Colombia 2013 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ricardo Ávila Pinto, Director of Portafolio, on the reader profile of the publication, freedom of expression in Colombia, and the future of the journal.

Ricardo Ávila Pinto
Ricardo Ávila Pinto is an Economist by training and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Latin American Development. Before his present job, Ricardo was Editor-in-Chief of Cambio. He also worked for Semana magazine for more than a decade, as Editor of the Economy and Business section and as a correspondent in Paris and the US. A winner of the Simón Bolívar National Prize of Journalism, Ricardo has also been a teacher of Econometrics and Economic Journalism at Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá.

How would you characterize freedom of expression in Colombia compared to other countries in the region?

Colombia has a very high level of freedom of expression, both in legal and practical terms. If you compare it to other countries in the region, where there is a trend toward suppressing freedom of expression, we are very well ranked. Considering the reports made by the special rapporteur on freedom of expression in the hemisphere and the Organization of American States, it is more or less clear that we enjoy a wide margin to report on the many issues that arise in this country. It is true that in the past there was some violence against journalists. In that sense, we have improved dramatically from a high of more than 20 journalists killed per year in Colombia 10 or 15 years ago down to one death in 2012. It is also true that for national media such as ours, it is easier for us to do our job than for regional media, especially in the more remote areas of the country, where journalists are subject to pressure either from violent or political actors. In general terms, Colombia is very well ranked.

How have you seen readership evolve over the past few years? What trends can you identify in terms of print versus online?

Due to the security problems in Colombia for many years, business journalism was really macroeconomic journalism. Because many of the sources from the private sector did not want to appear in the media, it was difficult to report about major companies. In that sense, companies have begun to increase their profile, and that has attracted interest. At the same time, the Colombian economy has grown dramatically; in US dollar terms, 3.5 times since 2000. It is clear that there is a greater audience as the middle class is growing, issues regarding personal finances, the state of the economy, and specific companies attract more interest and readers. It is clear that our print circulation is more or less static, but our online readership is growing in double-digits.

What is your reader profile?

Our readership comprises mainly male professionals. The average age of our readers is 47 years old, located in the top five Colombian cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. We also have a high correlation with people who own smart phones, a car, a university degree, Master's degrees or PhDs, married with children, and travel abroad more then once a year.

“I believe that our readership is going to use more and more portable gadgets such as tablets or smartphones."

What is your outlook for the Colombian economy in general in 2013 and for the medium term?

Regarding 2013, if we are able to solve the issue of executing public investment at a faster pace, we foresee a better year than 2012. We should grow above 4%. I don't know if we will reach the government's target of 4.8%, but of course that depends on the international situation, which looks slightly more promising than it did 12 months ago. In the medium term, Colombia is very well positioned. This country should be able to double its GDP per capita over the next 15 or 20 years. Of course, we could go even faster if we do our homework. There is a long list of things to do. In that list, we see the issue of road infrastructure, the quality of education, the issue of innovation or investment in science and technology, and adapting to climate change.

If you were to flash forward five to 10 years, where do you envision Portafolio?

I see it as the number one journal, with a much stronger presence online. I believe that our readership is going to use more and more portable gadgets such as tablets or smartphones, and in that sense we have to understand and follow the trends to remain a large financial newspaper. The Financial Times receives more than 50% of its revenues from its online section, and we have to follow that, as we're still at less than 10%, so we have a long way to go.