The irruption of digital natives is one of the many factors that have been eroding the media sector in recent years. Journalist Bieito Rubido can attest to this after a decade at the helm of ABC and fifteen months after the re-founding of the digital medium El Debate, which has reached 9 million readers, adding 600,000 new ones every month. “The audience – Rubido pointed out yesterday at the Foro de la Nueva Comunicación – is the best thing we have at El Debate, our greatest asset”.
In this first balance sheet of results, he admits that “being a historic optimist, I thought we were going to earn more (laughs)” and “we are not meeting our advertising turnover”. However, he points out that 2023 “is already off to a much better start than 2022”.
His confidence in the future of media with digital DNA, such as El Debate, remains firm. In his opinion, traditional and native digital media “are going to be playing in the same league in four or five years” despite, he says, the consolidated brand value of traditional titles.
He explains that one of the missions he had as director of ABC was to undertake a digital transformation. “We did it with greater or lesser successes, but what was not transformed was the management area, which is still in the analogue world, with many people, costly and which makes the business model questionable,” he says.
Traditional and digital native media “are going to be playing in the same league in four or five years”
He argues that digital natives “have been born with a much lighter model and, in a few years’ time, digital natives will be practically on the same level as the traditional media”.
Rubido recalls that today Madrid’s kiosks sell 120,000 newspapers on paper, while “the income of those who have put up the paywall is sometimes 25 cents a month. With that income, you can’t maintain an organisation of 200 editors, 25 managers or the classic bonuses. We have to start thinking about a big change.
Rubido considers that a prosperous business formula would be “to concentrate television, radio and press under the same heading”. He predicts that “whoever dares to develop this model will have a great future”.
“There is an overvaluation of young audiences”
One of the purposes of El Debate is to influence society, the main reason why they justify their rejection of incorporating paywalls, a means of income that they consider “a mistake”. It also believes that freedom of expression “is seriously endangered” and that the media should preserve transparency and explain who is behind them.
Rubido placed the emphasis on young people. He believes that “there is an overvaluation of young audiences” and argues that, years ago, ABC – with him at the helm – and El País were committed to youth sections that “we had to withdraw”.
On the subject of young journalists, he criticised the fact that “Spain is the country with the highest number of faculties in Europe, with 5,000 journalists leaving each year”. A result which, in his opinion, also has an impact in terms of salaries. “Many of them earn 600 euros and we cannot achieve a high quality of journalism in this way. In terms of salary, we are like waiters, although they have the advantage of being able to receive tips. We need to do a lot of thinking,” he says. In this sense, he proposes having fewer but better paid journalists.
The former editor of the newspaper founded by Torcuato Luca de Tena stresses that El Debate “is not just another digital newspaper, the result of an angry editor who left a great newspaper” and admits that “I left ABC delighted, I did not leave in disgust, there was no resentment or bitterness”.