The Brazilian media is NOT booming
The New York Times, CNN, The Huffington Post… I could go on and on with international organizations willing to have a more solid presence in Brazil. It took me less than a month to hear two professors and a few locals say the media is doing really great back home, as if it were following the winds of the widespread economic development there. But it just isn’t like that. Once relevant publications are about to disappear and the market is limited to four or five big cities to report on. No Eldorado in sight.
After 10 years of reasonable economic growth, Brazilians buy more meat, more clothes, more electronic devices. But that list has never included newspapers, magazines or online subscriptions. Those have little power to influence the 40 million people who joined the middle class in the last decade. It might be a surprise for someone used to the British model, but the improved income for a few media companies there has little to do with readers.
Thanks to advertisement, media has managed to do a little better than it did in the 80’ies, when inflation could be more than 100% a month (sometimes the double of that). It is also managing to sell without depending on book and music collections sold as an extra, as they did in the 90’ies. Even so, all major media in Brazil, including the profitable ones, fired a lot of people in the last year or so. Sales figures haven’t changed much (I will mention some below, but truth is it is difficult to trust them).
I suspect the reason is they wanted to profit even more. That has been the mindset in many media outlets there: they use the word synergy so you don’t have to use the verbs fire (up to 20% of the workforce) and shut down (as it is likely to happen to Jornal da Tarde, a kind of paid for London Evening Standard).
Online media has done better than the papers, readerwise. But it still lacks a model from which it can profit and buy intelligence. The same issue you can see everywhere else. The ones bold enough to implement paywalls have to do it in very modest fashion, after a lot of explaining. After all, no one would pay for information in Latin America’s powerhouse. And the biggest onlines are basically owned by traditional media companies.
Does that sound like a boom? Thought so.
Brazil has about 80 million internet users. That is a gigantic market, more than the entire population of Great Britain. But the educational and cultural gaps are so big that it might take a generation for Brazilians to be really interested in media products. The biggest selling paper of the country puts out 290,000 copies a day. Online editors go bananas when one of their pieces gets 500,000 clicks. Not as thrilling as some like to say it is.
People have led tough lives for most of the times and now they want some quality time, something more than breaking even every month. They just aren’t going to waste time on journalistic material they can get for free whenever they feel it is really important. It rarely is.
Someone once said Brazil is not for beginners. Using the recent economic growth to explain the media there is one of the common mistakes made abroad. It just doesn’t work that way.