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Aug. 31, 2023, 2:35 p.m.

Meet the journalist using Instagram broadcasts to make sense of Argentina’s economy

“For me, social media is the purest way of doing service journalism.”

In June, Instagram fully rolled out its Broadcast Channel feature, which lets users send mass messages and media to followers who’ve subscribed. The feature, which is kind of like a group text, is meant to give creators “a new way to directly engage with their followers at scale in real time,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

Sofía Terrile, an economics reporter for TN (Todo Noticias), one of Argentina’s leading news channels, is one journalist using broadcast channels to share her work, disseminate credible information, and pull back the curtain on her process.

Argentina’s news industry faces challenges, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism: Less than half of respondents to its most recent survey indicated any interest in news, and news consumption has declined across almost every medium.

Terrile, who has more than 52,000 followers on Instagram, already has a direct relationship with her audience. She does frequent Q&As in her Stories where she answers questions about topics like the dollar’s fluctuation and new regulatory measures (as well as which wines she’s drinking and which soccer teams she’s rooting for). Her followers often start their messages addressing her as “Sof” or “Sofí.”

In her broadcast channel, “Hablemos de economía 💸” (”Let’s talk about economics 💸”), Terrile sends updates on Argentinian economic policy to over 4,600 subscribers. I caught up with Terrile about how she uses the feature and what she’s learned about her audience. Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, is below.

Hanaa’ Tameez: How did you build your Instagram following as an economics reporter?

Sofía Terrile: I work in TV, so I’m on television every day. A big part of my following came from the TV audience, from traditional media. And then I have a part of my following that came more organically because I started creating content for my social media: videos, the broadcast channel, Q&As in my Instagram stories. I like to generate content that’s genuine and specifically for Instagram. I would say 40% of my following right now comes from [people finding me] on social media. I recycle the content that I use every day for my work on TV and then adapt it for social media. It’s [like[ a different language, a different way of consuming [information].

Tameez: I’m curious about the economic situation in Argentina and how that lends itself to having a big following. We’re now seeing more often people who are “money experts” and “personal finance experts” on Instagram, but we don’t typically think about it as a platform for economics journalism. How do you think that those two things are connected?

Terrile: I compete on social media with people who give financial advice because we talk about [many of] the same things, but I don’t give financial advice, because I’m not a financial expert, and that would be irresponsible. I do economic journalism. Argentina is [unique] because we have inflation that is measured by week — not annual inflation, but by week. We have regulatory issues every week. We have price caps every week. We have import issues. We have dollar issues; we can’t convert pesos to dollars freely because of regulatory [measures].

Every day I receive questions that ask, like, “What is better today? Buying dollars or putting the money in a time deposit?” I can’t answer that because that’s not my job. But in Q&As, I also find that people ask [questions like] “Can I buy dollars if I use my credit card?” We have a lot of regulations on who can and cannot buy dollars. I can answer that because I have the information about that.

For me, social media is the purest way of doing service journalism — being there for the people that have questions because in Argentina, the economy is a mess. If I worked in the U.S., I probably would have been a business journalist reporting on companies, seed funding, investors. But in Argentina, I cover macroeconomics, and that is very different. It requires a level of comprehension of the subject to then be able to help people understand it in the simplest way possible. In Argentina, few economists talk [to be understood by] the public, and journalists have an important role to translate, in the simplest and most truthful way possible.

Tameez: Tell me about how you decided to launch an Instagram broadcast channel.

Terrile: I pay close attention to new innovations, gadgets, and tools on Instagram because that’s my main platform. Because I’m verified, I got a notification that said, “Hey Sofía, do you want to try a new tool that we’re launching?”

I started with a fairly small group as a beta test. I tried to give it a newsletter feel, but it’s not a newsletter because I don’t write [in the broadcast channel] everyday. I usually use it to share important news that connects with my audience. I see that they respond to things, for example, that have to do with rent, electricity costs, inflation, and with exchange rates.

Tameez: What are the metrics you use to get a sense of how it’s going?

Terrile: The channel grows every time I post something on my story like, “Today a new law was passed. If you want to know more, go to my broadcast channel.” In the actual channel, I can see [how many people a message was seen by]. And then I can see a sort of ratio of engagement by the emoji reactions.

I would love to have more participation in some way, like comment threads. When I first made the broadcast channel there were two options: I could be the only one who posts or it was like a big group chat. At first I created [the big group chat], but then the messages weren’t always friendly, so I changed it back to this one-way style.

If I do things with a more personal approach, it generates more emojis and engagement. For example I said, “this is the new rent law, etc.,” and then I said, “Here’s an apartment that I was looking at that costs 500,000 pesos,” and then sent a photo that was funny. People reacted more to that [photo] than the information. So I have to do like a little mix of personal things, jokes, photos and things that I’ve seen on social media.

Tameez: What have you learned about your audience?

Terrile: With the broadcast channel, I found that I have a smaller audience than in my Instagram as a whole, but it’s a very loyal audience. If I don’t write in my broadcast channel for a week, I get DMs asking, “What happened? Where are you?”

A big part of my job has to do with the people that support me, the people that see and like my content. The broadcast channel is a way of giving back because I have the information already. I take 10 to 15 minutes and write a mini newsletter, and then I send it whenever I see there’s a piece of news that will be helpful for them to better understand what is happening with the economy.

Photo generated by Midjourney

Hanaa' Tameez is a staff writer at Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (hanaa@niemanlab.org) or Twitter DM (@HanaaTameez).
POSTED     Aug. 31, 2023, 2:35 p.m.
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