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Battle for Readers Of Spanish Papers Hits Texas Los Angeles
Texas Dailies Battle For Hispanic Readers
By Michael J. McCarthy
August 4, 2003
A TEXAS-SIZE newspaper battle is brewing.
Two major media companies have awoken to the surging Hispanic market in northern Texas. That ethnic group makes up roughly a fifth of the population in Dallas-Fort Worth. The Dallas Morning News, owned by Belo Corp., recently announced plans to start a Spanish-language daily paper in the fall called Al Dia (meaning roughly "up to the minute"). Firing back, Knight Ridder Inc.'s Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday said it will expand its nine-year-old La Estrella (the Star) to five days a week from two starting in September. La Estrella plans to double its staff, open a Dallas office and -- to stress its new daily status -- rename itself Diario La Estrella (the Daily Star).
The new Spanish dailies will carry some translations of the big local stories found in their English-language counterparts. But the emphasis will be on original Spanish-language news. Each plans to have dedicated, albeit small, news staffs, focusing on local stories while also emphasizing developments in Mexico and other countries-of-origin for readers in Dallas-Fort Worth, the nation's seventh-largest Hispanic market, with 1.28 million people overall.
"The fastest-growing segment in the market is Hispanic," says Wesley R. Turner, president and publisher of the Star-Telegram. "Our research shows that over 60% of the Hispanic market strongly prefers to read and speak in Spanish."
In Miami, Knight Ridder's El Nuevo Herald has amassed a daily circulation of 90,000 in roughly five years as a stand-alone paper, compared with 328,000 for the company's powerhouse, the Miami Herald. Knight Ridder is lending circulation and advertising staff from Miami to help in the expansion of La Estrella.
Belo is planning for a fight. "The battle here will be intense," vows Gilbert Bailon, Al Dia's president and editor, who also is vice president and executive editor of the Dallas Morning News.
Nationwide, there are only a handful of Spanish-language dailies backed by big publishing companies, including El Nuevo Herald and Tribune Co.'s Hoy in New York. Spanish-language print media have tended to be run by small, closely held companies that rarely have the financial clout to do much original reporting or put out more than one newspaper a week. Circulation figures often aren't audited. So national advertisers and other publishers will be watching to see whether by generating more local stories and publishing more regularly the two new dailies can draw higher readership for Spanish-language papers.
The full-color La Estrella regularly has stories on local Hispanics, along with political news and developments in places like Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. La Estrella will increase its availability at strategic points, says Javier Aldape, the paper's publisher. "We've identified neighborhoods that are over 90% Hispanic," he says.
In its new incarnation, La Estrella also will carry daily weather maps of Texas and Mexico and a weekend fashion-and-trends feature page called Tendencias. It plans to begin circulation at 25,000 copies, offering the paper free of charge.
Belo also plans to offer its Spanish paper, Al Dia, free during an initial introduction period, then charge a quarter per copy. Al Dia expects to have an initial circulation of 40,000 through newsstand sales and home delivery. The Dallas Morning News had been studying how to reach the Spanish-speaking population for more than a year, says Mr. Bailon, and considered a magazine as well as a newspaper.
Maria Gracia, president of Cinco Media Communications, an Irving, Texas, Hispanic-marketing company, says she thinks the paper that can offer the best local community coverage will be the one to make the best connection with readers. "A lot of publications don't really have the budget to offer Hispanics fresh news," she says, noting that they have to rely on wire services that many people can find online.
Alberto Ibarguen, publisher of the Miami Herald, says he expects La Estrella to use its ties to the Star-Telegram as a selling point with national advertisers, just as the El Nuevo Herald did with the Miami Herald. El Nuevo Herald was able to win over accounts that way from Publix supermarkets, Nordstrom, Chrysler and others, he says. "We had a relationship with our advertisers, and they knew we weren't going to sell them something we didn't think would work," Mr. Ibarguen says. "It gives you a big leg up on anyone else in the market."
Knight Ridder may need every advantage, as more companies seem to be concluding that the country's fast-growing Hispanic population isn't being reached with daily papers in their native tongue. For instance, Meximerica Media, a newly formed company, plans to publish Spanish-language daily newspapers in Texas and elsewhere.
Some critics think offering Hispanics a Spanish-language newspaper makes it only harder for immigrants to assimilate into the larger, English-speaking culture. Industry research shows that more than half of Hispanic immigrants who read newspapers gravitate to Spanish-language ones, a proportion that drops with each succeeding generation in America. Demographers even term those who live in a country but don't speak the prevailing language as "linguistically isolated."
To that argument, Al Dia's Mr. Bailon, says, "We're trying to help integrate people into greater society, but there has to be a bridge. We're going to tell them where to vote, how to get to school, how to elevate their lives."
Current daily circulation for the largest Spanish newspapers in the U.S.
Sources: The Audit Bureau of Circulations; SRDS Hispanic Media and
Battle for Readers Of Spanish Papers Hits Los Angeles
By Eduardo Porter
October 10, 2003
LOS ANGELES -- A push by major newspaper companies to grab Latino readers is producing a high-profile face-off in the nation's biggest Hispanic market, pitting the largest U.S. Spanish-language daily against the media group Tribune Co.
The Lozano family, founders of La Opinion, have agreed to dissolve their 50-50 partnership with Tribune and are seeking financial backing to take over Tribune's 50% share of the Los Angeles broadsheet, following the Chicago-based mediacompany's plans to bring its successful New York Spanish-language tabloid, Hoy, to Los Angeles.
The move follows steps taken in recent months by a number of national media companies, including Tribune, Dallas-based Belo Corp. and Knight Ridder Inc. of San Jose, Calif., to muscle into the Spanish-language newspaper business across the country.
The Spanish-language newspaper market in the U.S. traditionally has been highly fragmented and served mainly by small local publications with little financial muscle. But that has started to change as publishers wake up to the potential of a market of 40 million people with about $650 billion in purchasing power. That potential has driven consolidation among Hispanic broadcasting companies, including the recent takeover by television company Univision Communications Inc. of Spanish-language radio outfit Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.
Tribune inherited its stake in La Opinion three years ago as part of its purchase of Times Mirror Group, which had taken over half of the Spanish-language daily from the Lozanos in 1989. Yet the Los Angeles paper didn't fit in well with Tribune's plans to create a nationwide Spanish-language newspaper platform based on Hoy, which was launched by Tribune's Newsday four years ago.
Hoy, a racy, color tabloid, has been a success. In four years, its daily circulation in New York surpassed 90,000, putting it second nationally to La Opinion's 130,000.
Tribune launched Hoy in Chicago last month. Digby Solomon, Chicago general manager for Hoy, said the paper's revenue is running 20% above Tribune's original expectations. There are no audited circulation figures.
At one point, Tribune executives thought of using La Opinion as their Spanish-language platform for Los Angeles, and earlier this year they proposed buying out the half of the paper owned by the Lozanos, according to a person familiar with the matter.
But the Lozanos negotiated to take over Tribune's stake instead and the family has retained investment bank UBS AG to find financial backers. Neither side will comment on the price. According to people familiar with Tribune's thinking, Tribune is likely to launch Hoy in Los Angeles in January.
Tribune's vice president for Hispanic media, Louis Sito, couldn't be reached, and Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment on the company's negotiations with the Lozanos or the possibility of bringing Hoy to Los Angeles. However, Mr. Weitman said Tribune understands and supports the Lozanos but "will explore all of our options to find the best way to serve the Spanish-speaking population in all of our markets," including Los Angeles, where it owns the Los Angeles Times.
Relations between the Lozanos and its corporate partners have been strained for some time. "When Tribune bought Times Mirror, there was a great opportunity to develop a national platform for Spanish-language news and we wanted La Opinion to be part of that strategy," said La Opinion President Monica Lozano.
"But they concluded that the Hoy model, where the Spanish is fully integrated into the English property, was more effective on the national level," she said.
Ms. Lozano said Tribune's strategy -- based on a single national Hoy brand, with much of the copy coming from a central news desk in New York, and the integration of promotions and marketing -- didn't fit the view the Lozanos had of La Opinion as an independent newspaper. "Part of Tribune's purpose was to convert Hoy's readers into readers of the English-language dailies. It would be a marketing device," Ms. Lozano said.
The Los Angeles tussle comes against a backdrop of moves and countermoves by publishers in major Hispanic markets. Belo, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, late last month launched a Spanish-language daily in Dallas published six times a week. Knight Ridder, which owns the competing Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as Spanish-language newspapers El Nuevo Herald in Miami and Nuevo Mundo in San Jose, responded by expanding publication of its Dallas-Fort Worth Spanish-language La Estrella to five days a week from two.
Competition also is heating up in Florida, where Tribune owns a Spanish-language weekly in Orlando. While Tribune is widely expected to launch Hoy there, last month the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico began publishing El Nuevo Dia in Orlando five days a week.
Hearst Corp.'s King Features Syndicate plans to launch a Spanish-language entertainment supplement next year to run in about a dozen newspapers across the country.