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'Hasta la vista y gracias': Spanish news website farewelled as main investor backs out

'Hasta la vista y gracias': Spanish news website farewelled as main investor backs out

Spanish online-only website Soitu.es farewelled it's readers yesterday, announcing it would shut down after only 22 months of production.

In a post titled 'Hasta la vista y gracias', founder Gumersindo LaFuente thanked the half a million unique visitors a month the site had managed to attract throughout it's short life.

Picking a particularly charged day, Soitu launched on 27th December 2007, the day of Benazir Bhutto's death: "Pakistan dramatically lost a woman who fought to be its president- the whole world held their breath waiting to see what would happen in one of the most tense places on the planet. It was exactly this day that soitu.es premiered on the web. It was born with the energy necessary to convert itself into a informative, independent, participative and different site,' said LaFuente.

He continued: "The death of Bhutto, with all its drama, was rapidly eclipsed by the hurricane that was the world economic crisis. The financial foundation that was based on the unbridled growth of the last fifteen years proved to be as flimsy as a house of cards and thousands of businesses and millions of jobs have vanished in no time.

Soitu was not left untouched by the news it reported and despite its best efforts to convince key investor BBVA to exercise patience as the website tried to find its footing in tough economic times, the bank decided against continued support, and pulled out its funds. LaFuente accepted the decision graciously, thanking the bank for its backing to date and "making his dream possible".

The website's closure is particularly disheartening, as in terms of what it was producing and the journalistic direction it was taking it was proving to be quite a success.

The Internet has changed the face of journalism. The written word is quite simply no longer enough to satisfy readers who look for many things- videos, comments, updates etc.- when consuming their news.

Soitu was at the forefront of this, attempting to adapt to the cultural shift in consumption, experimenting with the various capabilites and opportunities the Internets offers journalism. "We have constantly sought other routes," said LaFuente, "Soitu was born as were all her siblings. Switcher news, widgets, tools to make graphics or tags select automatically and finally utoi.es.

utoi.es was the site's unique approach to interacting with its readers: its own social network. The spin-off site was designed as a space where readers could create profiles and discuss different stories an themes, a kind of 'news-only Facebook'.

Soitu's intiatives were recognised earlier this month when the Online News Association presented it with its second award for excellence in online journalism. Having already received an award in 2008, the ONA again recognised the achievements of the website this year, praising Soitu's: "underlying philosophy of sharing, linking and audience-focused engagement runs through its mix of original content and aggregated news and features material.

"It's a work-in-progress, where core ideas come through as confident innovation and mesh with traditional journalism to create a fresh and distinctive package.

That the website will be shut down due to lack of funds is a sad development for online journalism, and many are mourning the loss. One of the several comments left by Soitu's readers said: "It is a great pity that after so much time searching for an interesting paper of a quality as great as yours, everything comes to an end. I guess I'm one more than has been shocked by reading the news. My condolences and hope that there is another project of the same character and style in the near future, very soon.

LaFuente does confirm that the end of Siotu does not mean the end for his team's online endeavours: "We wanted to tell stories differently, using the full capabilities of the Web. We believed (and we still believe, perhaps today more than ever) that the value of journalists in this new technological scenario remains, but that must radically change the way they work.

"We don't know what the future holds, but we look forward with the hope that there are many things to do, and many good stories to tell. And one way or another, we will continue to report online.

A memorial for the 'death of Soitu' will be held at the website's office this evening at 6pm.

Source : Soitu



Jennifer Lush


2009-10-28 12:50

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