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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

New Brazilian journalism project brings forth collaborative and sustainable economics



With just over a month under its belt, the website #Colabora is emerging as one of the new media initiatives showing signs of having found a purpose and a way to establish itself as a journalism nonprofit in Brazil. Headed by veteran journalist Agostinho Vieira, the project brings together dozens of employees and addresses issues related to a collaborative and sustainable economy.

The site launched in early November with impressive site numbers considering its short existence: more than 100 posts published, 35,000 visitors, almost 70,000 views and about 60 collaborators. The initial success of the project, according to Agostinho, is explained by this last number, even for modest ambitions.

"Our difference is, specifically, collaboration and diversity. We have 60 collaborators and we want 100 or 150. Each one of them writing about topics they like, they know, they follow. We do not want quantity at #Colabora, but quality. We want to tell good stories, that people see on social networks and are willing to share with friends. That will make a difference. We do not want to be just another information site," he explained in conversation with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

The entrepreneur does not lack experience with diversity and coordinating journalists. Agostinho spent 25 years at the newspaper O Globo, starting as an intern and eventually serving as executive director. He was also director of Sistema Globo de Radio and Radio CBN. He has won awards such as the Esso Journalism award in 1994, and awards from the Society of Newspaper Design in 1998 and 1999. After studying a few months in a Master’s program in Environmental Management in London, he went on to write about the topic and have a column and a blog at Globo.

"I spent some time wondering what to do [after leaving o Globo]. One of the project ideas was to open a bakery, join a social business or go back to being an executive; I chose to continue writing about sustainability. The idea of #Colabora arose. The first sketches of the project were a simple continuation of what I was already doing,” Agostinho said. "Then we decided to talk about Collaborative Economics and about the life of the Third Sector in Brazil. I started alone, then invited Liana Melo, who was editor of Revista Amanhã, of Globo, and Valquíria Daher."

The team works remotely and holds an editorial meeting each week, always in a different bookstore in Rio de Janeiro. Content production is coordinated with collaborators, and the dynamics of publication is not unlike that of newsrooms, which is so familiar to the staff. It all starts with a good idea on the agenda, which is discussed and approved. "That's the most important part. As 90% of our collaborators are journalists or experienced experts who write about subjects they like and who dominate the stages of investigating, writing and editing; it is relatively simple. The daily challenge is to balance the issues of the moment, the hottest, most worked, with the stories and the timeless ones."

Their agenda addresses a matter, which in Agostinho's view, is poorly portrayed by the mainstream media.

"One of our biggest goals is to show that sustainability is not just a pet or a little plant. Sustainability is almost everything. It is real life, is our everyday life. In these 45 days of existence, we followed different themes such as the attacks in Paris, the tragedy of Mariana and the death of five young black men in Costa Barros in Rio. But if we are going to talk about the traditional coverage of sustainability, it is very bad. What a great opportunity for us. The big problem for traditional media is that it continues to believe that sustainability is a pet and little plant. With some pinches about climate, when heads of state meet in Paris or Rio," he noted.

With a well-established work routine and thematic focus, the team now looks to test the platform’s business model, which includes four revenue streams: sponsorship, crowdfunding, institutional support and events. To get off the ground, Colabora had an initial sponsorship from Coca-Cola and an investment from Agostinho himself. But for 2016, and with the support of new sponsors, they already have planned three events related to the topics covered by the platform.

This clear long-term business outlook is, for Agostinho - who has a postgraduate degree in Business Management from Insead - fundamental to consolidate the new media projects born in Brazil.

"Journalists, in general, do not like to count. They do not know how to take care of business. They spent their lives thinking [in newsrooms] that the business and circulation staff were evil doers. People who only care about money and did not understand that journalists were saving the world. But the world must be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. "

To follow up on the good work, the team at Colabora relies on agility typical of startups, experimenting with new possibilities and evaluating the errors and successes along the way.

"We are only at the beginning and we have a lot to do to make Colabora sustainable and relevant, in every way. We say here that work at Colabora should not have the kind of stress that we had in the big newsrooms. If we're not all working with pleasure, it is not worth it,” the journalist concluded.



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