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Dec. 3, 2019, 4:12 p.m.
Audience & Social

Seeking a new international audience, The Washington Post launches its first Spanish-language news podcast

“I think people in the Spanish-speaking world want to know about what’s happening everywhere, in France, in the U.S., with Brexit, and of course what’s happening with Ecuador, the protests happening in Colombia…It’s a kind of global podcast in Spanish.”

The Washington Post published the first episode of its new Spanish-language podcast today, its latest effort to expand its international audience and cross over into another language.

Today’s news? Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum against Brazil and Argentina — plus an interview with former Bolivian president Evo Morales, who fled to Mexico after protests followed his re-election win in October. The episode also includes an interview en español with Post editor Marty Baron, who said he learned the language while working at the Los Angeles Times in the 1990s. The podcast — called, simply, El Washington Post and set to be released Tuesdays and Fridays — is hosted by journalists Juan Carlos Iragorri in Madrid, Dori Toribio in Washington, and Jorge Espinosa in Bogotá; it’s produced by Cecilia Favela.

“We got a proposal from Juan Carlos Iragorri about doing a podcast, and something about it spoke to us,” managing editor for digital Emilio Garcia-Ruiz told me. “We like the idea of going into a space where there wasn’t a lot of competition and yet it was a platform that we were doing a lot of work on already.”

His instinct that there might be an opening seems to be correct. Univision and Telemundo both have news podcast offerings; many Latin American countries have a robust history in news and current-affairs radio that has carried over to podcasting; on NPR, Latino USA has been around for 25 years, mostly in English. (Though it just announced “its first-ever podcast episode without any translation of non-English language spoken in the piece.”)

But news podcasts have had a harder time catching on in Spanish than they have in English. In Current, Fernando Hernández Becerra explained that factors like limited internet connectivity and the lack of audio infrastructure (like NPR and its affiliate stations) might contribute to why podcasts hadn’t boomed in Mexico. One of the most prominent Spanish-language podcast in the Americas, Radio Ambulante, has taken to hosting listening clubs across the region to expand its reach. “Latin America has this super-rich tradition of radio journalism,” the show’s Gaby Brenes told us in September, but the generational “gap of adopting podcasts is still there and it’s still large and evident.” El Washington Post seems to be the first news podcast by an American English-language publisher in Spanish.

The new show comes as part of a broader push into Spanish at the Post, which also includes Post Opinión, a new section with both original and translated op-eds.

Overall, the Post has not been as aggressive about reaching international audiences as its major national rivals. The Wall Street Journal has had Asian (founded 1976) and European editions (1983) for decades, and it runs Japanese- and Chinese-language editions online.

Meanwhile, The New York Times has made special editorial pushes in Canada and Australia, has run a Chinese-language edition since 2012, and created NYT en Español, a robust product that the Times shut down after three years in September.

When our Ken Doctor asked Times CEO Mark Thompson about the subject last month, he said the paper had “learned a lot from” NYT en Español, but that future international efforts were more likely to focus on improved marketing than the large-scale deployment of journalists. “I would say we’re going to continue experimenting internationally, but I think our view of international, in light of our own experience — I have to say, looking at others and seeing what, in particular, major journalistic deployments look like, in the end, it’s difficult to make sense of economically, generally,” he said. Today, 16 percent of Times digital subscribers live outside the United States, a number it wants to increase to 20 percent — 2 million subscribers in total — by 2025.

The Post also isn’t alone in seeing potential here. Last year, Radio Ambulante CEO and co-founder Carolina Guerrero predicted that 2019 would be the year that Spanish-language audio would blow up, saying that “in some ways, digital audio was made for the Spanish-language audience: With more than 400 million Spanish speakers from more than 20 countries, there is great potential to aggregate huge audiences with niche offerings.”

Garcia-Ruiz said that, because news podcasts in Latin America aren’t as popular as in the United States, the Post wants to be patient with growing El Post’s audience while still focusing on the stories that Spanish speakers would be most interested in understanding. “Like everything we do at the Post, we want to reach people who want Washington Post-level reporting about the important stories of the day,” he said. “In this case, we would love to get people who want to better understand what’s happening in Washington and what it means to them in the Spanish-speaking world.”

Each 20-minute episode will cover three or four stories of interest to Spanish speakers around the world, Iragorri said. El Post will also invite Spanish-speaking Washington Post reporters and editors to discuss their work whenever it’s relevant — like Marty Baron in today’s episode. In truth, today’s episode wasn’t all that different from what you might hear on an AM radio station. But its ambitions are global.

“I think people in the Spanish-speaking world want to know about what’s happening everywhere, in France, in the U.S., with Brexit, and of course what’s happening with Ecuador, the protests happening in Colombia, what’s happening Argentina and Chile,” Iragorri said. “It’s a kind of global podcast in Spanish.”

POSTED     Dec. 3, 2019, 4:12 p.m.
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