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“It took just 10 years”: How Henneo transformed itself from a local newspaper to become a Spanish media giant

A combination of investment, acquisitions, and most importantly, forming alliances with fellow publishers has powered Henneo to become Spain and Latin America’s most dynamic media group. For it to take just ten years makes the story truly remarkable. WNIP visited Henneo as part of our visit to WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress 2022 in Zaragoza…

One of the most dynamic stories in European publishing is that of Henneo, the Spanish media company based out of Zaragoza, Aragon Region. What makes the story all the more remarkable is that just ten years ago, the publisher was a regional newspaper (Heraldo de Aragon) serving just three percent of Spain’s population. Fast forward to 2022 and the publisher is now a Spanish publishing giant and one of the top ten IT companies in the country.

So how did a legacy media brand, family-run since its inception in 1895, transform itself from a regional newspaper to become a media powerhouse with multiple diversified revenue streams? At WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress 2022 held last month in Zaragoza we visited Henneo’s offices to hear more. 

The current story starts in 2011/12 when Spain descended into an economic quagmire worse than the financial crisis of ’08. The situation was exacerbated by Silicon Valley’s tech giants cannibalizing Spanish publishers’ advertising revenues. In short, drastic change was needed.

IT Consultancy and multiple digital solutions

Against this backdrop, Henneo founded its own IT company, Hiberus (a partnership/merger of its own IT department with IriTec and Comex Integración, two local consulting firms). In short order, Hiberus then acquired Semmantica, the online consultancy founded by Google alumni, followed by the creation of Hiberus Search and Play2u. The aim? To create a suite of specialized digital services and solutions targeted at other publishers, brands and vendors.

Success was rapid and by 2014 the company had not only reached 500 staff but also created its own Hiberus University which trains professionals in digital technology. Factor in expansion into Latin America, and today the company is one of Spain’s top ten IT firms with almost 2,000 employees.

Henneo’s secret sauce: Publisher alliances

Whilst Henneo’s IT services have been pivotal, it is the publisher’s alliances that have catapulted it to another tier. One of its first initiatives was to build one of Europe’s most advanced printing press plants covering Spain and the South of France which is now used by multiple publishers across the territory.

Henneo also built (and marketed) its own CMS system, Xalok, which powers 50 digital media properties across ten Hispanic countries and Italy, and is used by five of Spain’s largest publishers including 20minutos, La Vanguardia, and, soon, El Mundo.

Unlike The Washington Post’s Arc CMS (also used by other publishers), Xalok’s key differential is that all the platform’s data, metrics and insights are shared between the participating publishers, helping strengthen the bond and cooperation between them all.

In a highly competitive environment, especially with the tech platforms, we are far stronger together than operating as solo publishers alone. It’s key to our success, and our partners’ success.

Iñigo de Yarza, President of Hiberus and CEO of Henneo

These bonds were further strengthened by the birth of Alayans Media in 2019, a ‘technological hub’ and ad network that provides a unified audience, ad inventory, and user registration service for 12 editorial groups across the Spanish-speaking world. 

Alayans Media is a solution to a fragmented environment, where we can share experiences, best practices, registration systems and agnostic technology to jointly accelerate all our businesses.

Henneo spokesperson

Publisher acquisitions

Henneo simultaneously strengthened its reach with a string of publisher acquisitions. Key amongst them is the purchase of 20 Minutes offloaded by Schisted in 2015, quickly followed by the purchases of Diario del Alto Aragon, Radio Huesca, Cinemania and Seriemania.

In digital we lacked scale, we weren’t even a national player in Spain. Fast forward to 2022 and we have over 25M unique users in Spain and across the world, and we also distribute over 350,000 printed copies every day. Group revenue this year will hit 200M euros.

Iñigo de Yarza, President of Hiberus and CEO of Henneo

The company also doubled down on its video and broadcasting capabilities and now creates 3,500 hours of audiovisual content per year, in the process becoming one of the leading television companies in Spain.

As for the future, Henneo has been one of the publishers chosen for the next round of Google DNI’s Table Stakes. The company had already participated in the 2019 Table Stakes for help with its paywall which failed because Spanish consumers were not used to paying for news. The publisher has since pivoted to a registration wall triggered when a user consumes 40 articles.

Speaking to WAN-IFRA, Marta Algora Luño, Henneo’s Media Engagement & User Revenue Manager said, “Our goal is to increase the number of registered users. Why? We had done an analysis and discovered that a registered user gave us much more money than an anonymous one. That metric has been very strong for us.”

The publisher has subsequently rolled out a suite of reader products to help strengthen its registration model, including a series of 13 newsletters targeted at various audience groups. 

However, despite its immense growth, Henneo has been careful to keep closely aligned with its editorial values and to foster engagement through trust-focused advertising campaigns, interviews with journalists, and real-life documentaries on how the newsroom works, using openness to build closer relationships with readers.

Heraldo de Aragon, our local newspaper, has been run by different women for 80 years, and we consider the title our first big platform. It is still the beating heart of Henneo and embodies all our values. Audience trust is key.

Iñigo de Yarza, President of Hiberus and CEO of Henneo

By safeguarding and continually building upon audience trust, allied to its dynamic growth model, Henneo’s future seems assured. Given the publisher has survived two World Wars, a Spanish civil war and numerous deep recessions, few would bet against it.