Hispanic teamwork growing

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English-language dailies in markets with a strong Hispanic population are accelerating efforts to expand their circulation and increase their advertising revenue by cutting deals with Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers.

Some newspapers, such as La Opinion in Los Angeles and el diario La Prensa in New York, welcome the deals. In other markets, the aggressive moves generate complaints from publishers who fear the bigger newspapers will use their leverage to offer marketers discount deals and win the lion's share of the ad revenue.

COMPLAINTS FROM SMALLER PAPERS

"If advertising dollars go from the deep pocket of one corporation who is an advertiser into another deep pocket of a big newspaper, that money doesn't filter down to the grass-roots level, and it cuts out smaller players who serve the community," says Zeke Montes, publisher of Teleguia, a Chicago-area weekly entertainment guide.

Mr. Montes, who also is president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications, says that in certain regions, competition between established Hispanic-owned media and mainstream newspapers is starting to crowd the field, he says.

Daily newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News can afford exclusive sponsorships of high-profile Hispanic events. Nuevo Mundo, the weekly bilingual Hispanic magazine published by the Mercury News and distributed free at newsstands, was a thin supplement when it launched in 1996. It now averages 72 pages with 75% ad pages. The Mercury News plans to add home delivery this year. Households that subscribe to the Mercury News' Sunday edition can elect to have Nuevo Mundo included at no extra cost.

"They're not putting us out of business, but it's disheartening," says Mary Andrade, co-publisher of La Oferta, a bilingual week in the San Jose area.. "The Mercury News has a lot of money and legal resources allowing them to structure contracts that are far-reaching. We believe in sharing sponsorships or taking turns."

"Most sponsorships allow for only one participant from each media category," says Angela Zepeda Liberman, community relations manager. "When we are the official print sponsor, we do not exclude other publications from finding ways to support the event and have a presence."

"Hispanic-owned community newspapers can't afford to compete with big newspapers who have enough money to offer bigger deals for ads, and as more mainstream newspapers get involved in this category, it makes us nervous," says Mr. Montes.

On the other hand, several Hispanic publications are benefiting from partnerships with mainstream newspapers.

"There are some opportunities for us to work together with mainstream papers," Mr. Montes admits, "but Hispanic newspaper publishers should be careful in these deals and make sure they're being treated fairly."

PRICE PROMOTION

The New York Times Co. does not own any Hispanic media yet, but this year it teamed up for a price promotion with el diario La Prensa, a New York-based Spanish-language daily newspaper it distributes. From January through March, subscribers could get The New York Times and La Prensa for 90 cents each weekday. Normally, The Times costs 75 cents and La Prensa is 50 cents. The papers expect more promotions will follow.

The Times will also host its first in a series of literary luncheons featuring Hispanic book authors on May 15 in New York.

"Our multicultural efforts could be a real benefit to advertisers who are targeting the same audience," says Jyl Holzman, senior VP-advertising for The Times.

La Opinion, the Los Angeles Spanish-language daily jointly owned by Times Mirror and Lozano Enterprises, is now distributed by the Los Angeles Times. This year La Opinion began offering home delivery plus a deal allowing subscribers to get both papers at a discount.

Several mainstream newspapers that have launched spin-off weekly bilingual publications say they are experiencing record growth this year, including The Dallas Morning News' free weekly bilingual Hispanic-targeted magazine La Fuenta, which was launched in 1995, says General Manager Cindy Benavides.

In 1997, La Fuenta began orchestrating its own events, including bridal and job fairs, outdoor concerts and programs for children, with revenue-producing sponsorships. Sponsors included local and national advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co., McDonald's Corp. and Colgate-Palmolive; such sponsorships have generated additional advertising pages in the magazine, she says.

"It took a few years until we could lure major advertisers, but now Sears, Roebuck & Co.; AT&T Corp.; J.C. Penney; and the Texas Lottery are regular advertisers, and Sears is doing its first inserts with us this year," says Ms. Benavides.

"National advertisers finally woke up to what local advertisers have known for years: that Hispanic print media is a very effective way to reach a highly targeted audience," says Kirk Whisler, president of Spanish-language newspaper rep Latino Print Network, Carlsbad, Calif.

He says total advertising dollars in Hispanic newspapers increased from $111 million in 1990 to $504 million in 1999.

"Traditionally, we've focused our advertising primarily on TV, but that is changing," says a spokeswoman for P&G. "Today we're taking a more holistic approach, which also includes radio, the Internet and Hispanic newspapers."

Sears continues to rely heavily on Hispanic newspapers and magazines to reach its customers, says Gilbert Davila, VP-multicultural and relationship marketing for the retailer. He says Sears spends in more than 50 Hispanic newspapers.

CLASSIFIEDS BOLSTER `EXITO'

For Tribune Co.'s free Spanish-language magazine Exito, growth is coming from its classified advertising. Classifieds represent 30% of its revenues, and the category increased nearly 20% in 1999 over the previous year, says Publisher Liza Gross. Exito does not plan to enter into joint distribution with sister newspaper Chicago Tribune, but the two publications help sell one another's display ads, Ms. Gross says.

"The Tribune helps bring us some advertisers, and we have steered some incremental advertising to them," she says.

Knight-Ridder Co.'s Miami Herald began publishing a Spanish-language insert, El Nuevo Herald, in 1976. The insert became a daily newspaper with its own editorial and ad sales staff in 1998. Readers get a special rate if they subscribe to both papers.

For 1999, El Nuevo Herald reports a 9.5% increase in ad revenue over the previous year, its first year in operation as a daily newspaper, says Cesar Pizarro, business manager of the paper.

"Increasingly, ads for El Nuevo Herald are completely unique creative from Hispanic agencies," says Mr. Pizarro.

One dilemma most bilingual newspapers continue to wrestle with is whether their content should be in Spanish, English or both. After readership surveys, some are willing to include both languages in their coverage.

"We've found that 28% of our readers prefer Spanish, 33% prefer English and 39% want content in both, so we provide a mix in every issue," says Ms. Benevides.

"Within three years, we estimate that the Census Bureau will announce that Hispanics outnumber any other ethnic group in the U.S. Newspapers are responding to the interests of these readers, whose numbers continue to grow," says Mr. Whisler.

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