Just a few weeks ago, the Spanish Soitu.es news site was praised for its “where core ideas come through as confident innovation and mesh with traditional journalism to create a fresh and distinctive package”.
The words came from the judges at the Online News Association awards, where Soitu.es was, for a second year running, as an example of excellence in online journalism.
But the pioneering news site is closing down. In a story titled, Hasta la vista y gracias, founder Gumersindo LaFuente talked about how Soitu.es had became a victim of the financial crisis.
LaFuente explained that in the last few months, he had failed to persuade the site’s main backer, BBVA, that patience was needed as the nascent project found its feet in turbulent economic times.
Despite being barely two years old, the site attracted half a million unique users a month, while reaching a further two million through third-party widgets.
Its closure is a loss to the field of online journalism, as Soitu.es was doing what all news organisations should be doing: innovating and developing new tools, experimenting with new ways to tell stories online and reach audiences.
In the words of the ONA judges:
An underlying philosophy of sharing, linking and audience-focused engagement runs through its mix of original content and aggregated news and features material. Giveaway widgets, the ambitious flashinfo news panel and the elselector crowd-aided aggregation tool all get front-page billing.But the site is more than just these elements. It’s a work-in-progress.
Unfortunately, a work-in-progress takes time to nature and bloom.
In a second post, talking how staff had cried, swore and blamed themselves for what had happened, Soitu.es said it was planning a public memorial on Wednesday evening at its offices in Madrid.
All of us who believe in online journalism will be there, at least in spirit.