America's Spreading Hispanic Newspaper Wars

Vibrant Market Attracts Country's Largest Publishers

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NEW YORK ( -- The thriving Hispanic market is exploding with print launches as rival newspaper groups develop national strategies to take advantage of the only real growth in their market.

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At the semiannual conference of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies late last month, the growth of the Latino media market was a hot topic of discussion. "The only segment in the American newspaper industry that's growing is in Spanish," said Jose Ignacio Lozano, vice chairman of ImpreMedia, formed by a merger earlier this year between his family's Los Angeles daily La Opinion and New York daily El Diario La Prensa. "Hispanic print is probably the last great frontier for opportunity in the Hispanic media market."

Large publishers
The change is being driven by large publishing groups such as Tribune Co. and Hearst Corp., along with new entrants. One new player, Meximerica Media, was started by two former Wall Street Journal staffers. It is already backed by an initial $16.5 million from Pearson Group's Spanish subsidiary, Recoletos Grupo de Comunicacion, and will start rolling out four Texas dailies called Rumbo this summer.

With recent and planned launches, a growing number of cities will have two Spanish-language dailies. Since launching Hoy in March 2004 as part of a strategy to create a national brand, Tribune Co., for example, is going head to head in Los Angeles with its former partner, La Opinion.

Hispanic-newspaper revenue rose to $854 million last year, from $785 million in 2002 and $596 million in 2000, according to Latino Print Network, a research and marketing arm for Hispanic print media. Circulation, including dailies, weeklies and less-frequent publications, is also growing steadily, to 17.5 million in 2003, up from 16.2 million the previous year and 14.8 million in 2000.

A new TV ad campaign is promoting the weekly, 'Conexion,' in San Antonio.

Bilingual weeklies
The action isn't all in dailies. Hearst's Latin initiative encourages the company's English-language dailies in heavily Hispanic cities to develop bilingual weeklies. The San Antonio Express-News' Conexion launches this week in San Antonio, and La Vibra, from Hearst's Houston Chronicle, launched last month.

In San Antonio, about 80% of Hispanics prefer to read in English, said Sergio H. Salinas, general manager of Conexion. A clever ad campaign focusing on the different ways people pronounce their own last names perfectly conveys what Al Aguilar, chairman-CEO of San Antonio agency Creative Civilization, calls "the spectrum of acculturation."

In his agency's "Perez" and "Sanchez" spots, people with the same last name introduce themselves. One says "Mi nombre es Lupe Perez," followed by a Lupe Perez who introduces herself in English with a Texas twang and no trace of Spanish in the way she pronounces "Perez." The spot ends with the same people further identifying themselves: "I'm Mexican-American." "Soy mexicana." "I'm Hispanic."

Conexion's theme is "Different but with the same connection. Bilingual. Bicultural. Colorful. Just like San Antonio."

As Hispanic media booms, Spanish-language TV networks are trying to attract new advertising categories, particularly pharmaceutical marketers, which spend less than 1% of their $5.4 billion annual advertising budget on Hispanic media.

Debunking misconceptions
At the AHAA conference, NBC-owned Telemundo presented research about Hispanic consumers and pharmaceuticals to debunk misconceptions.

"One of the biggest obstacles I've faced in trying to develop this category is [marketers] think Hispanics are more likely to self-medicate and take home remedies," said Mike O'Shea, vice president of business development at Telemundo.

In fact, 63% of Hispanic respondents said they have used prescription drugs in the telephone survey of 600 Hispanics and 600 non-Hispanics conducted by Cultural Access Group and the Burke Institute. In one key finding asking about current usage of a dozen prescription drugs by brand name, only Schering-Plough's Clarinex, which does Spanish-language advertising, scored higher among Hispanics than non-Hispanics surveyed -- 9% compared to 5%.

'Significant' finding
"It's significant that the only product that sells more is the only one that advertises," said Jim McNamara, Telemundo's president-CEO.

Hispanics also appear more receptive to pharmaceutical ads than an Anglo audience. In the study, 32% of Hispanic respondents agreed "TV ads for prescription drugs are trustworthy," compared to 11% of non-Hispanics.

In a further data drive, Spanish-language network Univision is working with research company IMS to provide pharmaceutical data about Hispanics.

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