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Guess how many newspapers are published in New York City? Three? Five? Even Manhattanites familiar with all seven of the city's English language papers may be unaware of the additional 198 ethnic newspapers published in New York's other four boroughs — more than three times the number there were just a decade ago. Ethnic newspapers — presenting a range of linguistic and cultural perspectives including Chinese, Hispanic, Arabic, Caribbean, Russian, Korean and more — are proliferating nationwide. Chicago has more than 80 publications; in Los Angeles where there are 60 local ethnic papers, La Opinión is now the largest Spanish daily read across the country. New California Media, a statewide network of ethnic news groups, includes over 200 publications among its members.

Yet while ethnic newspapers win tremendous support from their loyal readers, they don't receive the attention from marketers that many mainstream newspapers do. Some of this neglect may be justified as advertisers have found several major disadvantages in dealing with the ethnic press. Many smaller papers operate like startups. Their immigrant owners are often unaware of how the newspaper business functions in America and might not know how circulation audits, newsstand distribution or ad sales operate. Most don't belong to press associations, which can provide the network needed to build a smart advertising strategy and attract businesses and investors. Nor do they have the financial resources to conduct the audits and readership surveys advertising agencies demand.

Advertisers often assume ethnic newspapers are simply not worth the bother. That's about to change. Long overlooked and underestimated, several converging factors are making media decision makers take notice of the ethnic press. First, the mainstream newspaper industry is in the midst of a continuing decline in both revenue and readership. Moreover, their troubles have been exacerbated by the slumping ad market, making advertisers more selective about where they place their dollars. This slump has opened the door to alternative forms of media, with the ethnic press ready to compete for limited ad budgets.

At the same time, the ethnic press is getting smarter: papers are beginning to organize and actively seek national advertising. As a result of such efforts, and prodded by recent Census Bureau figures showing the multicultural and multilingual future of America, some advertisers are starting to wake up to the potential of the ethnic press. While many of the smaller papers have circulations between 5,000 and 10,000, several major players are emerging with circulations of 360,000 (Chinese-language World Journal) and 615,000 (La Opinión).

“Ethnic newspapers are not only underrepresented in most media budgets, their audiences are undervalued,� says Vincent Martinez, market director of the multicultural division at American Minorities Media, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based advertising placement firm. “Within 16 months after the census data [describing where ethnic minorities live] comes out, media buyers will have a real understanding not only of how many and who these consumers are, but where they are. A prudent prediction would be that by first quarter 2002, advertising in the ethnic press will be getting much more attention.�

But for advertisers to best take advantage of the ethnic press, they need to understand how such newspapers operate, get past certain logistical and cost obstacles and capitalize on the advantages these papers can offer.

First, marketers should understand where these papers are coming from — why they were started, what function they serve in their communities and the close relationship they enjoy with their readers. For many newspaper owners, publication is a labor of love, not a business prospect. They often consider their newspapers a way to foster community spirit among immigrants and ease the transition process for new arrivals. Many smaller local papers operate as a second business for their owners.

As a result, a startling lack of sophistication about even basic advertising, media and business practices often pervades the ethnic press. Many papers lack a dedicated sales staff, and traditional journalistic practices are sometimes loosely interpreted, which doesn't inspire confidence among the larger media companies.

“It's true there are caveats to advertising in the ethnic press,� admits Sandy Close, executive director of New California Media, a network of ethnic press organizations. “It's fragmented. There's a need for standardization in tracking, pricing and invoicing — and the ethnic press is quite aware of these needs.�

While working on an energy conservation media campaign for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Lisa Coté, vice president and associate media director at advertising agency Mediacom in Los Angeles, learned a fast lesson about the ethnic press. “With some of the smaller papers, there's not as much separation of church and state,� says Coté. “Some of them would say, ‘If you run an ad in our paper, we'll give you editorial support.’� While Coté believes the ethnic press will become increasingly important in mainstream ad agency buys, she also found the ethnic media market to be highly politicized, with some publishers urging her to consider whether a paper was minority owned in addition to weighing standard bottom-line measurements, such as reach and readership.

And from a media buyer's perspective, that reach is often very limited. Many ethnic papers occupy small pockets in an extremely fragmented marketplace. They have smaller circulations than their predecessors did during the immigration wave at the turn of the last century. In San Jose, Calif., alone, over a dozen dailies and weeklies serve a Vietnamese population of 100,000; San Francisco has 15 Thai language papers; and there are approximately two dozen Japanese publications in California. A number of local Cambodian newspapers are scattered, along with their respective immigrant populations, in Long Beach and Stockton, Calif., and Lowell, Mass; no national Cambodian paper exists.

While they can't necessarily provide the reach, breadth and marketing expertise advertisers want, ethnic newspapers try to compensate for those shortcomings with bargain ad rates. “There tends to be a higher return on investment with the smaller ethnic newspapers because you're often not talking about people out to make huge amounts of money,� Martinez says. “On a CPM basis, they're pricing their media fairly low in relation to what it would cost you to reach that minority via general market media. It's a lot more cost-effective, and that's a major advantage, especially with ad budgets wavering right now.�

Smaller papers in particular tend to be hungry for ad revenue. According to Rosa Serrano, senior vice president for multicultural markets at Initiative Media, a Los Angeles-based media buying company, ethnic papers are often very forthcoming with whatever readership information they do have. In many instances, they are willing to offer advertorial and editorial support to extend advertising messages, particularly with social marketing campaigns. Serrano says many sales departments and publishers, particularly at the major Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese papers, are becoming more aggressive as they realize they can go beyond local business advertising and target national advertisers and corporate America.

Also, although ethnic newspapers reach small populations, they are demographically focused, allowing advertisers to create targeted messages in a cost-effective way. In Silicon Valley, several Farsi and English language newspapers are read by approximately 6,000 Iranian entrepreneurs. Iran Today just launched an offshoot, Silicon Iran. On a CPM basis, it may be more effective, for example, to reach Cambodian business owners in Los Angeles through a local Cambodian paper than through the Los Angeles Times. Furthermore, ethnic press experts argue that these papers have a particularly high pass-along value. “You can find small Chilean or Colombian newspapers that may have only a 2,000 or 10,000 circulation,� says Serrano. “But the readers are extremely loyal and they have a huge pass along. Sometimes you have to think beyond the circulation figures in the media kit.�

A number of major ethnic newspapers have seen their circulation increase in recent years, particularly papers with Hispanic readers. For example, New York's Hoy saw a 24 percent increase in 2001 over 2000; its current circulation is 58,397.

A third, less quantifiable, advantage to advertising in the ethnic press is the market intelligence about a target group that can be gained through the experience. Newspaper staff can often provide insight into their readers that's not available on Madison Avenue. After all, how many advertising executives are recent immigrants who understand the concerns of the Bengali community in New York, for example? “Ethnic newspapers are very attractive for advertisers because they are the first bridge to newcomer populations and create a tremendous connection to their communities,� says New California Media's Close. “And that bridge works both ways, allowing marketers to gain much needed insight into these growing markets.�

For these reasons, and despite the obstacles to business, advertisers are beginning to reconsider the ethnic press. Since ethnic newspapers are an effective way to reach a concentrated population of immigrant consumers who frequently use long-distance services, some of the leading advertisers have been telecommunication companies as well as financial institutions. Western Union, a natural fit because of the company's money wiring services, was one of the first national companies to advertise in the ethnic press, and is increasing its presence in these papers. Bank of America has advertised in the Hispanic press for 10 years, and in the Asian press for five. “We've worked with a whole range of black, Hispanic and Asian newspapers — citywide, statewide and regionally,� says John Villanueva, Bank of America's director of multicultural branding. “We're committed to being exceptionally flexible when working with these papers because we think it's a great medium to get a pinpointed, targeted message to the right consumer.�

More recent groups exploring the ethnic market include recruiters advertising jobs ranging from restaurant staff to technology positions; institutions of higher education, which have begun to advertise in Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area; and even a few major American automobile manufacturers. Airlines have also started advertising, though leisure travel and cruise companies have yet to follow.

Other sectors have had limited or no media placement to date in the ethnic press. Food and retail advertising is still mostly on the local and regional level; few national chains choose to advertise. National advertising from health and beauty care, food and beverage companies, packaged goods, clothing manufacturers and the entertainment industry are scarce. The real estate industry hasn't taken full advantage, nor have pharmaceutical companies — a likely candidate for a population that often has little understanding of American medicine. “Ethnic newspapers are underutilized,� says Jerry Gibbons, executive vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. “Studies have indicated that ethnic markets are extremely important in certain product categories — automotive, health care, entertainment, education — because their usage is higher than in the Anglo market.� Gibbons attributes the shortfall to the fact that ethnic media has traditionally been “hard to buy and hard to justify� and says the ethnic press needs to do a better job communicating its value and effectiveness, and should undertake efforts to make its media easier to buy.

“They're at the stage where they need to continue serving their constituency but also prove they're a viable business,� Gibbons adds.

To better attract larger advertisers, ethnic newspapers are beginning to organize and consolidate operations. According to Serrano, of Initiative Media, ethnic papers are working to improve ad capabilities. “There's been a tremendous effort by the newspapers to be audited so they can give potential clients a real view of their readership, as opposed to relying on guesswork,� says Serrano. “They're starting to pool together to do research. In the Asian market, there's very little research to date. The Hispanic papers are further along.�

New California Media was founded in 1996 to raise the visibility and viability of ethnic media. The group began when Close assembled 20 people from the ethnic news media for lunch at a Chinese banquet hall to exchange ideas. “Lo and behold, within half an hour, people were introducing themselves to each other from the Vietnamese press to the Hispanic press — across all ethnic lines — and telling each other what their circulations were,� Close recalls. “Finally, someone from a Filipino paper stood up and said, ‘My God, if you add all our circulations together, we're bigger than the two major San Francisco dailies combined.’�

According to Close, ethnic papers are eager to collaborate with one another to compete, editorially and on a business level, with the mainstream press. After the initial luncheon, Close organized the first ethnic media awards ceremony in 1998, and generated $1.5 million in advertising, primarily through social marketing campaigns. To meet advertiser demand for better audits, the association now provides a group auditing rate at reduced prices. The organization also offers services to handle translation and ad placement among multiple publications. In 1999, the group launched an annual exposition, backed by the American Association of Advertisers, to showcase the ethnic press to businesses; at this year's ceremony, California Governor Gray Davis gave the keynote address.

Similar ethnic press associations are being launched across the country. In 1999, the Washington D.C.-based National Association of Hispanic Publishers (NAHP) published the NAHP Media Kit in association with the Latino Print Network, which included the ad rates of 165 member publications. In addition, the NAHP provides readership survey and media education services. And in Miami, about 20 Cuban newspapers have formed a consortium to encourage ad buying across publications. Similarly, the Washington, D.C.-based National Newspaper Publisher's Association runs an ad placement service for its 200 black newspaper members.

The Independent Press Association started an advertising cooperative in 2001 to consolidate sales and marketing functions and bring ethnic newspapers in New York to the attention of advertisers. The co-op offers packages grouped according to ethnicity, borough and frequency, and verifies unaudited circulations.

Ad agencies specializing in ethnic media have also begun to coordinate among ethnic newspapers to better serve advertisers. American Minorities Media is an advertising placement agency for companies such as Verizon, General Motors, Western Union and Buena Vista. The company also represents ethnic newspapers. Los Angeles-based Imada Wong Communications Group, a full-service agency specializing in Asian markets, is a strong proponent of the ethnic press.

Bill Imada, president of Imada Wong, believes that general market media buyers are starting to get more sophisticated with their ethnic media buying services. “It helps to have someone who knows the culture and the language doing the media planning,� Imada says. “It's critical to have someone who speaks the language doing the media negotiating and buying.

“People tend to look at the ethnic market and its hundreds of newspapers and they flip out,� adds Imada. “There are all these segments! There are all these vehicles. But I tell companies, ‘You don't have to be an expert in every community tomorrow. Do some tests, place some targeted media, build some competency. The best thing to do is to start getting strategic now.’�


Hoy expects a 24 percent circulation hike in 2001 over 2000.


World Journal Chinese 360,000
Daily Challenge Black 81,630
America Oggi Italian 65,000
Hoy Hispanic 58,397
Novoye Russkoye Slovo Russian 55,000
El Diario Hispanic 54,500
Sing Tao Chinese 50,000
El Nacional Dominican 44,000
Korea Times Korean 40,000
China Press Chinese 40,000
NOTE: Many of these figures are self-reported and are not formally audited.
Source: Independent Press Association, individual newspapers


In New York City, almost four times as many ethnic newspapers are weeklies rather than dailies.


Dailies 24
Thrice weekly 2
Weeklies 98
Twice monthly 20
Monthly 24
Bimonthly 10
Quarterly 7
Irregular 3
Twice yearly 1

Chinese 7
Hispanic 4
Polish 3
Korean 3
Greek 2
Russian 1
Italian 1
Black 1
Source: Independent Press Association


La Opinión is the largest Spanish daily, read by 126,000 people across the country.

La Opinión Los Angeles 126,000
El Classificado Los Angeles 110,000
Israel Today Studio City 100,000
Korea Times Los Angeles 43,500
Philippine News San Francisco 39,657
Weekend Balita (Filipino) Glendale 32,000
Journal Francais San Francisco 30,000
Nguoi Viet Daily News Westminster 25,000
The Rafu Shimpo (Japanese) Los Angeles 20,000
California-Staats Zeitung (German) Los Angeles 19,195
India-West Emeryville 15,800
Beirut Times Los Angeles 15,000
Asbarez Daily (Armenian) Glendale 12,000
Sereechai (Thai) Los Angeles 12,000
Free China Journal Los Angeles 11,000
Union Jack (British) La Mesa 10,000
Magyarok Vasarnapja (Hungarian) Thousand Oaks 8,000
Bien (Danish) Burbank 5,400
California Veckoblad (Swedish) Downey 5,000
Schweizer-Journal (Swiss) San Francisco 4,000
Irish News & Entertainment Glendale 3,000
Russian Life San Francisco 800
Because circulation figures are often self-reported, figures are estimates only.
Source: Editor & Publisher yearbook, American Minorities Media


Fiercely loyal, these readers often see their newspapers as community advocates.

Advertisers may still be on the fence about buying into ethnic newspapers, but by all accounts, readers are fully behind these publications. Readers tend to have an unusually close relationship with ethnic publications, mainly because most reach them in their native language. “For all ethnicities, you have an inherent community tie based on language, and that's something that immediately differentiates, say, the Los Angeles Times from the Korea Times,� says Vincent Martinez, market director of the multicultural division at American Minorities Media, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based advertising placement company. “People who share a language want to be reached in their language.�

Even when ethnic newspapers are in English, they offer a cultural perspective often missing from the mainstream press. “Each ethnic group has different cultural values from those of mainstream America,� Martinez explains. Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen & Associates, a Coconut Grove, Fla.-based Hispanic polling company agrees. “When these papers use some of the cultural elements that make me tick, there's going to be a higher level of connection,� he says. Ethnic newspapers strengthen that connection by fulfilling multiple functions. Not only do they report on issues of interest to particular communities, both in their cities and nationally (the Hispanic press, for example, gives ample attention to soccer), they also report on events in the immigrants' countries of origin. The ethnic press often goes so far as to serve as community advocates, with editors and reporters presenting a blatant political viewpoint.

In addition, many smaller papers serve as neighborhood guides for new immigrants, offering information and access to goods, news and services that might be particularly helpful and relevant. Because of their neighborhood focus, such papers are often heavy on births, marriages, deaths and the like. “They tend to offer a lot of information about doctors, dentists, dry cleaners,� notes Bill Imada, president of Imada Wong Communications Group, a Los Angeles-based advertising and PR agency, who says that Asians in particular hold on to print publications longer than most Americans. “These papers have long shelf lives. They're passed around. They're used a lot like the Yellow Pages.�

Abby Scher, director of the Independent Press Association-New York, says ethnic readers are particularly devoted to their newspapers. “Recently, a study of black newspaper readers showed their intense loyalty to the black press,� Scher says. “The black press holds a tremendous amount of credibility for them. And I think it's fair to say that of ethnic press readers overall.� In certain communities, readership is widespread. Many ethnic newspaper readers not only buy their community paper, but also a national ethnic newspaper or a mainstream newspaper. According to Bendixen, over 90 percent of the Hispanic population reads a newspaper. A July-August 2001 poll conducted for Radio Unica found that about 50 percent read in English, 25 percent in Spanish and 15 percent in both languages.

Newspaper readers also tend to be a desirable portion of the ethnic population, from a marketing perspective. Readership of the ethnic press demonstrates a certain literacy level. And many believe that even when ethnic newspapers don't reach an entire immigrant population directly, they may have an indirect influence. For example, in California, the Department of Consumer Affairs used the ethnic press extensively to promote its BabyCal prenatal program. Kennalee Gable, manager of the education unit, says in planning their media buy, they aimed to reach newly arriving Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean communities. “We used ethnic newspapers because we wanted to get information in a very targeted manner to the key influencers in those markets," Gable says.

— PP


The mainstream press is attempting to reach ethnic readers by partnering with ethnic newspapers.

New ethnic newspapers are being introduced to address the needs of America's next generation — immigrant children who often prefer a blend of English and their parents' native language and a melding of cultures. A growing number of ethnic newspapers are bilingual or English language; Koream, for Korean Americans, is one recent example. Readers of such publications tend to skew younger than the general ethnic newspaper readership, and their newspapers reflect those tastes.

Abby Scher, director of the Independent Press Association-New York, believes an influx of new immigrants and relatively young readers is changing the look of some ethnic newspapers. “There's a lot more sophistication and graphics, and some of the papers are quite appealing,� Scher says. “The younger Russian newspapers are stuffed with ads and they're as colorful as the Village Voice. Many younger Russians enjoy looking at the advertisements as much as the editorial.�

Not only are second-generation populations launching their own publications, the international press and mainstream American press are attempting to reach the ethnic market through these ethnic papers. According to Scher, conglomerates own more ethnic papers than they did 50 years ago, when most were independently owned. In fact, quite a few are owned by international media companies. For example, the Chinese language World Journal is owned by Taiwan-based United Daily. “The vast majority aren't foreign owned,� says Bill Imada, president of Imada Wong Communications. “But more multinationals are coming in and starting up papers, or buying local newspapers out. The major Asian newspapers are now international.�

Several English language newspapers are partnering with ethnic newspapers through a variety of new arrangements. For example, in 1999, the Los Angeles Times began a partnership with the Korea Times, delivering the Times to 17,000 of the Korea Times 45,000 subscribers. The Los Angeles Times has also tested bundling and other circulation arrangements with La Opinión (of which it owns 49 percent) as well as the Japanese papers Rafu Shimpo and Nguoi Viet. With papers bundled together, first-generation immigrants can read in their native language while their bilingual or English-speaking children can read the mainstream paper.

Other mainstream American newspapers are creating their own ethnic supplements or spin-offs. The San Diego Union-Tribune publishes a free Spanish language weekly, Enlace, delivered to 43,000 readers in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. In August 2001, the Tribune Co. launched a free bilingual broadsheet, El Sentinel, to reach Central Florida's Hispanic population. The Orange County Register in California has its own free Spanish language weekly, Excelsior, and also launched a column, “Vietscape,� in the mainstream paper, devoted to Vietnamese American issues.

Knight Ridder, the second largest newspaper publisher in the country, publishes several ethnic newspapers, using its experience and sophisticated infrastructure. The company has created two ethnic weeklies to supplement California's San Mercury News: Viet Mercury was launched in 1999 to compete with Vietnamese-owned competitors and Nuevo Mundo is published in Spanish. Knight Ridder also owns La Estrella, a supplement to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas and El Neuvo Herald in Miami.

Critics have accused Knight Ridder of predatory advertising tactics that are forcing ethnic newspapers out of business. However, Jerry Ceppos, the company's vice president of news, says ethnic news editions make editorial and business sense. “First we need to capture the tens of thousands of people who are more comfortable reading in another language,� he says. “And the secondary goal is that by introducing folks to these papers, you might eventually lure them or their families into subscribing to one of our English language counterparts.�

The hope, in turn, is that this increased competition will improve both the editorial content and marketing efforts of the ethnic press overall.

— PP

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