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Helping Independent Media Make Global HDLNs

HDLN.com, a distribution platform for independent media, will make its debut in Brazil before going global.
HDLN.com, a distribution platform for independent media, will make its debut in Brazil before going global.

Consolidations and budget cuts at some of the world's biggest media companies have, in the words of one recently-affected journalist, damaged news beats "as diverse as soccer and books." But if independent media outlets had better means of distribution, they might be able to fill this gaping news hole. In Brazil, a group of journalists is working to solve this universal problem and is using Sourcefabric’s technology to do it.

Called Headline (HDLN.com), the soon-to-be-launched platform for independent media will make its debut in Brazil before going global. When the site goes live in a few months, independent media outlets will collectively publish content and split the resulting revenue. Topics covered will include "power," "culture" and the "future," while content will include photography, videos, podcasts, graphic reporting, data-supported journalism, editorials and commentary.

Headline's Publisher, Brazilian journalist Andrei Netto, describes HDLN.com this way: "Imagine a small news outlet in the Amazon which produces very good content but because of gaps in terms of technology, is not very well-read across the country. What HDLN.com could do for this outlet is create a partnership so that the content they produce is published on our platform and then the revenue that the content generates is shared."

In addition to Netto, Headline was co-founded by a group of journalists, including Deborah Berlinck, Mario Camera, Felipe Paiva, Danilo Rocha Lima and Jean-Baptiste Bouvier. It will count on membership and single-payment options, but will also function like a news agency, selling content to publishers, which will redistribute the material on their own sites. Headline will be powered by Superdesk, our open-source newsroom CMS, and the front-end will be built on Superdesk Publisher, a native Superdesk extension.

Netto says that when his team started to study the independent media market in Brazil, what they found was a bunch of "very creative and active" initiatives that "were not good in content distribution and marketing." It's easy to see this problem in real time. From deforestation to politics, South America's largest economy is rich with news waiting to be written. But Google "Brazil" and what you get is a handful of articles depicting a narrow slice of Brazilian life. Headline is being built to solve this problem.

Eventually, the model will be replicated in other markets. The goal in Brazil is to test the platform and tweak the algorithms as needed.

While the idea for the platform had been germinating for a few years, Headline's big break came in mid-2018, when its parent company, Indico News, was awarded a grant from Google's Digital News Innovation fund. Netto says that while the seed money was helpful, the biggest benefit has been the sense of legitimacy it bestowed. "The DNI funding amount was just for the site's prototype, but it was a huge step in terms of image. It opens so many doors when you present to an investor as a Google DNI recipient."

To build its technological infrastructure, Headline hired a team of journalists and developers, including experts in developing digital media solutions in Europe. Sourcefabric is advising on the software implementation and will conduct trainings to integrate Superdesk into the platform's content workflow.

"At the beginning of the project we had a challenge: organising our content management," Netto said. "The first idea was to create a new CMS, our own CMS. But that proved too expensive. Then we contacted CMS companies – like VOX's Chorus and the Washington Post's Arc – but they were either not prepared to supply partners outside of the United States or were also very expensive." Sourcefabric, "with its expertise and focus on journalism," emerged as the perfect solution, Netto said.

HDLN will launch later this year, with an international version of the platform planned for 12 to 18 months later. "We are very idealistic journalists, and we want to support independent media," Netto said. "We believe it is creative solutions like HDLN.com that represent the future of the industry."

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