Newspapers turn to Hispanics

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U.S. newspaper publishers faced with declining newspaper readership among the general market are turning to Hispanics to boost revenue.

"We're seeing the emergence of the typical general-market newspaper organization getting into the Hispanic business," said Danielle Gonzales, VP-media director at Publicis Groupe's Tapestry media specialist. "They know distribution and they've got cash."

In presentations to financial analysts in December, Tribune Co., Knight Ridder Co., Pulitzer and E.W. Scripps Co. all noted they have Spanish-language publications out or in development. In one of the most ambitious efforts, Tribune Co. is trying to build a national Spanish-language brand by launching dailies under the name Hoy (Spanish for "today") in major Hispanic cities. Los Angeles is expected to be next, with the West Coast's Hoy starting as early as this month. And Dow Jones & Co. is likely to decide this year whether to go ahead with a U.S. Spanish-language edition of The Wall Street Journal, probably modeled after the company's Wall Street Journal Americas, a Spanish-language insert that reaches 1.7 million readers as an insert in 18 newspapers in 16 Latin countries.

"The Spanish-language print media space is where most of the action will take place in the next two years," said Monica Lozano, president of Los Angeles' La Opinion, the biggest Spanish-language daily. "Spanish-language broadcasting has consolidated, but that's not the case with print. There are still huge opportunities to capture national advertising dollars."

Ms. Lozano should know. Her family and Tribune Co. severed their partnership in October, giving the Lozanos six months to find an investor to buy out the Tribune's 50% stake in La Opinion.

"The strategies are not compatible," Ms. Lozano said. While Tribune is creating a single Hoy brand city-by-city and centralizing content, the Lozanos believe newspapers are very local with strong community relationships, she said. To that end, La Opinion is keeping editorial content local but setting up a national ad network with three other Spanish-language daily newspapers-El Nuevo Herald in Miami, La Raza in Chicago and El Diario La Prensa in New York. The biggest dailies, such as La Opinion and Hoy in New York, have circulations that hover around 100,000. Since launching in 1998, Hoy has displaced El Diario La Prensa as New York's leading Spanish-language newspaper with a circulation of almost 94,000. In September, Tribune transformed Exito, its Spanish-language weekly in Chicago, into a daily Hoy.

`Hoy' is coy

Presenting to analysts last month, Tribune President Jack Fuller said Hoy's revenue is "far exceeding our expectations." He noted that the company's Spanish-language papers grew in 2003 by 34% to $26 million.

Although Hispanic agency executives talk openly about a Los Angeles launch as early as mid-January, with Miami likely to be next, Hoy is coy.

"We're definitely interested in seeing Hoy grow," said Ralph Morales, Hoy's director of marketing and public affairs. "There are many markets across the country that are very enticing. Los Angeles is the strongest Hispanic market."

Tapestry's Ms. Gonzales said that in Los Angeles, Hoy will be able to leverage its relationship with the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times, for everything from research and writers to combined ad buys.

Separately, Pulitzer launched its second bilingual weekly last month in northern Santa Barbara County, an area that is 60% Hispanic, said Mark Contreras, senior VP of Pulitzer Newspapers. The paper, El Tiempo, Semanario Latino de la Costa Central, is bilingual because research shows locals are as likely to read Spanish as English, he said. Because most of the county's Hispanic population hails from the Mexican state of Oxaca, the free weekly is a joint venture with Oxaca paper El Imparcial.

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