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Puerto Rico's "Old Media" Jump Into The Internet Caravana

by Lance Oliver

March 2, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

As the number of Internet users in Puerto Rico reaches half a million, the island's traditional media are staking out claims in the cyber world.

This critical mass of users encouraged El Nuevo Día to launch its web portal Casiano Communications, which publishes Caribbean Business, Imagen, and other magazines, recently unveiled a portal called (voluntary disclosure: my wife works for PuertoRicoWow). And The San Juan Star just announced its own entry of a different sort into the on-line business world.

These moves make sense for the print media for several reasons. For one, though print may not be dead, as the slogan says, it's not a major growth industry. If the internet is going to lure readers away, newspapers must be thinking, why let them be captured by others?

The advantage the old-line media companies have is content. All the gee-whiz technology in the world won't keep people coming back to an internet site if there's nothing there to interest them.

For El Nuevo Día and its zonai portal, the wealth of material is there for the tapping. The island's biggest newspaper has not only the advantage of mountains of material produced daily by its reporters, artists, photographers and contributors, plus news and entertainment from outside sources, but also has the advantage of technology.

While some other local media still clip stories and stuff those scraps of paper into envelopes, El Nuevo Día has 10 years of stories stored electronically in its computerized library.

Having that database to fall back on (through a link from zonai to the newspaper's separate web site) means it can offer resources to students, or researchers, in addition to providing an array of current information.

Newer and less extensive is the web portal launched by Casiano Communications, which publishes Caribbean Business weekly and the Que Pasa! visitors guide, along with other magazines. It also takes existing content and uses it to build a web portal. Most of the listings of restaurants and events that appear on are already updated regularly by staffers for Que Pasa! Caribbean Business reporters are now beginning to contribute news stories to the site, as well.

The portal was just launched a month ago and the company has not yet begun selling advertising space. But that is the ultimate goal.

Creating a web portal was a way for both El Nuevo Día and Casiano Communications to leverage existing assets into additional opportunities to attract "eyeballs" and thereby entice advertisers. The primary difference between the two portals, of course, is that zonai is in Spanish and PuertoRicoWow is in English. In both cases, however, the audience extends beyond the shores of Puerto Rico. Many stateside Puerto Ricans long for more news from back home, and the internet makes it more accessible to them than ever before. And just as tourists rely on Que Pasa! for information, they can now get the same kind of help on-line.

Meanwhile, the San Juan Star, being one of those companies that still stuffs newspaper clippings into folders in its library, has less content to fall back on. So it has taken another route. It is offering a package of internet service and a subscription to one of its newspapers for about what other companies are charging for internet access alone.

The Star announced recently that it will offer unlimited internet access for $22.50 a month and that price includes a subscription to the San Juan Star in English or the Spanish-language version, El San Juan Star. Other companies offering internet service in Puerto Rico typically charge between $18 to $25 per month. By offering a subscription along with service, the Star hopes to attract new readers to its newspapers instead of trying to cash in by selling advertising space on a web page or portal.

So how will these ventures fare? Zonai is the only one that's been around long enough to be judged, and it bristles with advertisements and overflows with a variety of information. There's truly something for just about everyone.

The "old media" companies face competition, of course, from newcomers spawned by the internet. For Puerto Rico's newspapers, the ultimate measure of success may be in what they avoid rather than what they gain. The last century of Puerto Rican history is littered with the corpses of now-forgotten newspapers, including some that were dominant and important in their day. Today's media companies must change with the times or they, too, will face a slow march toward extinction.

Lance Oliver writes The Puerto Rico Report weekly for The Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached by email at:

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