Using data to achieve interdepartmental goals more effectively: A Q&A with Eduardo Aguilar, Audience Manager for El Universal

For Eduardo Aguilar, Audience Manager for El Universal, engagement isn’t reserved for readers alone. Engagement is also evident across its organization in the ways cross-functional teams embrace data to make better editorial decisions.

We sat down with Aguilar to talk about media in Latin America, subscriptions, the role of Business Intelligence in supporting editorial, and how he’s developed a data-informed newsroom.

If you’d like to read a Spanish version of this Q&A, click here.

Tell us a little about the status of editorial subscriptions in Latin America, and how you see the transition to this business model working effectively?

There are some things that we still have to change to effectively adapt to this model. For starters, I think we are still used to the idea of information being free. Paying for a data plan seems to be enough of a cost to receive all the information that is on the web. There is no general understanding that editorial information has a price — just like Spotify and Netflix — and the public must be sensitized to the efforts we make to share this information and stay alive.

Many times a reader’s mentality when they’re charged is that we are punishing them for wanting to read our content. The only way to change this mentality is to convince the public that they are receiving a higher quality product. The New York Times, for example, has made a convincing case that paying for a subscription not only makes sense, but even gives you a certain status — of being informed and intellectual. This makes the reader feel satisfied when paying. It is because, together with an accessible and thought-out offer, readers know they are receiving access to something better, something extra.

In your view, what does it mean to have a higher quality editorial product worth paying for?

We have seen, in Brazil, for example, that editors for “premium” products are in high demand. They focus on publishing higher quality articles, with zero errors, and in a variety of formats, including videos and interactive. There is a lot of added value, not only in terms of publishing, but also in technical matters. We are discovering that the public is more willing to pay for things like interaction, multimedia, editorial care, and hemerographic value. If you are a newspaper with a lot of history, you will have access to old covers and archival documents. People find this very interesting.

You also have to be consistent in what you do not charge for. You will not charge for information to which all media have access and will publish. This underlies the importance of experienced section editors that have a deeper understanding of their subject and an original point of view.

How important is content personalization?

This topic interests me and worries me. Obviously it has its benefits, as you bring your audience closer to their favorite content, but at the same time you limit their tendency to discover new topics. With Chartbeat, we’ve seen that those who read politics jump a lot to entertainment and sports stories, and that these topics can be very intertwined. That’s why I like the idea of ​​recommending content to some extent, but always leaving the path open to exploring new topics. This way, you promote a deeper engagement with your page and you turn your readers into loyal readers.

Side note: What do we mean when we say ‘engagement’?

Engaged Time is the average amount of time visitors spend actively interacting with your content. It also tracks active reader interactions — what is resonating with readers and what got them deeper into a website — and over time, can create a clearer path to revenue.

El Universal is exploring the role of business intelligence in the newsroom. What can you tell us about this?

The role of ​​BI in our newsroom is something that we are currently exploring. I see business intelligence as a way to answer questions quickly, and find the easiest and most efficient ways to reach objectives. I think that BI has an important role in any media organization because it allows us to see our stories from not only an editorial point of view, but also corporate, commercial, etc.

We need tools such as Chartbeat, which not only analyze data, but interpret it and present it in a digestible way, in order to involve more teams and achieve interdepartmental goals more effectively.

For this, we need tools such as Chartbeat, which not only analyze data, but interpret it and present it in a digestible way, in order to involve more teams and achieve interdepartmental goals more effectively.

Any recommendations for organizations looking to involve other departments with editorial data?

We have a very large editorial team. We have seen that when conducting trainings on data tools for our newsroom, a halo effect is created, and other departments become interested in the benefits of Chartbeat. I recommend taking advantage of these opportunities and offering training to other departments, tailoring the training towards topics and benefits of interest to that group.

For employees who may be more reluctant to leverage data, I always recommend mentioning that data is there to support them in their work, not replace them. I really like saying that we are “data-assisted” instead of “data-driven”. We are not slaves to any algorithm — we use the data to guide a human editorial vision.

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