Quick Questions About Scientific American Español

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/NOAA/USGS, via Wikimedia Commons.
Image credit: NASA/GSFC/NOAA/USGS, via Wikimedia Commons.

On Oct. 15, Scientific American announced the launch of a new site called Scientific American español. The announcement describes the new site as “an online channel with a special focus on science news and information in Spanish.”

Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:

Our new Spanish-language site, headed by Debbie Ponchner under the direction of Robin Lloyd, Scientific American’s news editor, and Richard Zinken, director of international digital development, features the same authoritative take on science news and information that you expect from us. In addition to translated stories, images and videos, the channel also features additional original reporting from Latin America and other parts of the world. On top of that, we are partnering with our Spain-based editions Investigacion y Ciencia and Mente y Cerebro to bring their reporting and editorial content to a wider audience.

To learn more about the new site, I had a quick Q&A with Mariette DiChristina, Scientific American’s editor-in-chief.

Communication Breakdown: What was the impetus for the new Scientific American español site? And why launch it now?

Mariette DiChristina. Photo courtesy of Scientific American.
Mariette DiChristina. Photo courtesy of Scientific American.

Mariette DiChristina: Science is a global endeavor, inspiring us with research collaborations around the world. In the same fashion, authoritative coverage of advances in science and technology should be global in nature and execution.

Scientific American is sold worldwide in English, and is also translated into 14 languages in local editions, including in Spain for many years. Scientific American Mind is also sold globally in English, and has about half a dozen translated editions, including in Spain. These editions tend to focus on audiences within their respective countries.

Although it has only been in English to date, ScientificAmerican.com already has a large percentage of its audience coming from overseas. We thought we would be better able to serve science-interested customers worldwide if we provided Scientific American’s authoritative science information in Spanish as well—a language that is spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide.

CB: The Spanish-speaking world is not culturally monolithic, ranging from the various Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. to Spain, Mexico, and the myriad nations and cultures across South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Do you have a particular target audience in mind for the new site?

DiChristina: Despite the 1845-era name of “Scientific American,” we know the English-speaking world is not culturally monolithic either. We seek to address Spanish-speaking audiences with science news of global relevance, and also are commissioning original articles about science that occurs in various countries—just as we do in English. Our goal is to better serve our customers who rely on us for authoritative coverage of the science and technology fields that are shaping the world today.

CB: Some of the content for the español site is translated from the English-language magazine and site. Are there cultural issues that you take into consideration when choosing which English-language stories to run on the español site, or in determining how to translate them? And are there specific issues or regions you’re planning to focus on for the original Spanish-language reporting?

DiChristina: Our Spanish editor, Debbie Ponchner, is from Costa Rica and has also spent time living in Spain, England, and the U.S. She will certainly take into account the needs and interests of our Spanish-speaking audiences in selecting articles for translation as well as in commissioning original stories for the site (which we may then translate into English as well).

CB: When launching an initiative, most organizations have set goals that they’ll use to determine whether the initiative is successful. How will Scientific American determine whether the español site is a success?

DiChristina: Like all media organizations, we’ll be keeping a careful eye on overall engagement, as it is important to see whether your audiences value what you are doing. Naturally, we’re eager for direct feedback from people who have suggestions for us to consider as well.

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