PUBLISHERS AIM AT GROWING HISPANIC SEGMENT: AMERICAN BABY, PARENTING JOIN WEIDER TARGETING NEW MOTHERS

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When Jose beats out Joshua as one of the most popular names for a baby boy in several U.S. states, it's time to adjust the marketing plan. And that's just what three publishers in the ultra-competitive parenting category are doing.

In July, American Baby Group and Parenting Group will each begin delivering Spanish-language magazines to new mothers through hospital sampling programs. Three months later, Weider Publications will spin off a Spanish-language version of its Fit Pregnancy.

Marketers say it's about time.

"There's been a dearth of available materials for the Hispanic community," said Elizabeth Christie, managing director-CEO of baby-bottle marketer Avent America. "Now the major publications are sitting up and taking some notice. It's a positive and productive step."

The country's birthrate has remained relatively flat this decade; about 3.9 million babies are born each year. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn't expect that to change much in the next decade, leaving publishers of parenting magazines with few creative ways to boost circulations.

But the Census Bureau predicts that by next year one in every five births will be to an Hispanic woman. Although Hispanics account for just 11% of the overall population, Hispanic families account for 18% of all births.

UNSEATING 'SER PADRES'

The newcomers are hoping to unseat 9-year-old Ser Padres, a four-times-a-year title from Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing distributed through pediatricians' offices.

Another rival is Lamaze Publishing's Lamaze Para Padres, started in 1995 and published twice a year, with distribution via childbirth education classes.

Weider is placing the biggest bet on this market, with a guaranteed rate base of 500,000 for Fit Pregnancy en Espanol, the only title of the three that will appear on newsstands.

About 150,000 issues will appear in markets with a heavy Hispanic population such as California, Florida, New York and Texas. Another 300,000 copies will be distributed through Spanish-speaking doctors' offices.

The fall/winter issue will appear in October, followed by a spring/summer edition next April. The color page rate is $37,500.

"This launch really recognized the success of Fit Pregnancy in addressing this market," said Joan LaBarge Sheridan, exec VP-group publishing director.

American Baby Group this year will distribute 450,000 copies of a 16-page magazine titled Primeros 12 Meses through its Para Nuevas Mamas, a sampling program for new mothers.

The first issue for 1999 sold out quickly to advertisers such as Johnson & Johnson and Playtex Family Products Corp., with a color page rate of $12,500.

"Once this is off and running, I definitely see us doing a prenatal title. It seems like the demand is there," said Group Marketing Director Norma Blatto.

'PARENTING BEBE'

Parenting Group plans to send out 531,000 copies of its Parenting BeBe this year through its First Moments hospital sampling program, but is guaranteeing advertisers a 400,000 rate base.

American Honda Motor Co. and Johnson & Johnson' McNeil Consumer Products unit, for Children's Tylenol, are among the first advertisers. A page is $20,000.

Parenting Group President John Hartig said there also are plans to launch a

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