The Mario Blog
Mobile, news and Latin America: highlights of a conference

I was honored to be a part of a conference at Florida International University, The Digital Divide: Mobile Media Culture in the Americas. Here are some takeaways.

 This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and will be updated as needed. The next blog post is Monday, March 27.

A series of experts took on the topic of the impact of digital journalism in Latin American journalism.  Specifically, the expansion of mobile platforms. I was fascinated to see that the themes affecting Latin American media today are very similar to those newspapers face elsewhere: monetization, fighting “fake news”, creating non-traditional advertising models, attracting those millennials.

Some highlights and takeaways from the various panels:

Each country faces its own challenge

-When it comes to Latin America, there are huge gaps and differences in the level of access to the Internet among the various countries of the hemisphere.  For example, Brazil and Argentina, as compared to Guatemala and Honduras.

“Fake news” is a global epidemic

–Every panel addressed the issue of “fake news” and how the profession of journalism is suffering a crisis of credibility.  “What is happening in the United States at the moment, is also happening in Latin America.”  Ricardo Trotti, of the InterAmerican Press Association, said . He used the term “political buffonery” to compare the styles of operation of President Trump with Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro.
“The idea that the press is the enemy of the people is something our dictators and populists have been saying for years.” 

Educating the people to consume digital info

–Education is key, and, especially in rural areas of Latin America, where people do report to have even two mobile phones per household, there is a greater need to educate citizens on how to use information they receive via those devices.
-Create new products: Panelists emphasized the important of extending the newspapers’ brand, of creating new products, especially for mobile. Several examples came from Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, editor in chief of Prowell Media US and founder of

Monetizing the operation

–Two realities of the digital world that are quickly coming to Latin American media:
Paywalls–Audiences are each day more disloyal, abandoning desktop to mobile.The big media are going for the paywall model, trying to charge for content and hoping that they will have the same positive results as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal.  In Latin America, some that are  showing good results:  Estado de S. Paulo and Folha de S. Paulo (Brazil)  and La Nacion (Argentina). These publications all offer added value and become essential in the daily life of their readers.
Sponsored content–Slowly getting into Latin American newspapers, although the issue of ethics weighs heavily over publishers as they do it, the same way it is elsewhere in the globe. Yet, because Latin American newspapers are desperately trying to find new ways to monetize their operations, sponsored content is an attractive offer.

It’s (still) all about the story

-Platform agnostic storytelling: various panelists urged editors to concentrate on good stories, regardless of platform. Every platform counts, but adapt the story for it. Panelist Rebekah Monson, co founder of Miami’s The New Tropic, urged the audience to tell stories across platforms, and emphasized social media in her talk.

The importance of newsletters

Promote your content via newsletters and briefings, and, based on what we heard at the conference, these are beginning to catch up in Latin America as well.


Using the data

-Data and Algorithms   –Throughout the conference, emphasis was placed on learning more about analytics, creating insights, observing and applying based on what the people are spending time on in your content and using that to enhance your product and to create new ones.

Innovación y disrupción


-Two words that are almost identical in English and Spanish, but that many publishers in the Latin American world fear as much as their counterparts everywhere.  Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, editor in chief of Prowell Media US and founder of started her presentation with the statement: Innovation is a shitty word.  She showed that it does not have to be.

Meanwhile, in Cuba

Cuba is ever present in any conference related to journalism in Latin America. Alejandro Gonzales, director of development and innovation for 14 y medio, the online newspaper produced entirely inside of Cuba (against tons of adversity and odds), mentioned that their challenge is a daily one too, since wifi in Cuba is an expensive commodity, so the 14 y medio team has had to be inventive with its distribution packages.  But, said Alejandro, there is slow but definite change happening in Cuba.

“It is a slow process, but it is there.  The level of creativity of the Cubans across not just journalism, but the arts and many other endeavors, is incredibly impressive. These young innovators have little interest in the politics surrounding them, and put all of their efforts into creating.”


The Challenge


Alan Albarran, of the University of North Texas, zeroed in on the one challenge for the news media in Latin America:
“Establish a new sense of value, because we make decisions about how we use our time and money, what brings value.  And the news media can’t continue to operate in the 21st century as they do today, using the same tired methods. They are losing. They have to differentiate themselves. The media today need to re-establish how they are going to operate in a digital environment. That’s a  huge challenge.”

For all information about this conference, the program and the speakers:

Algorithms as content traffic cops

My recently published piece in Columbia Journalism Review:


Algorithms set the agenda based on a series of criteria—just like human agenda setters have done through the ages—but perhaps with greater accuracy, since algorithms can react to how users behave, how long they stay reading, when they read, etc. At Aftenposten, this is already working well, and two users who live next door to each other may get two different set of stories on their homepage: Susan, who likes fitness and cooking, gets items in those categories; while Paul, her neighbor, may get a heavier dose of politics and sports news. A good thing.

Virtual Reality and the News

Here is an interesting piece about “walking into the news” via Virtual Reality. This is bound to happen soon for many newspapers and magazines.


From Deniz Ergurel

“VR is a whole new universe where you can place the reader inside the news content, either through 3D computer-generated interactivity or 360-degree imagery.”

Speaking Engagements Coming Up

I will be speaking at these events in the weeks ahead:

Webinar for Crowdynews: open to all

March 29, 9 a.m. EST

The brief: What trends should every publisher embrace in 2017? According to Dr. Mario Garcia, top-of-mind should include digital storytelling, email newsletters, and sponsored content.

Mario Garcia, world renown storyteller, editorial designer, and digital strategy consultant, will share practical steps news organizations can embrace to offset the disruptive forces rocking the news industry. During this 60-minute webinar, Mario will introduce a concept and then open the floor for a discussion on implementation and best practices sharing stories of those who are realizing success.”

In this webinar, Dr. Garcia will cover how to: 

1) Go where your readers are: mobile. How do you create a more visually compelling and interactive experience for your mobile users while facing the challenge of a smaller screen size?

2) Be the source of their news – starting with their inbox every morning. How do you create a personalised, informative, and indispensable newsletter for your audience? 

3) Serve your readers with high quality, non-obstructive ads or face ad blockers. How do you organize your newsroom to offer sponsored content while not compromising editorial integrity?

To register, go here:

VOZ Media Conference

April 6
Vienna, Austria

I will be the keynote speaker for this event, my presentation titled The important role of print in the digital age. This presentation presents a state of the media today, with emphasis on how we tell stories visually on mobile devices, the role of print and the importance of email newsletters and sponsored content to find new ways of promoting content and monetizing your operation.

For more information

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