Las Ultimas Noticias (LUN) – The Latest News – is Chile’s most widely read newspaper today, setting tongues wagging, talk-show hosts chatting, celebrities and politicians denying, serious folks wailing, and advertisers calling.
No, it’s not a tabloid, insist the employees at the slightly shabby downtown newsroom. Rather, they say, it’s a revolution in journalism, a reader-driven product that reflects the changing values and interests of a postdictatorship public that grew up on a diet of establishment news and now wants more. Or, as some say – because of the often low-brow content – less.
This revolution has occurred, says the paper’s publisher Augustine Edwards, thanks to his decision to listen to "the people." Three years ago, under Edwards’s guidance, LUN installed a system whereby all clicks onto its Web site (www.lun.com) were recorded for all in the newsroom to see. Those clicks – and the changing tastes and desires they represent – drive the entire print content of LUN. If a certain story gets a lot of clicks, for example, that is a signal to Edwards and his team that the story should be followed up, and similar ones should be sought for the next day. If a story gets only a few clicks, it is killed. The system offers a direct barometer of public opinion, much like the TV rating system – but unique to print media.
What news, then, did readers choose in a week when a dozen world leaders gathered in Santiago for an important trade meeting? Among the top stories: Where Secretary of State Colin Powell went to dinner and what he ate (shrimp with couscous). Also, a rundown – with a photo of scantily clad waitresses – of which delegations gave the best tips (Japan).
Note that blogs, by drawing away some smart readers, may in fact hasten the "dumbing down" of some other media sources. I predict that mainstream newspapers will become less intellectual in their coverage, while (and because) niche options expand dramatically.
Here is the full story. Here is the newspaper, don’t worry about the Spanish, the photos make it easy to vote. Circa Thursday, here was the leading entry under the category of "Economia", no we won’t ask her to guest blog.