Samuel Negredo, Alfonso Vara, Avelino Amoedo, and Elsa Moreno
Center for Internet Studies and Digital Life, University of Navarra
New management teams and revised editorial positioning at El País and RTVE took place against the backdrop of political change and turmoil in Madrid. In online news, the strongest pure players thrived while initiatives for regaining trust proliferated ahead of elections in April and May.
A no-confidence vote ousted Mariano Rajoy (Popular Party) as Prime Minister at the start of June 2018, and Pedro Sánchez (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) formed a cabinet of ministers with eleven women and six men. Meanwhile, Soledad Gallego-Díaz became the first female editor-in-chief at El País, appointing a new management team. The paper faces double-digit falls in sales, even if El País still leads a market where the circulation of the main ten newspapers decreased by 92,000 copies in 2018. La Vanguardia unified its print and digital newsrooms and said it would redesign both editions during 2019. El Mundo also redesigned its website for its 30th anniversary.
Exclusive stories from El Confidencial and Eldiario.es resulted in the resignation of two ministers of the new government, one for having evaded taxes in the past and the other over doubts about how a master’s degree was obtained. Both leading digital-born news services have recruited new staff, promoted others, and strengthened their European coverage. Amid the financial difficulties affecting millennial, social-media-dependent outlets, BuzzFeed Spain and Vocento’s Eslang closed altogether, and PlayGround announced it was making more than half of its payroll redundant.
El País and El Mundo were the first Spanish partners of The Trust Project, and while Público launched a Transparent Journalism Tool, others focused on various fact-checking initiatives, with Facebook selecting Newtral, Maldita.es, and AFP as partners to identify disinformation in Spanish. Voice news services are now available via Alexa, Google, and Siri from a range of providers, including CCMA in the Catalan language, with news from EITB in Basque in Amazon’s service.
The process of renewing the governing board of public broadcaster RTVE was delayed by pleas from candidates against alleged unfair assessments. A failed parliamentary vote to choose an interim board for the national broadcaster was one of the first signs of the new government’s weakness, and it resulted in the election of an interim administrator, Rosa María Mateo. President Sánchez’s calling of a snap general election for 28 April, just four weeks before the scheduled European, regional and local elections, caused the process to stall for even longer. Meanwhile the television service of the new Valencian public corporation À Punt Media, maybe the first of its kind to be truly multi-platform from launch, went to air in June 2018 and it has seen a slow but steady uptake in its first year.
Alternative approaches for covering news are being tested on the second channels of the three main broadcasters. In TVE, La 2 Noticias was taken off air for several weeks, while staff changed their workflows to create a transmedia brand, now producing as much for online and social as for TV. Atresmedia increased the live weekday news, current affairs and infotainment programming in laSexta up to 15 hours/day, with the addition of a new breakfast show Arusitys from 7:30 to 11am. And in February 2019, just after fieldwork was completed for this survey, Mediaset folded the two daily programmes of Noticias Cuatro, and their website, into a new current affairs brand, Cuatro al día. The better-performing weekend editions retain the editorial tone of a newscast and are still produced by Mediaset’s news division, but on weekdays it is now a broader-ranging talk show with on-the-field reporters, studio discussion, and just some breaking news. The schedule includes a new show ‘analysing “fake news” and “clickbait” with humour’, Todo es mentira (‘Everything is a lie’), presented by Risto Mejide, a broadcaster, advertising boss, author, and former talent show judge. Mediaset, which also cancelled its daily live three-hour midday politics show Las mañanas de Cuatro in June 2018, is reportedly working on a new online news operation.1
While the bigger news brands still compete for volume, big media groups Prisa and Vocento have started to sell programmatic advertising together. Vocento continued to roll out a strict metered paywall across more of its regional titles, under the ON+ brand. Meanwhile another regional newspaper chain, Prensa Ibérica, bought Grupo Zeta, publisher of El Periódico (in Catalonia and other regions), Sport, and a handful of magazines. According to the National Commission on Markets and Competition, by mid-2018 one in three internet-connected households in Spain now use paid-for platforms to watch audio-visual content online, with Movistar+ slightly leading over Netflix.
Consumption is more mobile than ever before, with two in three using their smartphones to access online news. Market penetration of fibre-to-the-home connections in Spain is 44% of households and the country tops yearly growth according to FTTH Council Europe – this may explain why 21% claim to use the internet features of connected or smart TV to catch up with what is going on.
Trust in news among Spanish internet users remained stable, as they continued to access a broad number of sources. During fieldwork in January, debates about the role of the media had to do with the mostly sensationalistic treatment of the disappearance and attempted rescue of a 2-year-old boy stuck in a shaft, which filled pages and airtime and boosted audiences for two weeks.
- www.elconfidencialdigital.com/articulo/medios/mediaset-lanzara-portal-noticias-liderado-juan-pedro-valentin/20190315135925123119.html ↩