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Colombia: A Country with Momentum.

  |   Colombia
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When I arrived in Bogota, my ICFJ Host asked me, “What do people in the United States think when you mention Colombia?” I didn’t really know the answer, so I rattled off the first three things I could think of: drugs, coffee and the jungle. He nodded because those aren’t entirely off base for parts of Colombia, but what I’ve learned about Bogota in the first five days has shown me so much more than the stereotypes that the U.S. media portrays.

The meetings during my first week in Bogota have been incredible. In two days, I was able to meet with three of the largest publications in Colombia and with one of the fastest growing websites in Colombia. They all contribute to the growth of Colombia by interacting with the ever-expanding digital community of over 40 million Colombians:

Semana: We met with Catalina, the director of new media for Semana, and she gave us an inside look into how Colombia’s largest print publication uses social media to drive traffic to its online properties. Organic Facebook posts account for nearly 40% of the monthly website traffic for Semana, and they continually measure content performance on site and on social to determine what types of content to post and at what time.

On average, Semana accumulates over 9 million unique sessions monthly and nearly 15 million pageviews on the Semana website alone (not including smaller Semana brand sites). It was a great look into how an extremely large publication uses content from the master brand to drive traffic to smaller brand sites and vice versa.

El Tiempo: El Tiempo is Colombia’s largest newspaper with over 300 journalists on staff in 4 regions of Colombia. In the last 5 years, their strategy has shifted from a focus on print and TV, to a focus on digital. Recently, they have been experimenting with rich pieces of content that sometimes take months of research, data collection, graphics, data visualization, web development, etc. However, every time they have published a piece of rich content, it has always been the best performing content for the entire week.  El Tiempo averages 15 million unique visitors per month with 20 million pageviews and has 800,000 email and social subscribers. 30% of their web traffic comes from organic Facebook, but their Twitter audience is more engaged.

Noticias Uno: We met with Ignacio Gomez, who is one of the most famous journalists in Colombia. He’s the type of journalist you see in movies, those who dedicated themselves to reporting the news regardless of the consequences they may face.  Many of his stories shed light on government wrongdoing, and his life has been threatened as a result. 14 of his colleagues have been killed in his 20 years of journalism, and Ignacio wears a bullet proof vest under his sweater for extra protection. Sometimes, however, a bulletproof vest isn’t enough. Because of his work, he‘s had 17 computers stolen, has been kidnapped and has even had his offices blown up. Currently, Gomez works for Noticias Uno, the most popular independent news program in Colombia. Gomez says they carry the torch for those who are no longer with them. One of the most engaging and captivating people I’ve ever met, Gomez greeted us with smiles and humor and seemingly wears life as a loose fitting garment.

Los Dos Orillas: A small group of aging journalists had an idea to give the people of Colombia a platform to report the news. The Internet had recently allowed the people of Colombia to become connected like never before, yet there was no clear way for a citizen in Bogota to truly know what was happening in a more remote region of the country.

Los Dos Orillas created a news site where now over 40% of their content is sourced from “citizen journalists” who have either signed up for an account on Los Dos Orillas’ website or attended a citizen journalism workshop put on by Los Dos Orillas. The open source platform has proven that the stories of the people are relevant to Colombians, as they currently have 4 million unique visitors per month. What sets Los Dos Orillas apart from the rest of the companies is they receive over 60% of their traffic through social. Their “citizen journalist” articles go semi viral within the community to the tune of over 2 million sessions per month. They were the prime example of great content driving results.

I don’t speak the language, I’m six inches taller than the tallest person I’ve met, and I’m just getting to the point where I can order a coffee on my own, but Colombia is an amazing place, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it. It’s been very rewarding to bring Splash Media into the conversation with these large foreign publications and see how seriously they take social. Keep up the good work stateside.

Hasta Luego!

Rob is an avid basketballer, sneaker head and digital strategist. He enjoys being challenged to think outside the box to help achieve client goals. In his spare time, he teaches improv lessons and makes people laugh at Dallas Comedy House. Connect with Rob on Twitter @flyyabetes or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/robmhowe