Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Latin America: Advancing the Business Strategies of Spanish-Speaking Digital News Entrepreneurs

Digital entrepreneurship strategist Janine Warner is an ICFJ Knight Fellow who is focused on promoting a greater diversity of online news outlets across Latin America, Spain and the U.S. She is doing this through SembraMedia, a nonprofit online community she founded for digital media entrepreneurs to network, share resources, learn business and technical skills, and draw on the expertise of others who are facing similar challenges.

Throughout Latin America, digital media startups are harnessing the power of the Internet to launch new and innovative media projects. From Tijuana to Panama, from Bogota to Buenos Aires and beyond, entrepreneurial journalists are using big data to expose corruption, harnessing social media to increase citizen participation, and designing interactive websites that are forcing governments and big businesses to be more transparent.

Despite some inspiring success stories, however, many entrepreneurial journalists are isolated and struggling to develop sustainable business models. With Warner’s support, that is changing.

Among the projects Warner is leading:

  • The largest searchable directory of digital media startups in Spanish: After more than a year of extensive research, SembraMedia’s diverse team has created a directory of nearly 600 Spanish-language digital media outlets and projects (and counting). The directory makes it easier to find emerging digital-native news in the region that is cutting edge and truly independent. As a Fellow, Warner is working to expand the directory. Spanish-speaking digital startups are encouraged to apply.

  • A team of ambassadors that support local digital entrepreneurs: SembraMedia has a group of 16 “ambassadors” who are digital news leaders from around Latin America. As a Fellow, Warner is empowering these ambassadors to enhance the training and mentorship they provide to startups in the region.

  • Launch Latin America’s first online school for digital media entrepreneurs: In spring 2017, Warner will launch SembraMedia’s online learning platform with specialized courses that provide the first comprehensive business planning and management training in Spanish to media entrepreneurs. The school will provide unprecedented access to low-cost financial, marketing and technical training. The region’s top colleges rarely offer entrepreneurial training of any kind to journalists. To pave the way for the school, Warner led a MOOC in Spanish on Entrepreneurial Journalism with the University of Texas Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that attracted more than 3,500 students from 47 countries. Since the course ended in November, journalists have begun to implement better business strategies. For example, participant Jimena Travieso used the monetization strategies to launch digital magazine Antítesis in Mendoza, Argentina, a region with few independent media outlets.

  • Producing the most comprehensive research into business models and market conditions in Latin America: With funding from Omidyar Network, SembraMedia will produce a report drawing from deep research into the business models of digital media startups as well as market conditions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico.

  • Generate case studies on best practices for digital startups: Warner and her team of ambassadors are publishing case studies on startups around the region to offer insight to entrepreneurs. Their latest case studies (in Spanish) include:

  • Chequeado, which is not only considered the best fact-checking site in the region, it’s a leader in developing a diversified revenue model;
  • NarcoData, a database journalism investigation into drug trafficking and narcos in Mexico that was published as part of Animal Politico;
  • Crowdfunding: a comprehensive case study on four Crowdfunding campaigns with detailed reviews of each, as well as a comparison of their experiences and best practices.