Media and digitalization – Tomás de Cos

Tomás de Cos has more than 15 years of experience in digital environments and media. He is currently working for the newspaper AS, as responsible for carrying out the digital transformation of this header and develop their online strategy. We talked with him about how digitalisation has affected traditional media, the differences between what has meant for the general press and sports and the future of media groups.

With regard to digital environments, Tomás explains how SEO affects content and how to develop the journalistic exercise. It also tells us about how media strategies such as SEM or AMP and the use they make of social networks use. All a reflection on the present and the future of the media in Spain.

How has digitalization affected traditional media?

Digital disruption has caused a major crisis in the media since more than 15 years ago. Something that is not unique to the media, but has suffered every sector in which the powerful new digital players (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) have made an appearance. The rules of the game have changed. The role of the journalist has changed.

The business model of today’s press has been impoverished by the malpractice of the means of offering a product for free that they always charged and continue to charge for offline, and by the change of model of the sale of advertising on the Internet, characterized by the automation and disintermediation…

In the traditional model the media had a double income path: the sale of copies and advertising. There were few advertising impressions sold with a large margin, while in the online model millions are sold at a price and with a very small margin. And they do not receive a direct cent from their readers for free access to the contents.

In addition, the press had a monopoly on classified ads, a huge business that has been lost along the way during the digital transformation process. Today people look for a house, car, work or second-hand objects in sites that are not media.

In addition, the democratization promoted by the Internet, where anyone generates content (prosumers) has devalued the value of journalistic work. Many journalists have been fired by the many ERE we have suffered.

But in addition the value of the content itself has been devalued as never before. And as a result of the excess supply of content came the misinformation first and the terrible phenomenon of the fake news later. The reader is more difficult than ever to differentiate truthful and quality content. Just take a look at the amount of hoaxes or camels that people accept without hesitation and share in helping their spread.

But being affected by the digital tsunami forced us to relearn and reinvent ourselves. A complex but exciting process and in which there are green shoots.

We have been hearing for years that the press has died, however, the sports headers manage to stay, why do you think that this crisis has not affected you as much as the generalists?

I sincerely believe that the press is not dead. It is in the reconversion phase, looking to reinvent itself and find the formula that allows to have a stable future. People still have the need to have truthful information, usefulness, entertainment … That has not changed because of technology. But today he looks for it on a mobile screen instead of on printed paper. I think that from the crisis in which journalism lives as an industry, it will get out doing more and better journalism.

The sports headers have the same problems as the generalists, although we have an advantage because of the globalization of sports. The big sports stars, the big football clubs or big competitions have an interest in any corner of the planet. Regardless of their nationality. People still need idols to be inspired, with which to get excited or enjoy in their free time. Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, Pau Gasol or Iniesta generate interest far beyond our borders … Sports information is part of the leisure of millions of people and we live in a society that places great importance on personal leisure.

On the other hand, some great digital players who dared to be a medium ended up scalded: Yahoo, MSN, Terra, GoPro … However the audience never finished seeing them as such and continued to choose the traditional headers. And I would not forget the digital media that were born in these difficult times. Many of them are doing very well and are in the process of consolidation. There are not few in Spain

What tasks must be carried out to achieve the digital transformation of a means of communication?

Digital transformation is very expensive. Contrary to what many people think, it is not about technological changes, but human ones. Routines, customs, work systems. It is a process that forces us to rethink completely to see which of the tasks that were done so far have meaning or not, and what others have to be introduced to get the best results. The change hurts. It means leaving the comfort zone and relearning. All people have a threshold of resistance to change. The new generates anxiety … and in addition you have to make the changes by being honest and giving the opportunity for people to make the transition and not be left out of the game.

The journalist previously wrote his piece and had already finished his work. He did not paint anything in the printing and distribution processes of the newspaper. Today it generates the content, publishes it, enriches it with photos, videos … It coexists with audience data and is an active agent in its distribution. You can influence the positioning of your piece in search engines if you understand how SEO works, you can contribute to its viralization with your activity in social networks….

And the change is uncomfortable because the journalist works more than ever, has more responsibility than ever and usually charges less than ever. It is a kind of man orchestra. But there is no other alternative to adapt. On the contrary, it is easier than ever to understand your reader thanks to web analytics, easier to connect with them than ever through participation tools and social networks. If you want, you no longer need to play by ear or be guided by your instinct. And never before could he reach more audiences, nor cultivate his personal brand better (many journalists have thousands of followers in Social Networks and connect directly with their audience).

“Digital transformation is very expensive, and contrary to what many people think, it’s not about technological changes, but human changes, routines, customs, work systems.”
Tomás de Cos

In other countries such as England, readers are used to paying a fee to read the online press in the same way that you buy a printed newspaper, do you think there will be a time when that model works in Spain?

Definitely! I am an optimist, although I am sure that this process will not be easy. The great American headwaters like the New York Times or the Washington Post, some English and northern Europe are making remarkable progress in this area. It also complicates the difficulty of making those changes all to one. But the process is not new, ten years ago El Pais carried out its first payment wall. But the audience was not prepared enough to accept payment for content. Today many people already pay for content of some kind: Movistar, Netflix … Competitors that are very hard on the other hand.

The key probably lies in my judgment in rethinking the value proposition to readers, not just putting the payment wall. The knowledge of the users through the big data, the personalization of contents, the innovation in the formats and types of contents and a multiplatform offer are elements that can help to have a successful strategy of subscriptions. Google itself is helping the media in this process. And it would not be surprising if some Telco took a step forward because of its great experience managing clients.

How does SEO affect content? How do we do SEO for a means of communication?

It affects very directly, even more so since the appearance of accelerated mobile pages driven by the search engine. Google is today the main source of traffic of almost any medium, so pay close attention to the proper positioning of content is required.

Obviously, different tasks are mixed, some of a technical nature and others directly related to the content and its writing, made by the journalists themselves and the editorial team.

Having a good internal link and link naturally to other pages to provide value to the reader is important. We live immersed in the economy of the link.

Specifically, how has the emergence of SEO affected your editors?

It is a very important part of the digital transformation of an essay. As in all learning you have to do continuous training. Among other things because the same search engine changes constantly.

At first it costs, but according to the editor warns the gain of traffic and relevance of its contents to follow a small guide seo ends up totally convinced.

It’s like analytics. At first it costs them and many later they can not live without it.

Working well on seo optimization of a piece of content is easier today than it was 15 years ago when Google intelligence was not today and CMS was less advanced. So some of the SEO writing recommendations were somewhat debatable…

Do you use SEM strategies?

Today we do not do PPC strategies. Except very specific and tactical actions. Personally I think it makes much more sense to invest in SEO. In addition, Facebook Ads acquisition costs are lower…

How do you manage your reputation in social networks?

Trying to perform network management in an honest and ethical way. There are always mistakes, but we try to learn from them and react naturally when this happens.

Obviously we have a protocol for it. People understand the error when it is assumed and publicly apologized when it is committed. And on the contrary, it penalizes those who try to hide it in an absurd way. Wrong is never a problem, what is a problem is to do it and not learn from it.

The objectives by which a means of communication is in social networks are very diverse and are not always well understood.

The media should talk more in networks than we do, but with pages with millions of followers is sometimes almost impossible. What we are trying to do is try to make sure that the reader does not feel deceived or cheated by a headline used as bait. In the digital world the penalty of error is very easy and immediate.

Are sports media more vulnerable to haters?

Not especially though there is a common type of fan whose colors make him lose objectivity. This type of user tends to create conspiracy theories about the behavior of the media to harm or attack a certain team or soccer player.

Sport is the world of idols and maybe that’s why it ends up being extreme for many people.

But it’s not always like this. What does happen is that with the Internet, and in many cases thanks to anonymity, it is very easy to troll, intoxicate and insult.

That is why it is necessary to have moderation and control systems. Although on many occasions the faithful users themselves end up making them leave.

In more minority sports it occurs to a lesser extent. In any case, having haters is synonymous of success.

In this line and focusing on the controversy, what do you think about the accusation against the macho sports press?

I do not think that the sports press was more macho than the rest of society. For a long time, women have been present in corners of society where they previously were not.

The love of sport and also its practice is no longer a men thing.

We have many readers and we pay a lot of attention to Spanish women’s sport and their deeds, which, incidentally, in recent years are more than men’s.

We probably still have a long way to go but it is done much more than what is said. But stigmas take a long time to be removed.

In addition, there are brands and companies making a very strong commitment to female sports and their values. The deeds of Carolina Marín, Mireia Belmonte, Garbiñe Muguruza or the different Spanish teams always work for us.

There is no doubt that this year has been the year of women.

Why do you work with subdomains?

Partly by our current CMS and partly by separating parts of the content.

In the end it is the eternal diatribe of the directory or the subdomain and we have used both options according to what we thought most convenient for our content management, technical limitations and above all looking for an architecture and logical content structure and the most optimal for the reader.

What new opportunities does the digital environment give to a means of communication?

A few years ago our contents hardly left our borders. Today we have readers in all the countries of the planet.

The distribution is infinitely faster (almost instantaneous) and cheaper. In return, the market in which we compete ceases to be local to be global. In addition, it allows an interaction with readers that did not exist before, as well as knowledge of what they really like and care about. It allows us to fine-tune the shot much more.

However, we can not lose sight of the fact that although in our case it is sports, our mission is still to do journalism. There are already millions of content in the network, partisan, tendentious, untested or manifestly false. But there is no medium like the Internet, in which all formats (text, photo, video, audio, interactive graphics …) coexist and which is multidirectional thanks to the interaction possibilities that it allows.

What do you think about the linkbuilding strategies? Do you think he has a future in the media?

I would say that they are essential and that they should be designed to add value to the user. Be natural and of course organic.

Do you do some strategy for SEO by voice?

We are beginning to take the first steps along this path with a small project linked to Google. There is no doubt that it is the immediate future. Present even. My children, ages 7 and 4, do voice searches to find the content they want to see. According to a Comscore study in 2020, 50% of searches will be done by voice. It is more convenient and faster than writing. Of course, that will depend on how that technology evolves to adapt to people. The way in which we search content in Google today in a textual way has also changed a lot.

Cadena SER is with an interesting voice project aimed at the best indexation of audio content, a format that until now had been largely the poor brother. The big players of the Internet are betting strongly in this way with the Google Assistant, Google Home, Siri, Amazon Alexa … The voice will be key not only in searches, but in the interaction with the Internet of things.

Is it worth it for a media company to carry out an AMP strategy?

It is essential. It is a key format because Google wants it and because it has a significant performance improvement (WPO) of the content load for the user. In addition, audiences compute the creators of the content, even if the user does not leave the Google environment. And we can not lose sight of the fact that the tyranny of the mobile phone is unstoppable. We all carry a large pocket computer that we call a mobile phone and we use it more and more intensively. The user’s attention windows are often very brief and we demand ultra-fast connections and almost instantaneous loading of the content. In a very short time, AMP traffic has become half the total seo traffic. Monetization is much more complicated, maintaining the depth of the visit and the adaptation of our contents has been complex because of the simplification it demands, but it is irremediable…

How is it possible that Google has never penalized you?

Hahaha. We are clear about who sets the standards and we try to follow them always. We bet to build solid foundations and never look for shortcuts or debatable practices. In addition, we are on top and we have a great team (which monitors our performance at all times with numerous tools) and the best advice.

How do you explain to a board of directors the data of the reports of a marketing graph?

It is not difficult. In the offline world there are also reports, scorecards, conscientious data analysis, KPIs… and managers are very well prepared and experienced people, very used to keeping an eye on critical and truly relevant data. They catch it quickly, even though we sometimes complicate everything using Anglo-Saxon terminology and excessive marketing slang.