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Aug. 29, 2023, noon

A local WhatsApp newsletter is helping people make the most of a Spanish city

“There’s no point in making a wonderful website or an amazing app if people aren’t going to the website or downloading the app.”

Much of the world runs on WhatsApp.

The Meta-owned messaging app has more than two billion users worldwide. It’s the preferred messaging app in most countries outside of the United States because it’s free, easy to use on multiple devices, and just needs a WiFi connection to work.

Of course, that also makes it a prime platform for misinformation to spread. But even with its drawbacks, it’s where people are, making it a convenient way to share news.

That’s Juan Andrés Muñoz’s thinking behind Pamplonews, a Whatsapp-only daily local newsletter that tells subscribers the need-to-know cultural news in the city of Pamplona, Spain. Muñoz, who was previously the managing editor of CNN en Español, launched Pamplonews with co-founder Diego Macaya in May. In three months, the newsletter has more than 3,700 subscribers.

Pamplonews is the only news outlet in Spain and Portugal that operates exclusively on WhatsApp, according to Iberifier, a media research and fact-checking organization that tracks news outlets in the Iberian Peninsula.

Readers sign up by joining Pamplonews’ WhatsApp community, then receive daily rundowns about cultural news and things to do in the city. (WhatsApp communities are for mass-messaging groups interested in a specific topic on an ongoing basis, as opposed to WhatsApp broadcasts that mass-send messages to individual users.)

Pamplona is the capital of the northern province of Navarra, with a population of 200,000 people. It’s not exactly a news desert, given that it has 28 active local news outlets across, print, digital, TV, and radio, according to Iberifier. But even so, Muñoz, who is from the city, thought the news landscape was missing something lighter, that would help people make the most of their time in Pamplona, whether they’re residents or visitors.

“When I went back to Pamplona for vacation, I was wondering how to find out about daily activities in the city in a quick and easy way,” Muñoz said. “[Pamplonews] is a service where we’re going to concentrate all of this in one place.”

WhatsApp is an essential platform in Spain, with 33 million users. According to the Reuters Institute for Journalism’s 2023 Digital News Report, 27% of survey respondents use WhatsApp for news. For better or for worse, the forwarding feature makes it extremely easy to share content messages and other content on the platform, which is one of the main ways that Pamplonews’s subscriber base has grown organically in the last few months.

Macaya, who is based in Pamplona, typically writes the newsletter, while Muñoz, based in Atlanta, works on strategy and longer-term initiatives. Tuesday’s newsletter, for example, sent out around 7:50 a.m. in Spain, was just over 1,200 words and took three to five minutes to read. Some recommended activities: Watching a father/son blacksmith duo forge iron crosses in the Plaza de San José, a summer class at the University of Navarra on environmental sustainability, a bagpipe performance, and a farm tour with a cheese tasting.

The newsletter is written in a casual, friendly tone with liberal use of emojis that separate each new block of text. The “stories” in each block let readers know about different events or activities happening in the city that day or later in the week. Every story includes a direct link to a corresponding website, instead of a backlink to Pamplonews.

“I’ve always believed that content has to be where the users are consuming it,” Muñoz said. “There’s no point in making a wonderful website or an amazing app if people aren’t going to the website or downloading the app. Even though it’s your [platform], it doesn’t make a lot of sense, at least at launch. WhatsApp is something people use every day.”

The newsletter is broken up in the middle with an invitation to share a link to join the community. Muñoz and Macaya are adamant about only sending one message per day, so that people don’t feel overwhelmed or spammed. Instead, they’re looking to offer something unique and easy to digest to a person’s daily routine.

“We want to strengthen ties within Pamplona and celebrate what we share as citizens,” Muñoz said. “Local news media sometimes delves into political issues that generate division or other social issues that get into different ideologies. We also differentiate ourselves by brevity. In Spanish, there’s a phrase that says ‘something good, if brief, [is] twice as good.'”

Muñoz said he’s received positive feedback on Pamplonews from local parents looking for family-friendly activities, visitors, and even the city’s mayor, but WhatsApp is a difficult platform to measure success on. He and Macaya can see the total number of subscribers, the churn rate, and emoji reactions to the day’s message, but not much else. (They’re paying particular attention to emoji reactions to get a sense of how people are connecting to the newsletter.)

Right now the experiment is self-funded for a relatively low cost. Muñoz and Macaya are using their own phone numbers to send the newsletter, which allows users to see that they’re real people and share feedback with them. They’re working on perfecting the newsletter and its workflow, while kicking around different ideas for monetization, like ads in the newsletter, grants from local organizations, membership, and merchandise.

“This is an experiment on many levels. It’s a journalistic experiment because we are making a different product with a different narrative on a less conventional platform for digital media,” Muñoz said. “But we also want to experiment with the forms of financing, because…in the end, a single source does not work. Our idea is to try different things.”

Photo courtesy of Pamplonews.

Hanaa' Tameez is a staff writer at Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email ( or Twitter DM (@HanaaTameez).
POSTED     Aug. 29, 2023, noon
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