ALEJANDRO JUNCO REFORMA

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MEXICO CITY-Alejandro Junco took on the stolid newspaper elite of the world's largest city and found that the Mexican capital's people are as hungry as those in his hometown of Monterrey for the hard-nosed reporting and lively graphics he pioneered at his family-owned newspaper.

Six months after Reforma's debut here, it has already become the newspaper of record. "We simply wanted to make our product indispensable and we've put all our energies into that," says Mr. Junco, 46, who moved south to the capital to start the paper.

Before introducing Reforma last November, Mr. Junco ran a teaser campaign with banners strung at key points around the city, created in-house. But since then he's eschewed advertising, and it hasn't seemed to hurt.

Circulation has grown to more than 60,000, half what is believed to be the circulations of the leading papers, El Universal and Excelsior. And Reforma has quickly jumped to third place in ad sales behind those two rivals in a market where some 25 newspapers vie for readers' attention and advertisers' pesos. Reforma sold 602.5 pages of ads in June, compared to 910.1 for El Universal and 837.5 for Excelsior.

"We are where we had planned to be in our 28th month," says Mr. Junco. The newspaper began with four sections and 32 pages; one recent Sunday it landed on doorsteps at a hefty 12 sections of news, sports, culture, analysis and supplements and 172 pages.

Mr. Junco has stuck to the basics. Reforma offers the kind of independent reporting that is in short supply in Mexico's authoritarian political system. He has lured away the city's best political and economic columnists from competing newspapers.

In distribution, he has ensured reliable home delivery by awarding local franchises. The franchises also help Reforma keep track of the demographics of each neighborhood for possible direct marketing and free-standing inserts some time in the future.

Reforma has attracted advertisers by offering a variety of long-term packages, priced separately depending on the sort of service or product offered. An airline ad including pricing and schedule information goes for a different rate, for example, than a page announcing a department store sale. The idea is to encourage advertisers to offer readers more useful information.

Mr. Junco has more plans. The newspaper expects to move into new headquarters equipped with up-to-date printing technology this month. His team is developing new sections, likely to be leisure-based. He's moving so fast he doesn't have time to look back. He says, "When I play tennis, I don't look at the scoreboard."

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