The Abril Group and Veja, leaders in the Brazilian publishing market

Article  by  Camilla AMARAL  •  Published 12.10.2009  •  Updated 13.10.2010
Editora Abril is the most influential press group in Latin America, notably due to its leading publication, Veja. With the arrival of internet, it has been able to adapt and preserve its position.

Summary

Introduction

The Abril Group, founded in 1950 by journalist Victor Civita (New York, 1907 - São Paulo, 1990) as Editora Abril, is one of the most influential in the communications market in Latin America.
 
The Group operates in various media types and in various fields: high-circulation national magazines, printing, books, cable television, internet, radio (FM Radio Tupi and Tupi), and education (The Abril Group recently bought the Anglo group, which has 211,000 students in 484 private schools located in 316 municipalities of Brazil, and also has an educational foundation called Fundação Victor Civita, responsible for its social projects); additionally, it is a player in the cultural domain, with a theater in Sao Paulo, Teatro Abril.
Abril got started on the Brazilian market by publishing the adventures of a cartoon character, Disney's "Pato Donald" (Donald Duck, first issue published in July 1950.
 
Editora Abril has revolutionized the history of the press in Brazil and currently has about 30 million readers. Abril has seven top ten magazines in the country, including Veja magazine (launched in 1968), the number three information magazine worldwide and number one in Brazil, with an average of 1.2 million copies sold per week. Veja magazine is the most influential magazine in Brazil.
 

In 1950, the Group was located in a small office in downtown São Paulo. At that time, the company had only six employees. Today is one of the ten largest employers in the communications sector in Brazil, with approximately 7,000 employees[+] NoteeSource: Corporate website of the Abril group.X [1].
In 1961, growth in Brazilian families and the launch of the Disney character Zé Carioca (a parrot native of Rio de Janeiro) stimulated the production of comics in Brazil. The name Abril (April) was given by Victor Civita (son of Italians), because the month of April is spring in Europe. The logo of Abril Group is a tree, a symbol of fertility, and green is the color of optimism and hope. Currently, the group is chaired by Roberto Civita, the son of Victor Civita.
 
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The group's activities

 Books

Abril holds 29% of the Brazilian educational book market. In 2009, when the latest records were officially made known, the group had produced 38 million textbooks, published by two publishing houses owned by Abril: Editora Scipione and Atica. More than 100,000 schools in Brazil are directly affected by these operations[+] Notee-Source: Corporate website of the Abril group.X [2].
 
Television
 
MTV: The Abril Group is owned by MTV Brazil, the leading music channel launched in October 20, 1990, which has revolutionized the music industry in Brazil. The network was created following an agreement between MTV USA (with branches in over 15 countries) and TVA, a cable TV provider owned by Abril.
 
MTV Brazil covers 34 million homes in 157 cities – 62% of households in the country. MTV Brazil initially only broadcast music videos, but has gradually begun to follow the style of transmission of its U.S. parent company: variety shows, reality shows, documentaries about musical groups, and programs on pop culture geared for a young audience.
 
Since its launch 20 years ago MTV Brazil has conducted marketing campaigns for social responsibility. Among these are campaigns on the importance of condom use to fight against the AIDS virus.
        
Besides musical programs for youth, MTV Brazil also has special projects such as MTV Unplugged, summer programs, performances and even an awards ceremony for the best video clips of the year following the model of the American Video Music Awards, the VMB (Video Music Brasil).
In 2010, because of the presidential elections in October, MTV Brazil has also developed another focus, politics, with a debate between the major presidential candidates planned for broadcast. The live debate, originally scheduled for August 24th, was canceled because only two candidates confirmed their presence. The intent of the station was to invite 50 young people to ask questions, in addition to those received by viewers.

TVA: In 1991 the Group launched the first pay-TV operation in Brazil. Currently, TVA (Abril Television) is administered through a partnership between the Group and the telecommunications company Telefonica. It has subscribers in over 10 cities in Brazil and offers programming packages and options in several areas: movies, sitcoms, sports, news, entertainment and variety. Its main competitors in the cable industry are SKY and NET TV. TVA also works as a broadband Internet provider through its service Ajato.
 
Magazines

The Abril Group has been present throughout several transformations in Brazilian society in recent decades, with the arrival of publications geared towards a variety of subjects: tourism (Viagem e Turismo), automobiles (Quatro Rodas), women (Nova, Claudia, Elle, Gloss, Boa Forma, Woman's Health and Estilo), men (VIP, Playboy, Men's Health), teens (Capricho), business (Exame) architecture and decoration ( Arquitetura e Decoração and Casa Claudia), sports (Placar), entertainment (Caras and Contigo), fashion (Manequim) and others, such as science, nature and history (Superinteressante, National Geographic and Aventuras na História).
 
The magazine Veja, the Group’s main publication, has been responsible for some of the best Brazilian news reports, and has received prestigious awards in the communications industry[+] NoteeSource: Esso Journalism PrizeX [3].
In 2009 the group had 370 titles published and was leading in 21 of the 25 sectors in which it operates. 188 million copies were sold during the year and subscriptions have reached 4.1 million[+] NoteSouce: Corporate website of the Abril group.X [4][+]InaGlobal.
 

Age Range

Technological innovations

The Abril Group has significantly expanded its presence on the Internet using tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other technologies, such as partnerships with mobile operators. Progress in these areas is mainly due to the globalization of the digital universe and falling sales of print magazines and subscriber numbers.
Playboy magazine, for example, has been published by the Abril group in Brazil for 35 years. The magazine sold over a million copies a month in 1990 (the magazine was then second only Veja). Today, the total circulation of the magazine does not exceed an average of 330,000 copies/month. The decline in sales prompted the company to invest heavily in new consumers on the internet. On the portal Abril.com, users have access to the full content of newspapers, with over 80 of Abril's sites available. In 2009, over 156 million web pages of the Group's publications were visited. [+] NoteeSource: Corporate website of the Abril groupX [5].
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Veja, a case study: journalism, politics and advertising

As the leading publication of Editora Abril, Veja covers a broad spectrum of information. Every week, the magazine publishes interviews, reviews, articles on politics, the economy, health, science, sports, entertainment, arts, culture and books.
Veja
has invested heavily in digital technology, with major sponsorships (such as Bradesco Bank, which has invested in digital data). The site gathers all editions of the magazine since its launch 42 years ago (including editions published during the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, the dark years of press censorship). It is possible to access most content, even for non-subscribers. In 1969, a year after its launch, the magazine Veja found its "editorial heart": politics. Only in 1974 did it manage to make a profit (Cott, 1999), boosting sales and reader loyalty through a subscription service.
The magazine has also become big business for the advertising market. The number of announcements and advertisements often seems more abundant than information content. In one issue examined, number 2177, which came out on 11/08/2010, out of a total of 150 pages, 77 were devoted to advertising (television stations, car manufacturers, banks, jewelry stores, clothing stores, clinics and more).
Today, the magazine is one of the principal vehicles of the Brazilian press, despite strong criticism of its editorial policy, notably (Press Observatory). During episodes of scandals in politics, particularly those in Congress and in the Lula government, Veja has distinguished itself by covering the parliamentary committees of inquiry, the “CPI” (CAMAROTTI and de la Pena, 2005) .
Its political position is clearly anti-PT (Workers Party, the party of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) and "anti-left” – seen, for example, in a series of articles: from 10/03/2010, "The house of the treasurer of the PT falls"[+] Note"The house falls" is a literal translation of a Brazilian expression "A casa caiu", which means that the person was caught in the act. X [6]; from 17/03/2010, "He charged 12% commission for the Party"; and from 07/10/201, “The Monster of Radicalism: The beast dominated by candidate Lula now a threat to Dilma. "
In 2010 (through the first week of August), in addition to political events and the World Cup, Veja has mainly invested in the production of articles related to health (seven stories) and behavior (five covers).
 
Research

With the largest magazine circulation in Brazil, Veja has attracted researchers from different fields, and has been a topic of numerous master's and doctoral degrees. A study from the University of Brasília (UnB) has reviewed all documents published on the environment in the past 11 years, 1990-2001 (FREITAS, 2003). The researcher wanted to examine article contributions to public policies on the environment. Her conclusion was that Veja indeed had an influence on many matters of policy, but often, in contrast, government action has served as a reference for Veja.
        
Carla Luciana Silva, professor of history at the State University of Paraná, spent several months reading stacks of old editions of Veja (715 samples were analyzed). The analysis became a doctoral dissertation in 2009, and a book: Veja: The Indispensable Neoliberal Party (Estunioeste, 2009, 258 pages). Silva's thesis is that Veja has acted as a political agent in Brazil.
 
Interview with Carla Luciana Silva[+] NoteInterview conducted August 9, 2010.X [7]
 
In your study, how did you perceive the influence of Veja?
 
Carla Luciana Silva: This question has two aspects. First, it is undeniable that this magazine arrives in many places that are inaccessible to other vehicles for the dissemination of ideas (school libraries and universities, doctors’ waiting rooms). We have no exact measure of this readership, and studies of its reception are required. We know that it's read in political circles, and in some ways, it influences them.
But there is a second aspect associated with this initial one – the relationship that the magazine seeks to establish with its readers: the magazine seeks to situate itself as a spokesperson for society, as a spokesperson for "Brazilians", in vast and vague fashion. It thus successfully carries out a double operation: the disappearance of real subjects to whiom it gives a real voice, with everything stated as though it were in everyone’s interest; furthermore, it completely hides the fact that it is also part of society, since society is not homogenous, but the expression of social relations, and thus, social conflict and class. It is no coincidence that one of its slogans has long been "Veja, Brazil's eyes" – for all Brazilians, a notion that does not allow for the reality of social struggle. It is interesting to note that the discourse it creates always accuses those who oppose the system of being ideological, while its own discourse is not ideological, i.e. claims to be the expression of truth.

What are the main political interests that have been defended by Veja over the years?
 
Carla Luciana Silva: You can not separate its political and economic interests. When I say that I am not referring only to the direct and immediate interests of the Abril Group. I am referring to what we call big politics, politics that define the direction of the economy, how to organize production, forms of capitalist reproduction. This was the great line of action for the publication. In the 1990s the opportunity arose to make neoliberalism a hegemonic force. And this was the central theme of the magazine. It deals not only with what is strictly economic or political, but is a teaching tool for readers on how to behave, creating lifestyles and thought appropriate for this model. We must examine the review systematically in order to understand this attitude, which is sometimes obvious, other times not.
 
Throughout the research period, what were the most important differences on the political side?
 
Carla Luciana Silva: It is difficult to answer this question in a few lines. In my book, I discussed the relationship of Veja with various governments, those of Fernando Collor, Itamar Franco and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The magazine had a consistent position as a neoliberal – or, as it says, liberal – advocate. A concrete example is the magazine’s relationship with the Brazilian Constitution. Since its promulgation in 1988, the magazine has given a voice to critics of the Constitution, who believe that the country is ungovernable due too this “overly social” Constitution. Mario Henrique Simonsen is an example of this attitude in the magazine, as are João Paulo dos Reis Velloso of the National Forum. That is why the 1993 attempt at constitutional reform was so wholly supported by Veja, which consequently produced extremely didactic texts. The political climate did not allow the reform to the extent desired by Veja at the time. However, key points have been modified in practice, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, including the issue of pension reform. These clashes were followed closely and systematically collected by the magazine, which was deeply hostile to social movements that have formed against these reforms. This logic continues in the government of Lula da Silva.

Articles

Veja is also "a source of analysis" for the publication of articles in forums and websites for press analysis. Veja is often quoted in one of the most renowned newspapers in Brazil, The Press Observatory. The site, launched in April 1996, and now with a television and radio version, is a vehicle based on journalistic criticism of the media (in general, print, television, radio and internet). The criticism of Veja material published here refer to all sorts of questions and do not focus strictly on political issues or investigations. In 2010 so far, more than 300 articles have been published on Veja. Up until August 2010, the most-treated topic of the year was the case of Bruno (goalkeeper for Flamengo, a Rio de Janeiro soccer team), accused of murdering his ex-mistress. And given this year’s presidential elections in Brazil, inquiries concerning the main candidates, Dilma Rousseff (PT) and Jose Serra (PSDB), have also been frequent.
 
Political Journalism: Veja and the 2010 Presidential Elections in Brazil

During the pre-election period of 2010, Veja published strong criticism of the PT (the Workers’ Party), as it had done in other elections. The magazine launched a website devoted to the presidential campaign. The site offers space for voters, articles on shortcomings in infrastructure, health, and education, proposals, candidate profiles and agendas.
 
Veja and Television

The magazine Veja is widely used as a reference on television, like other newspapers and national and international magazines (Barbeiro, 2002). Despite the fact that it is a weekly magazine that publishes the highlights of the week – information already provided by the television networks – its articles and scoops are often cited by radio broadcasters.
The Jornal Nacional, TV Globo’s main news program and leader in terms of viewers, often cites the magazine. It should be noted that the citations were for major items related to the Marinho family’s[+] NoteOwner of the Globo group.X [8] interests, like the magazine report describing how money from followers of the Universal Church (Evangelist) was funneled to Edir Macedo’s television station, TV RECORD[+] NoteOwned by an evangelist group.X [9] (the main competitor of Globo TV). The magazine said that over three years, $1 billion (U.S. $600 million) was funneled to TV RECORD.
 
Veja: Special Editions

Veja also offers special publications aimed at large cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Special articles are devoted to the state capital as well as news about neighborhoods and a long list of attractions and shows, theater, film, restaurants and cafes, as well as exhibitions and a new focus on architecture and the real estate market.
 
International Audience

All articles published by Veja are often cited and used as source in the international press, especially in the political and miscellaneous sections. The Guardian used Veja as the source for an article about a film on President Lula, referring to the close relationship between Lula and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. The Times also used Veja as a source to talk about Lula during the United Nations Summit.
 
Over the past 15 years, press outlets like The New York Times and Newsweek have also published several reports and articles about Veja.
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Conclusion

 
Abril is one of the largest communications companies in Brazil. It is clear that the Group's publications play a key role in society due to their influence and the political positions that they advocate. Their performance in the different media sectors and in the field of education show their mastery of information.

The main competitor of the Abril Group is the Globo Group, which also operates in the field of magazine publishing and cable television. However, Abril has advantages that have made it the market leader, including its significant growth, strategic planning, and media development in the communications industry. It is competitive due to the fact that beyond its performance in different segments, it gains a great deal of strength from advertising, and continues to innovate in digital technology. However, it also has several weaknesses, and is facing threats from the fact that the Group's magazines have suffered a sharp drop in sales overall, notably concerning subscriptions. These threats derive from the easy access to and wide range of content available on the internet.
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Bibliography

Barbeiro, Heródoto e Lima, Paulo Rodolfo. Manual de Telejornalismo: os segredos da notícia na TV. Rio de Janeiro, Campus, 2002.
 
Camarotti, Gerson e La Pena, Bernardo. Memorial do Escândalo: os bastidores da crise e da corrupção no governo Lula. São Paulo, Geração Editorial, 2005.
 
Conti, Mário Sérgio. Notícias do Planalto: a imprensa e Fernando Collor. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1999.
 
Freitas, Lidiane Enéias. Meio Ambiente e mídia A Rio 92 e o discurso sobre a Amazônia. Dissertação (Mestrado em Desenvolvimento Sustentável) - Universidade de Brasília. 2003.
 
Silva, Carla. Veja: o indispensável partido neoliberal. Cascavel, Edunioeste, 2009.
 
 
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  • 1. eSource: Corporate website of the Abril group.
  • 2. e-Source: Corporate website of the Abril group.
  • 3. eSource: Esso Journalism Prize
  • 4. Souce: Corporate website of the Abril group.
  • 5. eSource: Corporate website of the Abril group
  • 6. "The house falls" is a literal translation of a Brazilian expression "A casa caiu", which means that the person was caught in the act.
  • 7. Interview conducted August 9, 2010.
  • 8. Owner of the Globo group.
  • 9. Owned by an evangelist group.
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