From Brazil with Love: Words of Wisdom from Roberto Civita, The Henry Luce of Brazil: Our Job is to Make a Difference, to Change the World and to Produce Magazines with Souls

November 15, 2009

roberto civita“It will continue to be essential.” Those were the six-word-answer that Roberto Civita, CEO and Editor in Chief of the Abril group in Sao Paulo gave me when I asked him about the future of journalism. An avid speaker and an engaging journalist first and most, Mr. Civita was the lunchon speaker at the Third Brazilian National Association of Magazine Editors Forum (ANER) in Sao Paulo last week. The theme of the Forum was “A digital future that preserves the print.” In one of those rare positions in today’s marketplace, Mr. Civita holds the highest rank, on both editorial and business sides, of one of Latin America’s largest publishing, printing and electronic media companies. The last person, in modern times, to play such a dual role in a major media company (as far as I can remember) is Henry Luce, the founder of Time Inc. in the early 1920s in the United States of America.

Mr. Civita spoke about Quality Journalism in the Multimedia Age. “Quality journalism comes before everything else,” he told the audience at the Forum. “This means journalism must continue to provide engaging content that respect the facts and is committed to the truth.” His call to action included a broad definition of what a journalist should do, now, tomorrow and in the future. “Journalist must verify all the information, be creative, respect the readers and always be ethical, no exceptions regardless of what type of journalism they are engaging in: news, fashion, sports, etc.” he added.

“Our future,” Mr. Civita said, “depends on competent and able journalist who can produce the content readers want and need. We should not stop at the want, but also include the need.” He emphasized the need to establish a long lasting relationship with our readers, one that is based on the publication, the magazine, the brand. “Yes, I resisted using the word brand for years,” he said, “But now I am willing to use it. However, I will never refer to our magazines and publications as products. Products are for things like soap and other stuff that you just use and finish with. We are much more than products, with all due respect to soap and all other products. We are about relationships.”

As for the changing media landscape, Mr. Civita said, “Managing a company today, in a world that has changed, needs organizational competence. Just like the printing press changed the entire world in the 1400s, so is the digital revolution is doing now. “Mind you, however, this revolution is still in its infancy. You need to improve your competence and add a digital component to what you do,” he added. “People now have access to more things, more information and in the end they will converge in the same place.” But no matter what, there are two things that will never change when in comes to our future Mr. Civita said. “There will always be only 24 hours in a day and there will always be the need to look for reliable and credible information.”

Mr. Civita’s final words charged the journalists with six essentials to ensure a future full with quality journalism:

1. Understand the technological changes and trends that are taking place
2. Focus on your audience. Get to know them. It is the journalist who should know the audience, not the marketing person.
3. Produce and deliver content that works in this new environment… as they (the audience) want it.
4. Integrate interactivity and social media… one way is over.
5. Explore and extend your brand… at the end it is going to be an issue of who can they trust.
6. Bring together VERIFIED digital and print content. It is the key to do everything. There should be no talk about journalism without multimedia skills.

“Our job here is not just to make money,” the CEO of Abril said, “Our job is to make a difference, to change the world, to produce magazines with souls. That will make all the difference in the future of quality journalism.”

The next day, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Civito at his headquarters in Sao Paulo where I asked him during lunch with him and some of his key Abril folks about the future of journalism. Listen to the short, but most effective six-word-answer from the man himself, Mr. Roberto Civita, the Henry Luce of Brazil.

samir in brazilFrom Brazil with love, yours truly standing on the balcony of the executive dinning room at the media company Abril. On Wed. Nov. 11, I gave a speech at the Third ANER Forum in Sao Paulo entitled, “Don’t Promote The Suicide of Your Print Magazine” and on Thursday Nov. 12, I spoke at the second annual Web Conference at Abril on the “Using Technology to Amplify the Future of Print.”



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