"Our Business Has Plenty of Life Left in it Yet"
Colloquium with the CEO of Vocento, Luis Enríquez, in Madrid
All around the world the media has been hit hard and is going through profound transformation of its business model. What is the future of mass media? Will printed newspapers begin to disappear? What is the role of the Internet? Can digital media be profitable? These were some of the questions that the CEO of Vocento, Luis Enríquez, addressed during a colloquium held on October 17 on IESE’s Madrid campus. The conference, which was organized by the Institute for Media & Entertainment (IME), examined the situation that the media currently finds itself in. Enríquez said that newspapers have both a present and a future because they are the “only medium” that offers citizens a “critical view.”
“Today, websites have the greatest news impact, but through them it is impossible to construct a debate or understand what’s happening around us.” In his opinion, this is the added value that a printed newspaper has over a digital one. A newspaper is a work of limited size that analyzes a 24-hour segment. A group of analysts look at the current situation in context and through this analysis citizens acquire a critical consciousness,” he said.
He also warned that the difficulties that the media faces have implications for society. “The crisis in the press affects the entire system, from the quality of democracy to the leaders of the country. If leaders didn’t internalize information from a 360° perspective we would be a more impoverished society, but I’m sure this isn’t going to happen,” he commented.
He pointed out that over a period of very few years news companies have had to adapt to a new situation. They have all had to reduce costs, slim down their structures and their staff and merge organizations in order to optimize resources. Nevertheless, he said, these cutbacks neither could nor should reduce the quality of the product. “We must produce high-quality newspapers, and costcutting shouldn’t make us lose sight of that objective,” he said.
One of the consequences of this new paradigm is that journalists have become multidisciplinary, able to write both for print and the Internet, edit videos and do audio voiceovers. “We have to put our money on journalists, because without them this business can’t survive,” he said. That said, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, in the context of slump that the sector is going through, management is working “to protect the balance sheet.” Even so, he was optimistic. “Our business has plenty of life left in it yet,” he said.
Taking care of journalists
He admitted that some media groups had carried out poor risk assessment in some of their business decisions and had made costly strategic errors. “Certainly the managers could have invested more in material, or more in technology, but I haven’t met one whose first priority wasn’t the newsroom. The journalists have never been deliberately neglected,” he insisted.
Since he started working at Vocento two years ago, Enríquez has driven the digital transformation of the company, but only gets involved in projects with a good performance. E-commerce, paid-for platforms on the Internet and pay walls all offer numerous possibilities for the future of media groups, but he called for caution when it comes to designing digital strategies.
As for television, Enríquez said that “Spanish television channels have given up on news, television is a means of doing business.” He also insisted that social networks cannot be considered communications media. “They don’t provide balanced and valuable information,” he said.
IESE professor Juan Manuel de Toro, who is also one of the academic directors of IME, acted as moderator.