On the second story of the posh Albion Hotel on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach sit the U.S. offices of Animal Politico, an online news site dedicated to Mexican politics that is quickly becoming one of the most respected—and hip—news sources in Latin America.
Founded in 2009 as an anonymous Twitter account called “PajaroPolitico,” or “Political Bird,” Animal Politico has quickly emerged as a must-read news source among Mexican youth.
The website garners between 2 and 2.3 million unique visits per month, with almost 400,000 followers on Twitter and 475,000 on its Facebook page. These are impressive figures given that Mexican internet penetration is relatively low, at 36 percent in 2012 compared to 78 percent in the U.S., according to Freedom House.
Part of the reason Animal Politico has gained so much traction so fast is because of its unique investigative approach, which prioritizes human-centered reporting and policy analysis.
“We understand politics very differently from other media sources,” explained Daniel Eilemberg, founder and editor-in-chief of the site. “We don’t care that the (Mexican) president went to Querétaro or Michoacán today and gave a speech—he travels with 250 other journalists who will do exactly the same story.
"We actually care a lot more about politics understood as the social impact that policies have on people, the civic organizations working to better the country, and about human rights violations.”
The website’s mission, along with its commitment to refuse most government-sponsored advertising, sets it apart from other Mexican news outlets, many of which are known to parrot government propaganda.
“There’s a bit of a credibility crisis going on in Mexico in terms of media,” Eilemberg explained. “The young people in Mexico are not protesting the president, they’re protesting a perceived bias in the way the media operates in the country… Animal Politico has been able to capture and get the credibility of this audience.
“Half of Animal Politico’s audience is under the age of 34, which is very particular of Animal Politico, and is very different from what’s happening with a lot of other media in Mexico,” he said.
The heart of Animal Politico is located at the site’s headquarters in Mexico City, where a team of about 18 editorial and social media staffers, journalists and photographers cover the news of the day.
But Eilemberg and Creative Director Adrian Saravia have set up shop in Miami in order to keep their eyes trained on the website’s future—which will likely involve opening at least one bureau in the United States.
“We are in the process of planning the next stage of Animal Politico—we’re starting to evaluate exactly what that expansion means,” said Eilemberg. “We’ve identified several opportunities, both in Mexico as well as in expanding to other countries in Latin America, and we’re in the process of evaluating that and seeing where it makes the most sense to expand. I think the US is certainly a priority and one of the most attractive opportunities.”
Eilemberg spends about ten days in Mexico City every month. He commutes between Mexico and Miami, where he has been actively involved with local media here since the launch.
While not a journalist by training, Eilemberg began his career in media “almost by accident,” when he started writing a film column for Loft Magazine, a high-end lifestyle brand.
“I started writing larger pieces for the magazine, eventually a lot of their cover stories, and eventually moved to Miami to run the magazine,” he said. “I fell in love with it, and found a lot of similarities of the things I actually liked about the film industry—building stories, telling good stories and the collaborative effort of putting together a magazine.”
Eilemberg went on to run several other Miami publications, the last of which, Poder, he and his partners sold just before the financial crisis hit in 2008. Watching traditional media business models unravel, as websites like The Huffington Post and Politico grew massively popular in the U.S. in the months following the market collapse, is part of what drove Eilemberg to create Animal Politico.
“You were starting to see these digital brands really break into the mainstream consciousness. I think for us, that’s when we realized that there was a huge opportunity to do just that in Latin America,” he said. Raising private capital and securing advertising revenue allowed him to launch the new site.
Though small, the Miami office of Animal Politico is a crucial element in Eilemberg’s plans for expanding the website, which he hopes will soon cover Mexican-American communities in the U.S. more broadly.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really is a connecting point with Latin America. It’s a very easy place to travel to and to travel from,” Eilemberg said. “For its geographic location, as well as for its quality of life and relatively low cost of living, compared to other media hubs in the U.S., it’s really been a good place for us to set up.”
To be sure, Miami has competition to be the permanent home for Animal Politico in the U.S. because of where most Mexican-Americans live.
“Miami is perhaps an anomaly compared to the rest of the country, where the Mexican community is not actually the majority of the Latino community in the city... so a place like Los Angeles would actually make a lot more sense," Eilemberg said.
Linda Kinstler graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from Bowdoin College in Maine and is serving as a Google Journalism Fellow this summer with the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University.