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Canela Media COO on Prioritizing Spanish-language Media Content

To kick off their series on what it takes to create meaningful products and strategies for Latino audiences, Canela Media founder and CEO, Isabel Rafferty, sat down with Canela Media COO, Michael Rafferty, to discuss how they founded and built Canela Media to make Spanish-language media content a priority. Michael is a partner to Isabel in business and life, and has been in the media industry since 2005, working in various roles in newspapers and, more recently, in streaming. At Canela Media, he focuses on content, product, technology, the back end, and how all of it fits together.

You can listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Foley & Lardner is the sponsor for the Mighty Capital Podcast Series. It is produced in partnership with Products That Count. The highlights of this episode are detailed below.

On the Spanish-language media market potential

At the time of the inception of Canela Media, streaming was already big business. However, when it came to HBOmax, Netflix, and Roku, Spanish language content was not the priority. It was just about the last option on the menu. The Raffertys knew the market potential and that the Spanish-language market was ripe for advertising-based free models.

“We knew the ad tech side and ad server integration. We needed to find the delivery systems, the front end, the back end, and the content management systems. They all need to be able to talk to our ad server to make this successful.”

On maintaining the flexibility of a startup

Like any great product-led business, Michael’s thought is first and foremost on the product itself. This is critical to the growth of a company and the adoption of its users. You need a great product organization to execute this. 

“On the product side, we have to keep our eyes and ears on the market, looking at what is the best way to innovate. We can analyze and decide on product features for areas of growth and opportunity, and make decisions quicker than any of our competitors. There are no massive committees that have to do an analysis, so we are quick at making assessments and moving forward. What keeps me up the most is maintaining that flexible, innovative startup experience in the culture and making sure that the people that we are bringing into the company share that same passion and vision.”

On finding product inspiration

There are two places where Michael looks for inspiration on how to build a market-leading product. The first is the Canela Media audience. An understanding of what their customers are passionate about helps to fuel their growth.

The other place they look for what else is possible is a common question for many companies looking to add new features and products, which is build vs. buy. Build vs. buy helps a company know what is possible. Their current resources and need to be speedy in their growth help dictate the course of action.

“We look at offerings that target our market as a whole and focus on their passion points. Launching Canela TV, we knew that that would be a fantastic product that would serve the broad general Latino space. 

“When you're bootstrapping a company, you have to look at all options. You have to see what is off the shelf, where you can integrate for what your needs are as a business, where the pain points are, and where things are not readily available out in the marketplace. The more we play, the more we test, the more we analyze the market, there are quite a few things that are out there that we still need to work on and need some investment in and customization. Ultimately, it will be a full new suite of custom development that is going to be better utilized to find those little gaps that we're seeing in the current infrastructure.” 

On what’s next for Canela Media

With revenue and an audience in place, it’s time for Canela media to push the boundaries for what is possible. They know they can’t get complacent, and that they’ll need to meet their audience where they will be five years from now.

“Many people don't understand this, but U.S. Hispanics are early adopters of most technology. So they've got the biggest, newest phones. They are very interested in new technologies and are quick to adopt things in the market. We're agile, passionate, and determined enough to meet them where they're headed.”