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Mexico 2015 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Manuel Rivera Raba, President and Director of Grupo Expansion, on attracting new readers, trends in journalism, and the move to digital.

Manuel Rivera Raba
BIOGRAPHY
Manuel Rivera Raba is the President and Director of Grupo Expansion. He joined the firm in 2000 as Director of Sales, later occupying more senior positions. He has also overseen the firm’s digital transition since 2006, launching several websites and acquiring two leading brands.

How was 2014 for Grupo Expansion?

Simply put, 2014 was a fantastic year for us. Grupo Expansion was purchased by an investment fund, the Southern Cross Group, and after nine years we are no longer subsidiaries of Time Warner. Over the past two years, our plans had been to grow exponentially, but our strategy had differed from Time Warner's. This has been a major shift for us because we are now in hands of company aimed at high growth through Grupo Expansion. Regarding our performance, it was a challenging environment as the media business is highly indexed to the performance of the national economy, and last year Mexico did not meet its GDP growth target. On the other hand, we have been particularly successful in terms of audience. In 2010 we changed our strategy to become a multi-platform content brand, and have risen from 11 million readers per month to 32 million.

What strategies were deployed to achieve the abovementioned rise?

The key change came from changes implemented in 2007. We transitioned our content to digital, having assumed a pure digital approach. Even though we have over 20 magazines, the bulk of our network is online, while 80% of our audience is digital. This means that only 20% of our readership is paper-based, which is the source of the prestige we currently enjoy.

How does Grupo Expansion's digital strategy attract new readers?

When we began to consider how to implement our digital strategy back in 2006, we decided to create a media network. In other words, instead of creating a website and dividing it into different sections, we made the decision to create one site for each media outlet. It works rather like the arms of an octopus linked to a central body, so to speak. Thus, we first created CNN Expansión for economic information, we created a sports website, and another website for the real estate and construction industry, and so on. Currently we are working on our second digital wave and are focused on developing lifestyle content. This kind of content is more interactive, and attracts an audience that is more prone to participating and engaging with the content creators.

What trends have you observed in the journalism industry in Mexico?

There are three trends that are occupying reader's attention nowadays. Most notable is the fact that today the users themselves generate content, often brilliantly on blogs. Secondly, video is taking over, to the extent that it is estimated that, by 2020, most of the data exchanged will be visual. In that regard, we have to develop into an audiovisual company. And the third trend is the rise of mobile content, where we realize that it is not enough to simply transfer existing content onto mobile platforms. That is a mistake. We have to create specific content for mobile phones, because people these days are glued to their mobile devices. Hence, we have to be able to generate attractive content for their consumption.

What impact has the rise in digital media had in Mexico?

I have to say that, in Mexico, the disruption that the digital platforms created in traditional media was less severe because the readership levels were not as high as in other countries. People spend less time reading newspapers in Mexico than in the US or certain European countries. In that regard, the media crisis barely registered in the country and did not undercut the stability of the Mexican market. Our products have high-levels of subscription, and do not depend on being sold on the street as much as some media outlets in Europe or in the US. In spite of the rise of digital media, I do not anticipate paper copies disappearing. The news and information contained in newspapers is more focused on specific information, and has a more analytical understanding. On the other hand, the information that we provide in the media is a brief review of what is happening at the moment, and I see the digital media winning in that field.