A 40-year account of the evolution of Hispanic print media
After decades of gathering Spanish-language magazines and newspapers in his office—thousands of them—Kirk Whisler started looking around for a more formal place to archive this collection.
Whisler is president of Fallbrook, Calif.-based Latino 247 Media Group, a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Publications and a leading source for numbers on Hispanic print media.
Since 1977, when he helped launch a nonprofit magazine serving the Latino community, Whisler has been a historian, researcher and advocate for the Hispanic publishing industry.
In the course of that work, he has collected copies of magazines and newspapers from around the country: some local, socially focused publications; others national in scope; still others designed for political activism.
Together, he realized, these publications chronicled the history and evolution of not only the medium but also the Hispanic population in the U.S. over the past 40 years.
Initially he approached the Library of Congress to gauge interest in housing the collection, but he says they were "utterly not interested.”
When he was ready to relocate his offices, finding a new permanent home for these publications became a priority. After contacting other locations, he finally arrived at an agreement with California State University, San Bernardino, which had both the interest and the space to house the collection.
Whisler estimates the archive, which weighed in at five tons of paper, contains samples of between 1,500 and 2,000 individual publication titles—and at least one issue a year “of the important ones,” he says. “With a lot of these publications, this is the only actual copy you are ever going to see.”
He says CSUSB has begun scanning some of the publications in what will be a multiyear effort to make the archive available digitally. But a large number of the print copies will remain physically available and stored at the university library, Whisler says, “for that person who wants to see the publication, sit and research the market.”
The collection embodies the evolution of the Hispanic publishing and advertising market over the past four decades.
One important change Whisler has witnessed is the growth in the number of bilingual publications serving an increasingly young and bilingual audience. In the 1970s, there were only a handful of bilingual publications in the U.S., he says. Today, Whisler counts 294 bilingual newspapers and magazines. “They evolved as their audience has evolved,” he says.
A second development has been the evolution of the quality of the reporting and writing in Latinx publications. “In the ’70s, there were probably less than 50 true professional journalists writing for Hispanic publications,” Whisler says. “Most were people putting publications together because their communities needed it.”
Although he says the number of professionally trained journalists at Hispanic publications has dramatically increased, he bemoans the fact that most Hispanic Americans working in the U.S. media—he estimates 80 percent—remain at Latin outlets rather than moving into mainstream media.
Finally, he notes the explosion of Hispanic print as an ad medium. In 1990, Hispanic newspapers and magazines totaled $151 million in ad dollars, he says. The segment peaked at $1.7 billion in ad revenue in 2007 and—despite the collapse of the newspaper industry after the 2007-2009 recession—accounted for $1.05 billion in ad revenue in 2018.
What started with publications serving approximately 45 local markets in the late 1970s has grown to a network representing more than 180 communities that Whisler has recorded.
“I used to joke that there’d never be a Hispanic publication in, say, North or South Dakota,” he says. “That’s no longer true. And in many of these markets, these newspapers and magazines are literally the only media serving the local Latino population.”
Want to know more about the Hispanic market?
Get the latest stats and facts on Hispanic marketing, media, agencies and demographics in the 16th annual Ad Age Hispanic Fact Pack.
Download digital edition of Ad Age Hispanic Fact Pack 2019. Digital edition available to Ad Age Insider, Editor’s Circle and Datacenter subscribers; also can be purchased for $49.
Ad Age Hispanic Fact Pack 2019 was bundled with Ad Age’s Aug. 12, 2019, print edition. Order print copies at [email protected] or call 877-320-1721. Outside the U.S., call 313-446-0450.