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Editors at People feel strongly about the U.S. Hispanic market. They're betting the feeling is mutual, and they're not alone.

To confirm their feelings, look no further than the weekly's April 17 issue. Following the March 31 slaying of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez, the magazine sold out all 425,000 copies printed at its Dallas plant. No matter that the Southwest edition was the only batch of the total 3.3 million magazines with a cover featuring Selena. Nationwide, the magazine also outperformed expectations, said People executives.

Managing Editor Landon Jones ordered the split cover run (the rest of the nation received a cover showing the cast of "Friends").

"There were people in the office who did not agree with me," he chuckled, recalling debate over the Selena split cover. "Basically, it was somewhat of a hunch."

People followed up with 525,000 copies of a May 1995 commemorative issue on the singer. Color ad pages sold for $10,000, with a rate base of 915,000, said Mr. Jones. A second printing sold most of another 390,000 copies. "It was unbelievable," he said.

Not to the Hispanic community. Current figures put the market at nearly 26 million, with buying power estimated at $205 billion, according to Strategy Research Corp., Miami.

People has formed a task force to gauge the national Hispanic market for a possible 1996 launch of an English-language or bilingual magazine, said Mr. Jones.

"To the gringos it's news. For us, we've long known and recognized the power of the Hispanic consumer market," said Ernest Bromley, chairman and CEO at San Antonio, Texas-based Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Noble & Associates, an Hispanic ad agency.

"It's really kind of tragic that it takes an event like this for a general market publication to say, `Hey, maybe I should be doing a little bit of targeting toward this segment as well,'*" he said.

The Spanish-language market has been well-served by TV and radio for years, said Mr. Bromley. Along with print, marketer ad spending totals $200 million annually-or about 1% of ad budgets-on the Hispanic market. Some 91% of Hispanics watch Spanish-language TV, 72% listen to Spanish-language radio, 50% read Spanish-language newspapers and 41% read Spanish-language magazines, according to figures from Sosa Bromley.

From Spanish-language direct-delivery titles like Hogarama and Mundo Deportivo, both from JSA Publishing, Santa Monica, Calif., to English-language general circulation start-up Si, from Si Magazine Ltd. Partners, Los Angeles, magazine publishers are intrigued by the growing influence of the Hispanic reader.

JSA is distributing women-oriented Hogarama directly to homes. The every-other monthly has included such advertisers as AT&T, Kraft Foods' Post cereal and Columbia House. Sister magazine Mundo Deportivo, a sports title targeting the 25-to-55-year-old male market, has had U.S. Tobacco's Skoal, MCI and Columbia House. Both reach 1.2 million households, with color ad pages priced at $32,400, said Jim Wexler, VP-marketing with JSA.

"What this means for marketers is that there is a real option," he said. "Hispanic agencies traditionally have been shaky about recommending print because they could depend on TV. Now we're getting these agencies to recommend print."

Also on the magazine front, this summer Essence, in a joint venture with Alegre Enterprises, began testing an Hispanic women's magazine, Latina.

Si's inaugural issue, which launched nationally Sept. 19, has been received with open arms by such advertisers as Estee Lauder, Caribe Hilton & Casino; Revlon; and Discover card. The quarterly has an initial circulation of 50,000 and a color page rate of $4,750. But publication director Joie Davidow is optimistic that will change in less than two years.

Why? Si is currently the only English-language Hispanic title targeting the upscale Hispanic market. A longtime void is being filled by Si, said Ms. Davidow, and she saw it in her advertisers' reactions when she brought the idea to them.

"Half of the [Hispanic] population is middle class to affluent, and to get there you have to speak English," she said. "Advertisers knew there was a market out there, but they didn't have a publication that was consistent with their product."

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