked.

According to the EFE exec, one of the main threats is the resistance to innovation, and so journalists must bear in mind that it's not winning the "big one," but rather being able to change more quickly and listen better to people that is important in this new age.

What doesn't change, however, are the principles that motivate journalism and its responsibility to provide "true, credible, high-quality, rigorous and confirmed" news content, he said.

The increase in warnings about "fake news" on the social networks creates an opportunity for the traditional media to regain the confidence of the public, but to do that they must know how to adapt.

Also participating in the forum were Fabiola Chambi and Nelfi Fernandez, prominent Bolivian online journalists, media directors and representatives of Bolivian companies.

In addition to the forum, Agencia EFE on Wednesday is inaugurating an exposition titled "EFE in Bolivia: 40 years in 40 photos" at the Casa Melchor Pinto in Santa Cruz, a photo exhibition that will be open to the public through June 9.

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