El Tiempo, Colombia’s national daily paper, has been moving at a fairly good speed to incorporate conversational media into its corporate and journalistic DNA. It’s clearly among the leaders in Latin America, if not the leader.
Guillermo Franco, the paper’s online editor, and several of his colleagues gave me a virtual tour of the site’s Participacion area yesterday. It’s impressive.
In addition to about 10 staff blogs, the paper has signed up about 200 citizens in a blog network covering a wide variety of topics. Comments are enabled on stories, and the forums are well-attended. All this attracts a fierce online debate, I’m told, including some angry postings that probably wouldn’t pass muster in most American papers. The politics of Colombia are beyond fierce; they are often literally deadly, and El Tiempo is in the middle of the debate.
The paper has an interesting approach to comment registration and display. A commenter needs only to provide a valid email address to post, but El Tiempo has created a superset of commenters who agree to give more detailed information — including a phone call from the paper — confirming their identity. Comments from the people in the latter group are highlighted on the site under a tab called “Comentarios destacados,” with the others under a tab called “Otros comentarios” — and Franco tells me the quality of the comments from the “destacados” group is high.
El Tiempo has a number of other sites, including several devoted to e-commerce. I’m intrigued with the just-launched vive.in, a site aimed at cultural activities (around Bogota in its first incarnation) with a major social networking component. With little publicity, Franco says, the beta site has already attracted some 5,000 signups.
Keep an eye on what these folks are doing.