María Elena Gutiérrez Rentería
There is a new political landscape in Mexico, with a popular president and new parties in government. The news industry, however, faces the threat of a 50% cut in government advertising, which could have significant implications for revenues.
The presidential elections and the triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, leading a coalition called ‘Juntos Haremos Historia’ (Together we will make history) have changed the outlook for the Mexican media. It is the first time that a political coalition represented by parties other than the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution) and the PAN (National Action Party) has triumphed in Mexico. The new president had the majority of electoral votes and the coalition represents more than 60% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 53% in the Senate.
The new political arrangements are having repercussions on the news media, which have become accustomed to having the government as their principal advertiser. Publishers have been told that 50% of the advertising spend by the federal government will disappear. This situation, combined with a generally weak economic environment for the news industry, caused some publishers, including Grupo Reforma, Grupo Milenio, Grupo Radio Centro, and Grupo Imagen, to make significant cuts to their workforce.
For those still in work, journalism remains a poorly paid and dangerous profession. Reporters face constant threats when covering issues such as political corruption and drug trafficking – murders, kidnappings, and other threats are not unusual.
Bots and trolls spreading false stories through social media is another hazard, in a country which has one of the highest uses of WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube in our survey. During the recent election, a number of journalistic organisations including AJ+, Animal Político and Pop Up Newsroom got together to counter the threat of misinformation with a project called Verificado which involved fact-checking and debunking of hundreds of false stories and memes.
Mexican society has changed both its news consumption and wider use of media as a result of digital platforms, social media, and smartphones. These changes in turn have contributed to the fragmentation and political polarisation of audiences, which also become huge challenges for media and advertisers.
Mexico’s traditionally strong media outlets are still those generally chosen by the general public online. But at the same time, it’s clear that publishers are segmenting their approach, targeting different socio-economic groups.
TV Azteca and Televisa continue to be the leading commercial TV companies, with their news programmes having the highest audiences. The newspaper El Universal, founded in 1916, leads the online news market, and is also second most popular among traditional media. The most popular digital-native news media are Aristegui Noticias, UnoTV, and Animal Político. They have different characteristics and strategies.
Aristegui Noticias is characterised by strong investigative reporting and a business model which focuses on content marketing and working with brands to distribute content. On the other hand, UnoTV has a high market penetration because of guaranteed digital distribution from its parent telecom company, America Móvil. Animal Político stands out because of its journalism model and revenue based on crowdfunding.
The 11 titles that appear in traditional high-consumption media also offer their content on attractive, shareable digital platforms. Video predominates everywhere along with some audio. Grupo Televisa is unique in offering all its news programmes via Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Apple TV. Grupo Reforma and El Economista are the only publishers that use paid subscriptions for their digital products.
Some publishers have made strategic alliances with international media. For example, Grupo Milenio includes content from the Financial Times, and Grupo Reforma does the same with the New York Times.
Religious institutions, universities, and the media are the three most trusted institutions in Mexico in the past decade – this stands in sharp contrast to the level of trust people have in politicians. However, the triumph of the new president has restored some credibility and news brands that have an affinity with his ideology such as Aristegui Noticias may also benefit from higher trust levels in our survey this year. On the other hand, the lower rating for Televisa may be because of links with the various groups which previously had political and economic power – these have been strongly criticised by Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Aristegui Noticias.
Online and social media remain the most popular sources of news in Mexico with our predominantly urban sample. TV and radio remain important to reach the millions of people who are not online. The majority of internet news access is now via smartphones (81%) rather than computers or tablets.
The media have traditionally enjoyed relatively high levels of trust in Mexico along with religious institutions and universities. Television is often the most popular medium with both audiences and advertisers, but, unusually in our survey, newspaper brands often score better in terms of trust, along with some digital-born brands.