The New York Times is planning to further extend its international reach and tap into the promising Brazilian advertising market by launching a Portuguese-language website in the second half of next year.
The revelation follows a similar move by the Financial Times, which opened a newspaper printing plant in São Paulo earlier this month, and is taking strides to expand its Latin American web presence with a tailored homepage and mobile app.
Also rooted in São Paulo, The Times’ new site will feature approximately ten daily regional news stories reported and edited by local staff, and 20 or so articles translated from NYTimes.com. But the Portuguese-language content will not be paywall-protected (at least in the beginning); its revenue will depend entirely on advertising.
Since implementing its subscription model in March 2011 and selling secondary Times Company properties like About.com, The New York Times has been investing in its global brand. International readers account for 30 percent of its web traffic, but only 10 percent of paying subscribers.
The Portuguese site will be based on a model that the newspaper tested in June, when it launched a Chinese-language site that exceeded expectations, attracting 1.9 million unique visitors and 10.1 million page views in September, according to the Financial Times.
“For several years we focused on rebalancing our business. We came out of that a year or two ago and came up with the pay model, which took off right away. This gave us an opportunity to really take a step back and think – where next?” said Michael Greenspon, General Manager of The New York Times News Service and Syndicate.
The 'B' in 'BRICS' does seem like a logical destination: the emerging power is set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, both of which are important events for advertisers. Furthermore, in contrast with the trends seen across the United States and Europe, recent data shows that newspaper circulation in Brazil rose by 2.3 percent in the first half of this year.
But will the digital-only endeavour succeed in rivaling local papers to woo readers and advertisers?
“Although every announcement by The New York Times is always closely followed, I don’t see any particular impact in the movement among my peers,” said Marcelo Rech, General Manager of RBS Newspapers in Rio Grande do Sul. He added that The New York Times brand has far less relevance in Brazil than in the United States or Europe.
“Unless it makes agreements with local media houses, the site should have just a nice niche audience,” he predicted in an email interview. “For national and international issues, Brazilians have pretty good and deeply rooted options already, with strong brands and a local look and feel.”
Rech also pointed to a recent slowdown in the country’s predicted economic growth rate, and how that is affecting the advertising market; Brazil’s central bank lowered its growth forecast for 2012 from 2.5 percent to 1.6 percent of gross domestic product at the end of September.
Reports of Brazil’s cooling economy “made us go back and question every single assumption we had,” Greenspon told the FT. However, he expressed confidence in Brazil’s positive outlook for long-term growth.
“Now is the time to invest in Brazil,” said The New York Times' Publisher Arthur Sulzburger Jr as he announced the new site at an Inter-American Press Association lunch in Sao Paulo, calling Brazil “one of the most important countries in the world.”
Photo courtesy of Fernando Stankuns via Flickr Creative Commons