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Pablo Mancini

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An Earthquake For Digital Media in Latin America

Posted: 09/07/11 08:32 AM ET

The digital editions of Latin American mass media outlets have played in recent years a leading role in the development of the region's online journalism and advertising. Newspaper sites were established in 1995 to be the leading content nodes within the broader daily news diet, and as the target for most of Internet advertising --and blogs and other platforms have had little to no impact on the online news business.

Now, as all analysts realize, social networks are gaining ground on all instances of the production, circulation and consumption of news. And of course social networks are also gaining ground as a target for advertising spending.  Meanwhile, traditional media outlets try all kind of strategies to live amid this new reality from which there's no going back. At stake is the only resource that does not scale in the information economy: the audience's vital time to consume news. 

The Latin American digital media industry is dangerously resting on the laurels earned in a period where competition was low or, in some cases, nonexistent. 

The emergence, in the short term, of a "news creature' similar to huffingtonpost.com, Talking Points Memo or Newser, seems unlikely. But if it were to appear and head in the same direction as in the U.S., its impact could be devastating for the brands and online billing of media organizations, particularly at a time when ad agencies are moving radically towards digital chaos. 

The emergence of a black swan in Latin America appears unlikely, but it is possible and could re-structure the relevance of the players and their ability to fight for a growing part of the advertising pie.
 
A black swan is like an earthquake: unlikely, unpredictable and with unforeseeable consequences. It can't be seen coming. The only way to be protected from its arrival and impact is to change. But to change in what sense, some may ask? Into a black swan. Or into the black swan of the industry. The only way to be safe from an industry-wide earthquake is to be the earthquake.