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Media Players Say 'Si' To Latino Magazines


MAY 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002

Forty-three years after moving to the U.S., Carmen Lopez still hasn't found a magazine she likes. "I would love a format like Time, New Yorker and Fortune, all put into one, in Spanish," says the 60-year-old Cuban native, who lives in New York.

For now, she has settled for a subscription to Temas, a local Spanish-language community magazine. "It's OK, no more than that," she says. "In New York, the number of magazines in Spanish is very limited."

That may be about to change. Spurred by the growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and the example of Time Inc.'s People en Espanol, some of the largest publishers in the U.S. and Latin America are poised to launch new magazines or aggressively expand the ones they have. Among the players: Mexican media company Grupo Televisa SA; Advance Publications Inc.'s Conde Nast Publications; AOL Time Warner Inc., parent of Time Inc.; and Hachette Filipacchi Medias of France.

Publishers view the Latino market as "tremendously underserved," says Abe Peck, magazine program director at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. "The numbers are out there ... people have to take a look now."

But publishers face significant difficulties in conquering the Latino reader, including the cultural diversity that comes from more than 20 countries of origin. In addition, language preference is almost split in half: According to Strategy Research Corporation, a Miami based research firm, 45.4% of Hispanics read magazines in English while 43% read in Spanish. And a recession that saw ad spending slump nearly 10% last year won't make things easier for the publishers' plans.

So far, Spanish-language magazines haven't made much headway. Hispanics have overtaken African-Americans as the largest minority community in the U.S. Yet Essence, a leading magazine for black women published by Essence Communications Partners, has a circulation of a million copies a month, 40% more than the combined circulation of the two largest Hispanic women's magazines, Time Inc.'s People en Espanol and Latina Media Ventures' Latina.

Hispanic television and radio, by contrast, are already big. In some markets, such as Los Angeles and Houston, the most-watched network is Spanish-language Univision. Latino magazines, on the other hand, have never hit the level of circulation where advertisers consider them effective in reaching consumers.

"Limited budgets make TV and radio more viable," says Daisy Exposito, chairman and chief executive of the Bravo Group, a New York Hispanic marketing unit of WWP Group PLC.

As it is, the percentage of advertising going into Hispanic media is disproportionately low. Hispanics make up more than 13% of the population, according to the 2000 census, but Hispanic advertising represented only 3.2% of the total U.S. ad market in 2001, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies says. And Latino publications got only a pittance of that: 2.7% of the budget allocated for Hispanic advertising overall, or about $60 million, according to HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business magazine.

Nonetheless, publishers prefer to focus on the idea that a growing Hispanic middle class will soon make magazines a more viable proposition as they expand more rapidly than any other ethnic category.

It's that affluent sector of the Hispanic community that's attracting growing interest from companies such as Televisa, which already commands 70% of the magazine market in Mexico and sees little space for growth in Latin America. Last year, it launched in the U.S. a Spanish edition of Dennis Publishing's Maxim. This year, it will partner with Ocean Drive magazine and music magnates Emilio and Gloria Estefan to launch a revamped version of Ocean Drive en Espanol, a Miami-based lifestyle glossy. Eduardo Michelsen, vice president in charge of Editorial Televisa International, says he hopes to double his unit's revenue in the U.S. -- about $35 million in 2001 -- over the next five years with moves like these.

Televisa's strongest competition in the U.S. comes from Ideas Publishing Group, a Miami based Spanish-language publisher recently bought by Conde Nast. Ideas publishes nine titles in Spanish, three of them from the Conde Nast stable -- Glamour, Vogue and Architectural Digest. The goal, says Ideas President Carlos Modia, is to increase total circulation and advertising in the U.S. -- Ideas' second-biggest market behind Mexico -- by 20% in the next year.

While there have been Spanish-language magazines in the U.S. for some time, the "turning point for the Spanish-language [magazine] market in the U.S. came with People en Espanol," says Sammye Johnson, co-author of the books "Magazine Publishing" and "The Magazine From Cover to Cover."

People en Espanol's circulation has grown almost 70% since its launch in February 1998 to a total average paid circulation for the second half of 2001 of 356,000, according to statements filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Although the number of ad pages in People en Espanol fell to 43.5 in March 2002 from 54 a year earlier, its ad revenue grew 5.3% to $1.57 million in the same period, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

While People en Espanol proved that a relatively successful magazine could be launched, it still isn't easy, given the diversity of attitudes and national backgrounds that characterize U.S. Hispanics. "This is not a homogenous market," says Jack Kliger, president and chief executive of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. Inc. Still, while Hachette remains "cautious," Mr. Kliger says there is a "great likelihood" the publisher will launch a new magazine for Hispanics within the next year and a half.

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