English is the lingua franca of the internet, and we can miss a lot of content just because it’s in a different language. Add that to a lack of (proper) international coverage about some countries and we can easily find a market for new media organizations creating content for English speakers.
In Portugal, there is a new news website that tries to explore those circumstances and show the country abroad from a local perspective. I interviewed Vitor Matos, the main editor at PortugalDailyView to find why someone should start a news website targetting international users, just by communicating in a foreign language.
Why start a Portuguese news website in English?
Try googling Portugal and a word in English and you will see why this is a good idea. All you get is Portuguese institutional information or information from an Anglo-Saxon point of view in foreign newspapers or websites. And then there is the current crisis: Portugal is in the eye of the hurricane and we thought that all this turmoil might in fact prove a good opportunity, because an English person or Japanese can’t read a Portuguese newspaper in order to find out what is going on.
Until now, there wasn’t really a Portuguese independent view about Portugal made by professional journalists available to foreigners, whether they are business people, tourists or those who need information about Portugal for work purposes. This was the main reason: to create a new type of service which up to now wasn’t available.
The second reason concerns Webtexto, the start up that five journalists founded in 2000 in the midst of the internet bubble. Nowadays we are only two partners, and we have always wanted to create our own project. The last eight years we have been working almost exclusively with the financial news agency Dow Jones Newswires: we make their news feeds in Portuguese and also contribute with articles.
Does Portugal need better international news coverage?
I would say yes, although sometimes I am surprised by the quality of some articles about the country. The question here is the perspective: this is not the perspective of an outsider who will inevitably consider his prejudices on the country before writing a story. We have background and insights in politics, economy, tourism and places to go, because we live here, we work here as journalists and we can provide some angles which are less obvious and types of information that might prove less accessible to foreign journalists.
Who’s on the team?
We are a small team of 14 people, including the six journalists working in the newsroom, along with contributors who work from the outside: travel journalists, copy desks, internet designers, and video reporters.
Blandina Costa, Webtexto partner and experienced economics journalist is the Executive Editor and she works full-time in the newsroom. I am the Editor-in-Chief, although I also work as a reporter in Sábado, which is a major Portuguese newsmagazine.
We try to balance the information in this way: stories about travelling, politics and news on the economic crisis and some sports (mainly football) and culture. We also have some associated bloggers who write at their own pace on many subjects, such as the economy, politics, surfing, football, literature and European politics, and we also want to have blogs on golfing, wines, food and music.
What is your business model?
First, we want revenues from advertising: Portuguese and foreign businesses that find this venture an interesting way of branding, because at the moment there are no Portuguese media where businesses can communicate with foreigners who are interested in finding out more about the country.
We also have long term projects to sell our own e-books online, or tourist audio guides to platforms such as iPod, iPhone or iPad.
What are your mid-term goals?
A country with 10 million people like Portugal receives something like 12 million tourists every year. Today, no one travels without googling something about the country you are about to visit. So, in the mid-term, we would like to have at least half of these people accessing Portugal Daily View in search of useful and curious information, but also all those who are planning on coming here, or that are just curious about a certain Portuguese football player, a fado singer or a Portuguese business.
In the long term, we want to be the main window for people to access information on Portugal, which you can open in Tokyo, Sydney, Stockholm or London.
Why launch a news product like this now? Are these good times to invest in journalism?
These are not good times to invest in journalism, but as journalists we wouldn’t invest in anything else. This said, I think this crisis is a great opportunity to launch a news product with these specificities.
I’ve been defending that Portuguese media should have at least a digest of news in English, specially after reading lots of innacurate news about the country in foreign media. It’s not just about the market, but also to provide a closer perspective on the Portuguese reality.
What do you think? Can this be a good solution for media groups and news startups?