One good thing about not having the Internet is that people still buy the newspaper.
That is what the director of El Comercio, Peru’s leading newspaper, told students and faculty from Columbia College Chicago when we visited the newsroom earlier this month.
Only about 20 percent of households in Peru have Internet at home, said El Comercio director Fritz Paul Du Bois Freund.
“It’s not easy to find people willing to pay for newspapers when you can read it straight on the Internet,” Du Bois added comparing newspapers in Peru with those in the U.S.
So people have to read the newspaper online at work. El Comercio’s web traffic surges during work hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as many Peruvians only have access to the Internet from their offices.
Their newspaper group includes El Comercio, with around 100,000 copies printed per day, and also el Trome, a family-focused tabloid with 750,000.
“We still have a booming business compared to the U.S.,” Du Bois said.
El Comercio also has revamped its Internet edition and is reorganizing staff so there is no separation between print and online.
They also are branding new sections online anticipating that their Internet traffic will continue to grow. They have about 10 million online visitors per month.
“The idea is to develop a dozen brands and each one is going to acquire its own life,” Du Bois said.
They also recently renovated the newsroom.
“We still have a lot of work for journalists,” Du Bois said of the newspaper that is 175 years old.
In Peru, the newspaper also works to hold government officials accountable and Peruvian journalists value their freedom of press, he said.
“The day a president comes and says, ‘I’m happy with El Comercio,’ I will probably resign because that means I am not doing my job,” Du Bois said.