Say it Ain’t So: Is the Boom of Spanish-language Dailies Over?

In 2003 and 2004, an unprecedented amount of Spanish-language daily newspapers were launched in the U.S. Large newspaper chains Belo, Ferre Rangel,  and foreign media groups like Recoletos with Rumbo, thought that Hispanic readers were vastly underserved and launched Spanish-language dailies. More than three years later, the good news is that all these publications survive in one form or the other. Some continue to be daily (Al Dia, Hoy) and others have changed to weekly frequency (Rumbo and La Estrella); still others that used to be paid maintained their frequency but are now free (El Nuevo Dia Orlando)

All in all, there are 17 Spanish-language dailies published in the U.S. and Puerto Rico—18 if the recent New York startup 24 Horas is include. New York’s new Hispanic daily, 24 Horas (Tricom, daily, Spanish), launched in mid-August. Its content is a mixture between Metro, AM New York and Village Voice. The newspaper targets hard working Hispanic city-dwellers aged 18-49 years old: “We like to write about sports, entertainment and sex,” publisher and owner Eddie Cruz tells Portada. He characterizes his readers as “Spanish-dominant, Hispanic Urbanites who are college educated and employed full-time. Cruz adds, “there are too many weeklies—between 75 and 100—in the Tri-State Area (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey).”

But are daily newspapers really the way to go? Portada asked industry experts what conditions need to be in place to launch a Spanish-language daily. Square one is advertising revenue. “We evaluated the possibility of a daily but after researching publications like El Nuevo Dia (Orlando) and Rumbo (Houston) and looking at the potential of the local market we decided that there just wasn’t enough ad revenue in the local market to support a daily Spanish language product,” says Orlando Nieves, general manager of Spanish-language weekly Centro Mi Diario which was launched in Tampa in September 2005. Our daily product became the website, which, once it evolved into local breaking stories in Spanish, increased dramatically in both traffic and unique visitors.  The weekly publication also took into account the fact that a lot of Hispanics read an English daily and use the Spanish language publications as a way to keep in touch with their community and keep tabs of what’s happening back home.”

Gilbert Bailon, publisher of the daily Al Dia in Dallas/Ft. Worth agrees with Nieves.  “The critical aspect is an advertising base either distinct from the general market or derived from the general market companies seeking to penetrate the Hispanic market. Readership is somewhat of an issue, but the economic base from advertising is required for a full-service daily with a wide variety of advertising categories and an online site.”

Asked whether she ever considered launching a daily, Dora Toro, publisher of La Prensa in Orlando and Tampa, notes “Frankly, Manuel (Toro) and I did not proceeded with a daily in Orlando because it was a very costly proposition and we thought the market was not ready yet for a Spanish daily.”

William Vincent, who as business manager of La Estrella in Dallas/Ft. Worth developed the strategy of converting Diario La Estrella into a weekly, notes that there are many advantages of a weekly publication over a daily: “One significant advantage is being able to gather our resources more effectively to produce content our readers want to read, on the day they really want to read it.  The other significant advantage is that, as a weekly product, we can concentrate our circulation in a way that more effectively meets the needs of our advertisers.  Again, the overwhelming consensus was that we prefer a quality weekly product over the flexibility to advertise any day of the week.  Even when we had that flexibility, more than 70% of our ad lineage, and 95% of our FSIs, were placed in our weekend newspapers.”

Vincent explains the change in frequency the following way: “We analyze our returns (number of newspapers left in our stands) every day.  Our readership has always been very high on the weekends.  We had noticed that our percentage of returns were significantly higher during the weekdays than on the weekend.  In addition, our advertisers overwhelmingly requested our weekend editions vs. the weekday editions.  After months of analyzing our data, we came to the conclusion that the Spanish-dominant public preferred a high-quality weekend newspaper vs. a daily newspaper.  So we modified our strategy and dedicated ourselves to producing the best weekend newspaper, with the highest circulation, available in Dallas and Fort Worth.”

Is it possible for a weekly to have the same brand strength as a daily? La Estrella’s Bill Vincent thinks it is possible: “A newspaper has brand strength only in-so-much as the readers use it frequently. If you produce a daily newspaper and find that people are using it heavily and advertising in it heavily only on certain days, it is on those days that you are truly branding.  For instance, part of our strategy in producing a quality weekly product was to add La Estrella En Casa, a product that is sent to 100,000 homes each weekend in Dallas and Fort Worth.  This gave us a weekly reach of 150,000 (100,000 in La Estrella En Casa, and 50,000 in La Estrella).”


Groundhog day

The launch of a daily newspaper is a very complex endeavor. Asked what she would do differently if she were to launch her newspaper today, advertising manager Louisa Ferrera of Miami’s highly successful El Nuevo Herald (Mc Clatchy) says she wouldn’t change a thing. Alejandro Aguirre, deputy editor and publisher of Miami’s Diario Las Americas, hypothesizes, “I can’t say that we would launch solely as a digital entity because there’s still a very strong market for print media today. If you look at the numbers, there are a lot of challenges, but also lots of opportunities. Portability is huge. When they come up with an 8.5x11 e-tablet with extremely high resolution, things will change drastically. But for right now, the fact remains that people are still much more comfortable reading ink on paper than they are reading from their PDAs.


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