Fifteen years ago, very few could envisage that this global revolution, like the industrial revolution, would change the way of looking at the world, doing business and also making sweeping social and economic changes
In 1994 most of the newspaper executive officers were under 30. In our continued quests, a book -Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte- made us meditate on the future of media and the urgent need of getting on the train of digital revolution.
I can remember that I felt like those people in the Victorian England who resolved to join the industrial revolution, an event as significant as the revolution that was increasingly present in our lives. This time, tough, it had to do with codes, a computer and several means to disseminate information.
Our first site was administered by a MIT student who used a server beneath his bed to host us; in winter, he would use it to keep his room warm and his sandwich ready for his long nights engaged in programming.
It was a static site, containing four or five news only as the outcome of our exchange. Few months later, based on an independent domain, the site contained the same news and added a section of economic indicators. All "such information" was updated only once a day... We continued looking like an old journal... Yet we already were in cyberspace!
Concomitantly, we developed in the organization a journalistic style able to meet the needs of our audiences and media new requirements. Our purpose: being a cutting-edge media outlet and target our audience from new approaches. The challenge: rather than having the appearance of an old lady in a miniskirt, featuring as a media outlet seeking to face the challenges of widespread changes caused by Internet arrival in our daily lives.
In 1994, we were one of the few media outlets older than 75. In order to fully take on the challenge, we needed to get out of our comfort zone.
Why should we change and make an effort if everything is doing well? Some would ask us, and so did I ask myself at some point, I must concede. What for, if typewriters are still used in the newsroom and our system does not enable us to make a lot of changes? Viewed in this way, the question was somewhat appropriate.
Nonetheless, concomitantly with the site development, we were revamping the newsroom, and this gave us the chance to combine both platforms.
Time went by. In 1997 we already were able to post news articles on our site and for the first time, we engaged in branding of our EUD brand.
We opted to become a horizontal news portal because the Venezuelan market is so small that the largest amount possible of readers needs to be covered, and to add vertical sites gradually, for specific audiences.
And such a concept, nowadays regarded as clear and linked together, at that time led us to key questions for our strategies: how can we develop a leading vertical site without the need of cannibalizing our classifieds market in the newspaper? Shall we make emphasis on the paper or the Internet?
In less than six years such questions many times asked both by us and all standard papers around the world were not in vain. Only those of us who managed to combine paper and the Internet with an appropriate investment eventually survived.
Strategic definition came in 1999. The big technological battle relied on the size of the pocket. Half the first decade of the 21st Century was spent in consolidation and setting of the organizational multimedia strategy. How to make this almost 100-year-old media outlet available 24/7 by any means? How to add value?
From the geopolitical analysis of news to circumventing a hole on the road, how could we turn up as bold, agile, versatile and curious, while keeping our serious character?
Fifteen years ago, a book was read and somebody had a dream. Fifteen years later, El Universal has become a state-of-the-art multi-platform organization that creates multimedia contents. Fifteen years ago, very few could envisage that this global revolution, like the industrial revolution, would change the way of looking at the world, doing business and would also make sweeping social and economic changes. It is just the beginning.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
Why did Gerardo come to Caracas? One day he took the decision, handed the car keys to his father, gave him his share of the cloth business they both owned in San Cristóbal and kissed his wife and two sons goodbye. "He told us he was going to continue fighting for Venezuela," the wife says. That was in mid-2013. He has been imprisoned since May 8, 2014.