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El Tiempo

Colombian daily launches digital talent incubator

El Tiempo needed more tech-savvy staff — so they created a recruitment and training program to attract recent college graduates to the news industry.
El Tiempo
El Tiempo

Staffing newsrooms in the digital age

Colombian daily newspaper El Tiempo has thrived for more than a century by delivering quality journalism. They launched their online version in 1996 and have strived to stay in front of trends and current with new technologies. They now reach an international audience of 35 million unique users online.

Like other news publishers in the digital age, El Tiempo has struggled to not only keep pace with increasingly mobile audiences, but also to find and retain tech-savvy talent. “The entire media industry faces [tech staffing] challenges in the face of digital acceleration and COVID,” says Chief Digital Officer Diego Vallejo.

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I would recommend other media leaders [consider creating] a talent seedbed. Google News Initiative and El Tiempo came together to attract new graduates to fill our digital technology jobs.
Yulieth Velásquez
Head of Human Resources and Organizational Development, El Tiempo

Attracting tech talent to journalism

While El Tiempo had a robust journalism training program in place, their turnover rate for staff with digital skills was high: 60% of tech staff left after one year.

“Year after year, we’ve faced a huge challenge attracting and retaining digital talent,” says Head of Human Resources and Organizational Development Yulieth Velásquez. “We are not just competing with other Colombian companies, but also with multinational companies with the capital to hire talent from anywhere.”

The role of data analyst — a specialist who reviews data and derives insights to understand consumers and fuel business growth — was particularly hard to fill.

  • 22 tech professionals trained
  • 16 tech staff hired by El Tiempo
  • 3 tech staff hired by other media outlets

Creating a digital talent incubator

El Tiempo had previously worked with the Google News Initiative (GNI) Ad Transformation Lab to build its digital advertising capabilities. They were a 2019 Latin American winner of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenges — a global program that empowers news organizations to advance digital journalism — for creating a self-service portal for advertisers.

In 2021, El Tiempo worked with the GNI team again to design an internship program to attract new talent to journalism — and train them in high-demand technology skills. “We are a training company and media industry leader,” Vallejo says. “We got together with GNI to brainstorm how we could prevent [staff attrition] and enhance training.”

Curriculum development focused on three areas: data strategy management, information digital management, and digital technology management. The digital talent incubator program was open to recent college graduates who had studied engineering, math, or related fields and did not have previous work experience.

Transforming the digital media ecosystem

The program attracted about 100 applicants for 15 spots. The response was so great, El Tiempo expanded the program to 22 participants. GNI collaborated on curriculum development and provided funding for intern salaries and additional hardware.

The program ran for a year, from July 2021 to July 2022. Participants got on-the-job training alongside newsroom veterans, learning how to use tools such as Google Analytics and Google Trends in data analysis and management. They were then offered a permanent position with the publisher: 16 were hired by El Tiempo and 6 were either hired by other media organizations or looking for other jobs. El Tiempo and GNI will launch the program again in December 2022 / January 2023.

Vallejo says the talent incubator has not only helped El Tiempo gain the staff they need to stay competitive, it also serves as a model for other publishers facing similar staffing challenges. “It’s a great opportunity for graduates to not only learn from El Tiempo, but also to add to the talent to transform the digital media ecosystem in Colombia.”