Reader's Digest unwraps new 'Selecciones'

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Next month, Reader's Digest Association unveils a new and improved North American edition of Selecciones, its 60-year-old Spanish-language magazine, to target the growing U.S. Hispanic market.

Selecciones, with more than 2 million subscribers globally, is the world's largest-circulation Spanish-language magazine, and the second largest in the U.S., behind Time Inc.'s People en Espanol. Now, however, the plan is to create editorial for the U.S. audience that would be distinct from the global edition.

"We have this situation where most Latinos who come into this country know the publication," said Luisa Fairbourne, publisher of Selecciones. Distributed in the U.S. for the last 30 years, Selecciones has been mostly circulation-driven, managed by the company's international division. With a new editor, publisher and U.S. sales team put in place over the last year, Selecciones made the commitment this January to also boost its U.S. rate base 25%, from 200,000 to 250,000.

Selecciones' rivals are thinking along the same lines. People en Espanol is teaming up with Sports Illustrated to do a bilingual 100-page special issue in September celebrating Latinos in Major League Baseball. Advertisers must commit to two pages, one in English and one in Spanish, at $70,000 each. None have been signed up yet.

"Anything with a specific Hispanic budget would make sense because we haven't been able to tap into those," said Grayle Howlett, Sports Illustrated's associate publisher, of the magazine's first U.S. Hispanic venture.

Circulation will be 1 million, split between 100,000 newsstand copies and 900,000 mailed to subscribers of People en Espanol, Sports Illustrated, and other Time Inc. titles.

Thomas O. Ryder, chairman-CEO of Reader's Digest Association, said investing in Selecciones "makes good business sense." Plans call for Selecciones to double its global circulation by 2004.

"Advertisers have been responding to our new approach based on our brand awareness and relationship with our readers," added Ms. Fairbourne, who came to the publication from People en Espanol, where she was advertising director.

New advertisers in the May issue include Holiday Inn, Anheuser-Busch and Bristol Myers Squibb Co.'s Clairol Hydrience brand, reflecting a shift in focus to beauty and lifestyle products. Since July 2000, ad pages have increased 30% to 250.

"We obviously chose them because they're one of the strongest books with the Spanish-speaking population," said Isser Gallogly, consumer-relationship marketing manager for Unilever, which has advertised beauty products in Selecciones. "Looking at the census, a lot of the Hispanics in this country are originally from Mexico, and the book has an incredible popularity in Mexico. It's a natural carryover for us."

Monica Gadsby, senior VP-media director for Bcom3 Group's Starcom Worldwide Hispanic Group, bought space for Philip Morris Cos. and Walt Disney Co.'s Disney World. She also sees a valuable audience for Selecciones. "About 75% of its sales are subscription-based, which indicates a high level of reader involvement with the book-with a large circulation base, it's what our advertisers want to hear," she said.

The shift in editorial vision is the foundation of its revamp. "Our goal is to make it more essential now, with the influx of Hispanics into the U.S," said Editor Carmen Alicia Fernandez, who was recruited from The Wall Street Journal Americas.

Editorial will continue to feature its core inspirational stories, but service pieces will get more play. For the general-interest market, Selecciones' biggest competitor remains People en Espanol, which had an Audit Bureau of Circulation-reported circulation of 316,984 for the last six months of 2000. Ad pages in 2000 numbered 703.3, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Essence Communications' Latina had 914.05 pages, and had a circulation of 202,510 for the last six months of 2000, according to ABC.

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