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Leader of All Brazilian Newspapers, Folha Celebrates 20 Years on the Internet

07/10/2015 - 10h12

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BRUNO ROMANI
FROM SAO PAULO

On July 9th, 1995, FolhaWeb made its debut on the internet as the first online section of Folha. It was the embryo of the first real time newspaper in the Portuguese language and one that would become the largest news website in Brazil, with 272.1 million page views in June, according to Adobe Analytics.

This platform, which had begun working two months ahead of its commercial use, was an unknown news vehicle in the country - so much so that the printed article that announced the launch of the website was accompanied by an article entitled "understand what the internet is."

The first coverage published on the site, hosted on the rather unfriendly address www.embratel.net.br/infoserv/agfolha, was the 47th meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science in São Luis, capital of the state of Maranhão.

The explanation is simple: most Internet pioneers, estimated at the time to have been between 45,000 and 50,000 people across the globe, worked in academia as professors who accessed the network from universities. This number has multiplied by 2,400, reaching 120 million Internet users in the country today.

The following year, Folha Group launched UOL, a portal which also provides access to the internet.

The news website was renamed Folha Online in 1999 and operated independently from the printed version. "The challenge was to publish online the same quality newspaper," recalls Ricardo Feltrin, Folha Online's newsroom secretary until 2010.

There were also difficulties with regard to infrastructure. Although the audience was small in comparison to the one currently, the capacity of the equipment was also much lower.

"The most difficult time was when the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 took place. We had to work under war mode for days to keep the site up and running," Fernando Nemec said, Folha's head of IT.

BROADBAND

Broadband connection only took off in Brazil in 2005. Before then, with dial-up connections as fast as 56 Kbps, the website was even more prone to congestion.

For instance, an 8 Gbytes film would take 14 days to download at that rate; with a speed of 10 Mbps nowadays, the same download would take less than two hours.

In the second half of the 2000s, technological advances transformed the newspaper. This was reflected on the website, which now boasts multimedia content, photos, audios and videos.

In 2010 Folha TV was launched and the online desk, Folha Online and Folha's print publishing desk were brought together.

"Unification is part of a larger project to transform the newsroom into factory that produces content 24 hours a day, regardless of the platform on which it will be released or consumed," says Sérgio Dávila, the executive editor at Folha.

Also in 2010 came the first application for iPad and Android -more than half the website's audience access it on mobile devices.

Two years later, the newspaper was the first in the country to charge for frequent access, the so-called paywall, a path which many other news-based websites followed.

Today, Folha holds more than a fifth of all digital signatures in the Brazilian newspaper market, according to the Verification Institute of Communication, and is a leader of followers on Facebook.

In 2012, on computers, smartphones and tablets, Folha.com became simply Folha, just like the printed newspaper.

"If the people of tomorrow prefer to receive information on the walls of their homes, on their clothes or on the refrigerator, the contents of Folha will be available on there too, formatted in such a way as to better serve that user," Dávila says.

"Always following the editorial principles of the newspaper - critical journalism that is independent and nonpartisan, with ample space for the contradictory - and the principles of professional journalism."

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

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