By Joanna Bender
CuencaHighLife is expanding its editorial coverage and is launching a community journalism fund to support the effort.
“Readers have been asking for more in-depth news and people features and the Cuenca Expat Journalism Fund will help us do this,” says CuencaHighLife general manager Jonathan Mogrovejo. “We’ll also be adding more coverage of local businesses and restaurants that serve expats and making design changes so that advertising doesn’t interfere with editorial content,” he says.
Launched in 2008 by David Morrill, CuencaHighLife has become the largest English-language website in Ecuador, with more than twice the daily traffic of any other site. Along with its two daily eletters, CuencaHighLife receives more then 130,000 views per month.
“Because of our size and reach, we feel we have an obligation to expand our coverage to other areas of Ecuador, as well as into other areas of reader interest, such as travel, dining, and the arts,” Morrill says.
He adds that the changes and additions to the website are a shift toward building a traditional community newspaper but with the on-line twist of real-time engagement. “We’ve already established an active, high-volume comments section but we’re also working hard to recruit more guest columnists and editorial contributors on a variety of subjects.”
To help expand content, CuencaHighLife asks the readership to contribute to an Expat Community Journalism Fund. A monthly sponsorship of $1 per month, or $12 a year, will help the website hire the writers and recruit volunteers to produce more in-depth news and features.
Another benefit to sponsorship is that the number of advertising banners on the CuencaHighLife website will be reduced, making the page layout cleaner and easier to read, as well as opening up space for additional news, features, and opinion.
A sponsorship is strictly voluntary and will not limit anyone’s access to the website. If readers choose not to contribute to the fund, they will still have access to website’s content — and all with a cleaner design that offers better readability with fewer advertisements.
“We are not talking about moving to a paid subscription,” says Mogrovejo. “It’s important that people know we are not going to take away anyone’s news.”
Both Mogrovejo and Morrill know they are going against conventional publication practices by asking readers to support a journalism fund and inviting them to have a voice in content development. “It’s a little unusual but it’s not unknown for websites and publications aimed at expat audiences,” says Morrill. “It’s being done in Medellin (Colombia) and expat communities in Mexico.”
“Advertising will still be the most important part of our revenue stream. Advertisers are a vital part of our readership and the expat community in general and their ads are important communication tools,” Mogrovejo says. “But we’re working on other ways to incorporate advertising into the site so it doesn’t distract from editorial content. Our readers have already shared with us some pretty good ideas about this.”
Changing ad sizes and location, limiting the number of total ads, and ensuring that the ads that do appear are the ones readers want to see, are a few ideas for the new version of CuencaHighLife. Recently, Mogrovejo has made some adjustments to the website and will continue to tweak the design in the coming weeks and months.
One of the advantages of being contributors to the journalism fund, say Mogrovejo and Morrill, is having a direct a line to the partners. “Let us know what you want to see on the website and where we can imporove,” Mogrovejo says. “This is part of being a true community publication.” Contact Mogrovejo at Jonathan@CuencaHighLife and Morrill at David@CuencaHighLife.com.
One thing that won’t change about CuencaHighLife, Morrill says, is that it will continue to report the news, good and bad, and offer space for strongly felt opinions. “We are not in the business of providing Goody-Two-Shoes news,” he says. “We’re not the chamber of commerce or International Living and we don’t load up the site with cheesy articles about how fabulous expat life is. We report what’s going on in Ecuador and how it affects foreign residents for better or for worse.”
He adds: “As far as I know, we’re the only English-language media that the Ecuadorian government pays attention to on a regular basis. They let us know when they don’t like what we post.”
Mogrovejo points out that the website is not strictly for expats. “Almost half our readers don’t live in Ecuador,” he says. “They’re considering becoming expats and rely on us to provide honest, accurate information they can use in making decisions and for making plans to move if that’s what they decide. They are just as much a part of our community as the expats who live here.”
“The journalism fund is a real chance for all our readers, for those living in Ecuador or thinking about relocating here, to get involved with CuencaHighLife,” says Mogrovejo. “We’re definitely looking forward to what we can build together.”
If you would like to be a sponsor for the Cuenca Expat Community Journalism Fund, please click the button below to make a secure contribution online. Contribute now!
If you have any questions about the fund, feel free to contact Jonathan Mogrovejo or David Morrill at the email addresses above.
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