UOL is the largest Brazilian content, technology, and digital services company, embodying a pioneering spirit and culture of innovation. Its journey began in 1996-1997 as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a necessity during Brazil’s internet infancy.

Over time, UOL pivoted towards content creation and digital products, developing its own email platform and gradually shedding tech-based offerings to prioritise content quality and credibility. Its diverse portfolio of digital products contributes to a profitable ecosystem, enhancing its news content and facilitating the production of hundreds of pieces daily.

At the forefront of these ventures is Paulo Samia, CEO of UOL, who generously shares his insights into the company’s journey.

Samia joined UOL in 2000, holding positions as CFO at UOL Brasil and general manager at UOL Argentina until 2006. After working at consulting and technology companies, he returned to UOL in 2016 as Strategic Planning Director and Director of Business Development, ultimately becoming CEO in 2019.

WAN-IFRA: Can you walk us through the evolution of your business strategy and where your company stands now?

Paulo Samia: Certainly. We are a leading digital content, technology, and digital services company in Brazil, deeply rooted in news production that forms the cornerstone of our identity. As our journey progressed, we expanded into diverse revenue streams including subscriptions, advertising, digital products tailored for SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses), and movie ticket sales. UOL stands as the largest Brazilian company for internet content, services, and products with 114 million unique visitors monthly.

Today, our company workforce has 1,200 employees, with nearly 400 dedicated professionals in our newsroom – one of the largest in Brazil. We have achieved significant profitability by maintaining a strategic balance between advertising and subscription revenue.

Where are we today? The landscape is ever-evolving. We find ourselves in the midst of changing market dynamics, with significant shifts in audience consumption patterns. To adapt, we are exploring diverse strategies to reach fragmented audiences, not only through our proprietary platforms but also by distributing our content across social media and developing innovative offline products such as events and ticket sales. Our focus remains on diversification and widespread distribution of our content to align with the market demands.

In 2019, UOL accelerated its reader revenue strategy. Can you highlight some successful initiatives that have fueled UOL’s growth and lessons learned from this journey?

Samia: In 2019, we made a strategic decision to increase the share of subscription revenue versus advertising. Historically, we have excelled in digital subscription products and opted to invest further in premium content to expand our subscriber base and reader revenue. To achieve this, we first invested in technology, specifically in Piano, which allowed us to enhance our pricing strategies and reader offerings. Then, we launched several premium content products, with UOL Prime being the most significant addition, alongside UOL Play.

UOL Prime showcases exclusive content from over 200 columnists, renowned journalists, and influential writers in Brazil. This curated selection plays a pivotal role in enhancing UOL Prime’s offerings, focusing on providing in-depth analysis and investigative reporting across various topics of interest.

We collaborate with content creators and this involves partnering with these individuals to feature their content exclusively under the UOL Prime umbrella. Through this collaboration, UOL leverages the expertise and influence of these content creators to attract subscribers seeking premium journalism and editorial content.

UOL Play is our streaming platform that is growing very fast, very heavily in video production. We have five studios to produce videos. UOL Play is a hub of proprietary and licensed content. This includes a diverse range of films, series, documentaries, and kids’ content, all accessible through a single subscription.

UOL has proven to be a highly profitable business. What are the key elements contributing to this success?

Samia: Our profitability is primarily driven by our scale, which we’ve achieved through significant investments. During the past six years, our reach has grown from 60% to 90% of Brazil’s total digital population.

We’ve established strategic partnerships with over a hundred publishers nationwide, enabling them to consolidate their content on our platform. Partners choose to collaborate with us primarily due to our ability to significantly expand their audience.

When we feature an article from a third-party publisher on our homepage, their audience often increases by three to four times compared to their typical monthly reach from a single article, which becomes a crucial revenue source for them.

In addition to audience expansion, we offer comprehensive infrastructure support, including website hosting and free consultancy services on SEO, UX improvement, and revenue optimization. We also provide opportunities for publishers to sell their entire inventory or surplus inventory with a revenue-sharing model.

Another critical factor in our success has been our implementation of a walled garden approach to monetise our content effectively.

We have a commercial team with over 100 employees that manages the direct relationship with premium advertisers. So, instead of offering our advertising inventory through programmatic auctions, we prioritise direct engagement. This shift has notably increased our CPM rates compared to relying solely on programmatic advertising.

Given your extensive reach, some may argue that not fully leveraging programmatic advertising represents untapped potential…

While we do engage in programmatic advertising, we approach it selectively. We prioritise direct sales with relevant advertisers, reserving our premium inventory for these clients.

The rest of our inventory is accessible through programmatic channels, primarily utilising DSPs such as DV360 or Xander for distribution. We prefer to work directly with ad exchanges instead of intermediaries, overseeing our programmatic ad sales internally with a robust tech team.

Could you elaborate on your current advertising model and share your insights on how you anticipate your advertising model will evolve in the future?

Samia: We prioritise diversification. Our strategy involves being present across the entire content consumer journey, distributing and leveraging content in various formats that align with how people consume content, and pairing this with suitable advertising formats for each moment.

We are developing new advertising products, leveraging formats for different platforms and OOH (Out Of Home) advertising through events.

A significant aspect of our business is branded content, supported by our dedicated Branded Content Studio, where we produce more than 200 branded content projects annually.

Additionally, we’ve witnessed notable growth in influencer and content creator marketing, as well as in out-of-home advertising and events. Moving forward, we plan to harness the potential of content creators and influencers further. Furthermore, we are exploring opportunities in the radio sector and Cable TV.

What are the additional revenue streams that you are focusing on to ensure the sustainability of your business?

Samia: We are expanding our reach beyond online by investing in events for all of our audience segments, with our events. We have developed several verticals, each with its own associated events. For instance, Universa addresses women’s issues, Ecoa explores initiatives for a better world, and Vivabem focuses on lifestyle topics.

Furthermore, we have expanded into the field of entertainment with CarnaUOL, one of our most significant events attracting crowds of over 25,000 people and substantial sponsorship.

During CarnaUOL multiple sponsors and advertisers align their brands with the event, gaining media exposure and the opportunity to purchase festival stalls for their brand activation. We also offer ongoing inventory delivery throughout the year.

To further expand our footprint in entertainment, we’ve invested in technology to develop technological products and acquired Brazil’s largest movie ticket platform,, which belongs to NBC Universal. This move reflects our commitment to be involved in every aspect of the entertainment journey.

We produce 10 hours of live content daily, including five hours dedicated to entertainment, aiming not only to inform but also to drive engagement. This effort has significantly increased cinema attendance in Brazil, with UOL subscribers enjoying exclusive benefits and discounts through

Across all our business lines, we foster synergies to ensure our subscribers have access to a diverse range of offerings.

We also have an IP business that works with two different models.  In the first one, we produce our own content and platforms get interested and we licence it to them, and the other is working with creative agents to sell our IP to streaming platforms.

We have recently closed some deals with Netflix and Amazon to distribute our content on their platforms. So that’s gone fine, but it’s not a major revenue source for us. It’s a side business, but it’s not our main objective to produce content for third parties. There is a docuseries on Netflix, called The Nest that is based on an investigation we did a few months ago.

What is UOL’s commitment to ESG principles?

Samia: UOL actively engages in initiatives that contribute to societal well-being. We promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within our workforce and support community development programs. UOL fosters partnerships with nonprofit organisations to address social issues and promote positive change.

During the pandemic, we donated millions of dollars in food to support those in need living in poverty. Additionally, each year we allocate a portion of our profits to invest in social causes, a notable incentive here in Brazil.

We heavily invest in social institutions to provide resources for content development, cultural products, and support for hospitals serving disadvantaged populations.

Could you provide a brief overview of how you’ve restructured your teams to meet the evolving demands of diverse audiences? Have you made changes within your C-Suite and editorial teams to better serve and represent the varied communities that make up these audiences?

Samia: As content producers, having a diverse team is crucial for us. Several years ago, we prioritised diversity across all areas of our business, particularly within the newsroom. We’ve intentionally incorporated a range of perspectives into our content team, enabling us to present more authentic and comprehensive views on societal issues.

We’ve achieved nearly 30% gender balance among our managers and C-Suite, and we also ensure representation of minority groups in leadership positions. However, achieving greater diversity in the C-Suite will naturally occur over time as talented individuals progress into higher positions.

At UOL we have implemented our own training initiative, UOL University, to help employees develop their skills and advance their careers. This includes identifying and offering external training opportunities to improve job performance and develop essential soft skills like negotiation and leadership.

The program is provided free of charge to employees. When individuals join our company, they undergo basic training, and depending on their role, they receive more specialized and advanced training. We prioritise selecting the best individuals for these opportunities, without establishing quotas.

In terms of innovation, how do you foster it within the company?

Samia: Innovation is ingrained in our DNA at UOL. We are deeply committed to fostering innovation, which attracts talented individuals to work with us. Our focus on innovation is primarily directed towards technology, where we consistently provide opportunities for our teams to work with cutting-edge technologies in the market.

We promote innovation through a culture of collaboration within multidisciplinary teams, which is a core value at UOL. We encourage everyone to share their ideas freely, even if they might seem unconventional or imperfect. This culture of openness has enabled us to develop numerous new ideas and products over time.

We also have an area called “Cosmos” and their job is to navigate through all these startup accelerators to understand if there is any company that makes sense for us to partner with or if is there any startup that it makes sense to have as a provider. So their job basically is to find ways to innovate outside.

So that brings the other question which is the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room here is GenAI…

Samia:  We have already implemented AI across several areas of our company. In our content division, AI assists editors and reporters in article writing; however, the final product is reviewed and refined by human editors.

Our newsroom is also utilising AI to generate images, demonstrating the disruptive potential of this technology. It’s important to note that adopting AI does not equate to job losses; rather, it enhances our ability to deliver superior and faster services to our clients.

In customer service, which employs nearly 600 dedicated individuals, AI enhances our ability to provide customers with prompt and effective solutions. This technology significantly improves our responsiveness and accuracy when assisting clients over the phone or through digital channels.

Moreover, we are beginning to leverage AI to enhance our digital products, particularly for our SME customers. By providing AI tools, we empower SMEs to optimise their online sales strategies, enabling them to sell more effectively on the internet.

Do you have any tips to share on how to stay viable and relevant?

Samia: I said it during the conference in Panama, and it’s aligned with the lean approach: Be ready and willing to do something different, and try to diversify your sources of revenue,. This will allow you to expand and grow your business and act as a digital product company. In summary: “Try fast and kill faster”.

The post ‘Try fast and kill faster,’ CEO of Brazil’s UOL on staying relevant, growing reach and revenues appeared first on WAN-IFRA.