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Sept. 18, 2019, 11:51 a.m.
Business Models

The New York Times shutters NYT en Español after three years: “It did not prove financially successful”

NYT en Español’s founding editorial director called the decision “extremely short-sighted,” and many others who’d worked on the product or read and followed it expressed their disappointment.

The New York Times announced on Tuesday that it’s shutting down NYT en Español, the Spanish-language site it launched in 2016. The site was run out of Mexico City and published around 10 stories in translation and original stories each day.

From the Times’ announcement, posted in Spanish and English:

We launched NYT en Español as part of an experiment to reach and engage more international readers by extending our coverage to different languages. While the Español site did attract a new audience for our journalism and consistently produced coverage we are very proud of, it did not prove financially successful. Our strategy is now focused on our subscription-driven core news report for a global audience. Moving forward, editors will continue to translate signature journalism into more than a dozen languages — including Spanish, which will continue to appear at www.nytimes.com/es — as part of our core mission, and we will increase investment in the expansion of these broader translation efforts.

This change does not affect our coverage of Latin America, which will remain robust with dedicated staff based in Medellin, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.

“While the Español audience grew, readers were less engaged than they were with our core site, and we did not see a path to converting them as subscribers,” a Times spokesperson told me. “Also, advertising revenue was also not able to support the site.”

Nine positions are affected, the Times said.

NYT en Español’s editorial team wrote that the site’s shuttering was “a decision based on commercial considerations that saddens us deeply,” and listed its accomplishments [I’m using Google Translate here]:

Since its launch in 2016, The New York Times in Spanish published between forty and fifty translations per week, in addition to the opinion articles and reports originally produced in our language. Even when selecting, translating and editing articles always occupied a large part of our work, the heart of our mission was not only to translate texts into another language, but to bring our readers a journalistic tradition recognized for its accuracy, impartiality and quality, a symbol of independent journalism without ties to power.

The performance of The New York Times in Spanish has been successful under any indicator. From Los Angeles to Buenos Aires and from the Galapagos Islands to Barcelona we have reached an audience that is counted by millions, both in unique users and page views, and we achieve significant and enviable levels of loyalty in the information industry.

NYT en Español did not have a paywall. Instead, the goal was to expose new readers — the Times estimated the potential audience to be around 80 million educated, digital-savvy Spanish speakers around the world — to the Times brand, and to support the site with advertising (it had four initial three-month launch sponsors).

“We have a lot to learn from our Latin American readers, and we need to understand their needs and preferences. As we do, and over time, we will find the solutions to best engage them and, in turn, develop a subscription relationship,” Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the Times’ international president, told Ken Doctor for Nieman Lab in 2016. “All to say, this is a long-term audience development road.”

But now, it seems, the Times sees most of its future in readers who can pay directly. Journalists who’d worked on the project, and others, expressed disappointment that the Times hadn’t been able to find a workable business model for the site. Elias Lopez, NYT en Español’s founding editorial director (he’s now at the Washington Post) called the decision “extremely short-sighted,” and many others who’d worked on the product or read and followed it expressed their disappointment.

Illustration by Anuar Portugal used with permission.

POSTED     Sept. 18, 2019, 11:51 a.m.
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