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An open letter from the editor-in-chief of EL PAÍS to the newspaper’s staff

Antonio Caño has held a meeting with the workforce to explain the imminent transformation of the newspaper into a media outlet that is, above all, digital

Antonio Caño, pictured in the EL PAÍS newsroom.

Dear colleagues,

We spoke on Thursday morning about the tough reality that our profession and newspapers from all over the world are currently facing. At EL PAÍS we have been making changes for a long time now and we have managed to undergo a digital transformation alleviating as much as possible the damage that it has caused in our sector. Fortunately, and despite the difficulties, we are still the biggest-selling printed newspaper in Spain, with a considerable margin over our competitors, and our digital editions have seen spectacular growth over the last 18 months, making EL PAÍS the most-visited and most-read media outlet in Spanish the world over.

Thanks to your sacrifice and cooperation we are in a competitive position and in conditions to ensure that EL PAÍS continues to lead. But this does not mean that the battle has been won, or that our survival is guaranteed. The revolution that is affecting the media has still not concluded, and the outlook is very confusing. The crisis, most likely, has not yet hit bottom. The migration of readers from print to digital is constant. We can already assume that the habit of buying a newspaper at a newsstand is now the thing of a minority. The majority of people, in particular youngsters, look for their information on a range of different devices and they consume it in a different way.

The step from paper to digital is not even the biggest of the many steps that newspapers will have to take until we find our true space in the future

In the digital area, the situation is still uncertain. The massive transfer of web readers to cell phones, as well as the appearance of new portable devices and of recent threats such as ad blockers, together with those that are more well known, such as an engrained culture of not paying for content, make the horizon in the terrain of new media very complex too. I am beginning to get the impression that that the step from paper to digital is just one part, and is not even the biggest of the many steps that newspapers will have to take until we find our true space in the future.

These changes, like all, have big advantages. The first, and most important, is that millions of people the world over show an interest and have the ability to access our products. But, without a doubt – and this is what most concerns us today – these new times also mean a huge challenge for all of us. And a real threat for those who have doubts about or who resist the unstoppable advance of the transformation of our work and the business that supports it.

In EL PAÍS we have decided not just to not be afraid of change, but also to get ahead as far as possible to be at the forefront of this change, just as we were at the birth of the independent media in Spain and with quality and competitive information in Spanish.

Our values

It is good to take a moment to look back and remember how everything started, and why it is that we are here. On May 4 we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our creation. In that first edition, founding editor Juan Luis Cebrián assured readers that he had always conceived this newspaper as an independent publication, able to resist the pressures that political powers and financial interests always exert on the world of information.

We are going to change, but we are not going to reject those values of freedom and independence that have brought us here. We are going to incorporate new work dynamics that will improve the quality and quantity of our content and the products that EL PAÍS offers and that today can be read in print, via mobile applications, intelligent televisions and social networks. But we will work hard to ensure that the fingerprint of EL PAÍS is on all of these platforms.

We are not going to reject those values of freedom and independence that have brought us here

After more than a year-and-a-half of work and debate, we are approaching a key moment in the history of EL PAÍS. Over the next few days, the first phase of the refurbishment work in the new newsroom will be complete, and with it will arrive the moment when EL PAÍS will become an essentially digital newspaper; in a great platform dedicating to generating content, content that will be distributed, among other formats, in the best printed newspaper in Spain. We are taking on the commitment to continue publishing a print edition of EL PAÍS that is of the highest quality for as long as is possible. But we will, at the same time, be working to build a great digital medium, with a global reach, and that can respond to the demands of new and future readers. The axis of this medium will be information. Its tools will be all of those that technology puts at our disposal. For now, as you area already seeing, we are placing a focus on image and video as the great instrument of mass communication. This medium is, and will be, more and more American, given that it is in America where our growth is strongest and our expansion is most promising.

This newspaper needs all of those who supply creativity and professionalism

To achieve all of this, as we have mentioned, we are carrying out refurbishment work that will facilitate the transition from the work of yesterday to the work of tomorrow. We are going to move on from what the sector has described as “integration of newsrooms” to a new system of synchronization of teams and channels. We are going to introduce modern communication tools that can respond quickly and with a high quality to the demands for transparent information from an ever-more demanding society in terms of the task they have given us.

It will be a newsroom without desks, one that is open to collaboration and the exchange of ideas, in which teams will mingle in order to create new stories. From now on, in the heart of the main newsroom there will be a modern, open space that is dedicated to the creation and coordination of information and its distribution via different channels. The center of this newsroom will count on a modern bridge, in which there will be a range of journalistic profiles, of technological development, of graphic editing and video, of design, of production, of audience measurement, of social networks, of SEO and of quality control. From there new narratives and new ways of communicating will be created, ones that will keep this newspaper on the cutting edge of global journalism.

Our readers

All of this change has one main objective: to keep us connected to every one of our readers. EL PAÍS has always been a journalistic organization that is focused on its ever-attentive and well-informed readers. Today it has to be even more so: we must continue to be the newspaper that attends to the needs and demands of those who consult us, who read us, who trust us. We don’t work for anyone who is more important than the reader, but we know that the readers of today have been transformed in users who are in more and more diverse places, and who reach us not just buying a copy every day, but also via our website, through their cell phone or through their profiles on social networking sites.

This new space wants to continue to be the best place for its most important journalists, writers, illustrators, photographers, designers and other creators of information and culture in the Spanish language can publish their work, but today the content is as important as the way in which it gets to our public. As such, as well as our bylines, we are creating new work systems and widening our training plans to be able to mould journalistic content in a way that it becomes easy to find and to read or to see, because readers are consuming multimedia content with greater and greater interest. As such, the launch of El País Vídeo has been one of the most recent successes. Experiences like these teach us many things.

In order to facilitate all of this work, we have strengthened our team of directors with new profiles, ones that are more in tune with our current needs. While I have no doubts about their abilities or efforts, neither they nor any of us will achieve the difficult objectives that we have set out if you do not accompany us, if you do not help us with your suggestions, with your criticisms, with your work in search of excellence. I believe we have the vision, the abilities and the necessary knowledge, but we need to listen with humility to your ideas and the demands of our readers and all of the community that has made this newspaper a reference point of which we are proud. Join the Conversation, is the slogan we use when communicating with our readers. This newspaper needs all of those who supply creativity and professionalism. We have to make a collective effort to change, being faithful to ourselves and to do things even better, and I hope that we can do so enjoying ourselves and being happy while we take this exciting journey.

EL PAÍS is on the path to celebrating its next 40 years with more vigor than ever. You are invited to take part in this beautiful adventure to invent a future from this house that you helped build and that is our newspaper.

Many thanks for your confidence and efforts.

Warmest regards,

Antonio Caño

English version by Simon Hunter.