"Our online revenue now is very small and local," said Arturo Duran, who was hired as CEO of ImpreMedia Digital in September 2007 to develop the newspaper group's web operation. The new portal, called Impre.com, is in beta testing and will roll out with a major campaign breaking early next month. "We want 10% of our total advertising to be from online by the end of 2009," Mr. Duran said.
Overseeing digital sales
To help make that happen, ImpreMedia is hiring Liz Sarachek Blacker as the company's first senior VP-digital sales. Ms. Sarachek Blacker, 39, who starts this week, has a background in both print and online media. Early in her career, she worked at The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, and later joined Yahoo, where she was executive director for Yahoo U.S. Hispanic until 2005. That same year, she was named one of Ad Age's Women to Watch. Since then, she has worked at a nonprofit and as a consultant for Johnson & Johnson's BabyCenter portal, which is expanding internationally and into the U.S. Hispanic market.
"I'll help evangelize online internally with the existing [print] sales teams of more than 200 people and build a digital sales team," she said.
Until now, ImpreMedia's web effort has been a hodgepodge of individual sites. Los Angeles daily La Opinion was a Hispanic daily digital pioneer with Laopiniondigital.com, and New York's El Diario La Prensa has the most online video. Other sites, like that of Chicago weekly La Raza, are extremely basic. And all were hampered by ad units in incompatible sizes and the lack of a sales staff trained to sell digital.
On the print side, ImpreMedia has seven newspapers and several magazines, and has continued to grow as other Spanish-language newspaper chains have floundered. The Tribune Co. tried to build a rival chain of Spanish-language dailies starting in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York under the name Hoy, but ran into problems, including a fraudulent scheme to boost circulation at Newsday and Hoy. Tribune Co. sold Hoy's New York daily to ImpreMedia in May 2007. In December 2007, ImpreMedia, which is privately owned by investors and management, acquired Rumbo, a small group of three Texas newspapers that were struggling financially.
ImpreMedia claims to reach 11 million adults monthly through its print publications and online sites, including 2.2 million unique online users.
'House of brands'
Judging from the beta test, the Impre.com portal will house a network of easily navigated sites, all with a similar look and feel, that will replace the disparate collection of individual newspaper sites.
"It will be more like a house of brands than a branded house," Mr. Duran said.
Besides sites for each publication, there will be channels for entertainment and sports as well as free e-mail. An auto channel is currently being tested in Los Angeles before a national rollout next month in print and online, and expanded video production is being modeled on what El Diario has done in New York. Editorial content will be aggregated from the different ImpreMedia publications.
"One publication by itself would never have enough resources for a first-class online presence," Mr. Duran said.
$10 million launch campaign
He said the company will spend more than $10 million on the launch campaign for Impre.com breaking in April, although that will include ads in ImpreMedia's own publications as well as other media. He said national advertisers in several major categories such as auto and wireless may join in the launch campaign. ImpreMedia is also starting a service next month with Google to translate ads for small- and medium-size businesses into Spanish to run in ImpreMedia's print and online products.
Mr. Duran sees a changing role for Hispanic media in the U.S. In the past, Spanish-language media often tried to create a bridge between Latin America and U.S. Hispanics, which he said is no longer necessary because U.S. Hispanics can go straight to the websites of leading publications such as Mexico's Reforma newspaper. He sees greater value in delivering news and information from a Hispanic point of view, particularly the local coverage newspapers provide.
"It's not about language anymore," Mr. Duran said. "It's about the Hispanic perspective."
"It's a very smart move on their part, and my only question is one I always have: Who is the target they're really going after?" said Alex Alonso, Carat's multicultural director. "I'd like to see this be an introduction to get acclimated with young Hispanic consumers who aren't going to pick up a paper. I'll be curious to see if there's demand, but I applaud them for being proactive."
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