Los Ninos Go Shopping

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First it was radio, then television. Now magazines are the latest medium to catch the Hispanic youth wave. In the last six months, two books have launched: Latingirl, a fashion and beauty publication for teenage girls, and SuperOnda-which translates as super wave-a career magazine for young adults of both genders.

"There was nothing that served this audience directly," says Latingirl advertising director Cristina Altieri-Martinez. And that is counterintuitive, she suggests, given current demographic trends. Hispanic teens now make up 13.6 percent of all teens-4.3 million-and by 2005, they'll comprise 16 percent, the largest minority teen group. In addition, the number of Hispanic teens will grow at more than three times the rate of the general teen population within the next six years; they are projected to grow 25.8 percent by 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while the overall teen population is projected to grow 7.3 percent during that time.

Hispanic teens are also big spenders. They fork out an average of $375 a month, 7.8 percent more than the average teen does, according to Teenage Research Unlimited. And girls spend 60 percent more on makeup than all female teens; 50 percent more on acne products; and more than twice as much on hair products. Overall teen spending was a whopping $140 billion in 1998, and Hispanics contributed $20 billion of that, or 14 percent of the total. If current spending ratios remain the same, Hispanic purchases will account for 17 percent of all teen spending in 2005, according to TRU.

Armed with the demographics and the spending data, Latingirl, targeting 12-to-19-year-olds, was launched in January by Morristown, New Jersey-based MicroMedia Affiliates. Currently, a bi-monthly, Altieri-Martinez says Latingirl will eventually go monthly, when the readership has grown and there is sufficient advertising support.

"We conducted surveys with 600 girls in the three major Hispanic markets: L.A., New York, and Miami," says Altieri-Martinez to explain how MicroMedia decided that the magazine was a viable concept. "We spoke by phone with girls of different origins, some U.S.-born, and some immigrants, all attending English-speaking schools." Although language didn't present a problem with reading a magazine like Seventeen, interviewees said such magazines didn't reflect their physical appearance and lifestyle. Latingirl hopes to fill that void.

For Anna Santiago, it already has. The suburban Chicago 16-year-old has read magazines like Teen and Seventeen since she was 12. But like those surveyed, she missed seeing pictures of girls who looked like her, and she didn't find stories in these magazines on cultural issues close to her heart. Recently, she heard about Latingirl on television, and found it in a bookstore. "I like Latingirl," says Santiago. "It has stories about teen girls with strict parents, trying to break out of that. I can relate to it."

And MicroMedia is hoping that young Latinas in the other top ten Hispanic cities-including San Francisco, San Antonio and Houston-will relate to it as well: Seventy-five thousand copies of Latingirl are being sold on newsstands in these cities, and 75,000 copies are being distributed by Scholastic, Inc. in high schools, where they are available for free.

SuperOnda, published by Santa Barbara, California-based Hispanic Business magazine, is also distributed in schools, but because the publication targets 16-to-22-year-olds, it goes to both high schools and community colleges. The magazine's focus is on educational and career success, with a bit of lifestyle coverage thrown in. Jesus Chavarria, editor and publisher of SuperOnda as well as Hispanic Business, says, "Young readers of that age are at an impressionable stage when they're making important decisions, both about education and future career choices. The underlying concept of both magazines is to provide readers with information in the economic sphere and about professions, to permit Hispanics to compete more effectively in today's market place." One-hundred-thousand copies of the premiere issue of SuperOnda were distributed for free to southern California schools in March, and this month, Chavarria says the magazine will also be distributed in Texas, Florida, New York, and parts of Illinois, increasing its circulation to 150,000. Eventually, he'd like to see half the circulation paid and half controlled.

With the tagline "The new magazine for young adults with purpose," SuperOnda has regular profiles on Hispanics who have succeeded in professions such as entertainment or business. Advertisers include the U.S. Armed Forces, Reebok, and Ford Mustang. The Ford ad, placed by Zubi Advertising, was complimentary.

And there's the rub. While these magazines are serving a growing population with unique editorial contents, their success will ultimately depend on selling advertisers on the idea. So far, Latingirl advertisers such as Neutrogena and Skechers USA are enthusiastic, though they admit they're being offered very good advertising rates. "This is the first time we've targeted Hispanic teens," says Cindy Zielinski, marketing director at Neutrogena, who says teens are a core part of the brand's business. "Until six months ago, there really weren't places to reach them."

Gary Patrick, president of Patrick Media, is equally upbeat about the demographics of Latino teens. Still, Patrick, who buys media for Skechers, wonders whether acculturated Hispanics will be interested in reading magazines that target them as Hispanics. "I think the jury is still out as to whether Latingirl will be a successful magazine," he says.

His skepticism may be misplaced: In viability studies for the magazine, conducted by Coral Gables, Florida-based Behavioral Science Research, 85 percent of the interviewees said they would buy a magazine like Latingirl.

Ultimately, even if these magazines become must-reads for young Latinos, advertiser support will make or break them. The widespread practice of discriminating against ethnic radio by requiring "minority discounts," as revealed in a recent FCC report, certainly isn't a good sign for any Hispanic media. Christy Haubegger, who launched the highly successful bilingual magazine Latina, which boasted 48 ad pages in its April issue, says, "I hope Latingirl does incredibly well, but it's a long row to hoe. The stereotypes about Hispanic women are bad enough, and I think they're probably exacerbated for teens. I've had great information on buying power for years, but when people close their eyes and picture Hispanic women, they picture someone who cleans up their office at night. We don't get to do a sales job in this market, we do an education job."

Estimated opulation of Hispanics 12-19 in 1999: 4.3 million

Percentage of total teen population: 13.6%

Projected population of Hispanics 12-19 in 2010: 6.8 million

Percentage increase from 1999: 26%

Percentage of total teen population: 19.9%

Projected population of Hispanics 12-19 in 2020: 7 million

Percentage increase from 2010: 3.7%

Percentage of total teen population: 20.6%

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