Before joining Google, Alejandra Brambila worked at Reuters helping publishers across Latin America integrate the news agency’s reporting into their publications. Working with newsrooms across the region, she saw first-hand the challenges they faced in building a sustainable news business. Now she applies that insight as a member of Google’s Latin America news partnerships team, working closely with publishers to help them grow and scale their digital operations. We talked to her about the importance of balance and why everything starts with the audience.
What did you do before you came to Google?
I worked with a large news agency that has a subscription service publishers use to supplement their coverage. They have reporters all over the world, so it’s really helpful for publishers who might not have global correspondents. In my time there I worked closely with all kinds of publishers, from very traditional outlets to newer digital natives and startups.
What’s your role now?
I work with a team that provides solutions for a range of publishers across Latin America. We work with partners on growing their businesses and navigating change in the industry, and we also help them get the most out of Google’s advertising and monetization products.
What’s most challenging for publishers in the region?
From a business perspective, some of the biggest challenges are in technology and
digital transformation. Many of the media companies in this region weren’t built with tech at their core. So they’ve been adapting, but they don’t necessarily have technology strategy integrated into the decision-making process at the highest levels. In part, that leads to executional issues, but it’s also about shifting mindset.
What are some of those executional challenges?
There’s a real problem in the region with finding and retaining tech talent. I see it constantly with my partners in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico – that technology talent turns over really fast. So sometimes you have leadership knowing they need to make changes and being really eager to do it, but they don’t have the structure in place to make it happen.
We always encourage partners to be realistic and start with changes they know they can execute. It’s also about having that product mindset, where you’re always thinking about improvements you can make on an ongoing basis, rather than just one-off changes.
Can you explain what you mean about transformation in general requiring a mindset shift?
For a lot of these companies, they’ve been through a lot of transition. First they had to adapt to digital advertising. Now many of them are trying to focus more on digital subscriptions, but it feels very disruptive and risky.
How do you address those kinds of concerns?
It’s really about finding that balance between advertising and subscriptions. And the publishers that have been able to do that have built a strong brand in addition to having a technology vision. It’s not enough to have a large audience. You need loyal readers coming back to your site. You also have to have the right technology in place. For example, since in Latin America we don’t have the fastest devices or internet connections, content needs to be light and fast loading to maximize your ad revenue. So you need a good CMS that loads faster and indexes better.
But the businesses I see that are thriving have focused on building that audience connection, whether by having high standards for journalism or serving their community in different ways, like with events.
What other encouraging developments do you see in terms of business models?
I see more media finding different ways to reach their audiences, for example, through new verticals like education or cooking or health. There are also startups and entrepreneurs using different platforms like Substack and, of course, podcasts.
We’re also seeing more partners focused on strengthening their technology talent and their product teams. They’re working on applying that product approach and putting structures and frameworks in place to iterate and experiment. All of those things are starting to move in the right direction and that’s encouraging to see.