California Dreamin’: The Hispanic Market Goldrush

While the first California gold rush is a distant memory, the Hispanic media goldrush is going on right now. There are presently more Hispanic newspapers, TV channels and radio stations in the state than ever before, and more advertisers looking to utilize them. At the same time, the economy has been highly volatile, particularly in the auto and mortgage-lending categories, both crucial investors in Hispanic media. As such, California publishers have had to seek out new ways to generate revenue. It is in this search for more revenues and more reader eyeballs that many publications have begun incorporating more of their off-line content available online. 

San Diego

Perhaps the single most distinguishing feature of the San Diego Hispanic market is that it is actually two markets. There is a steady flow of Hispanics between San Diego and its Mexican neighbor, Tijuana. Combined, the San Diego/Tijuana Hispanic market is the third largest in the U.S., with an estimated $12.5 billion to $14 billion in spending power. As such, the challenge for marketers is to reach not just those Hispanics living in and around the city, but to reach those living in Mexico who regularly travel to San Diego for business or for recreation.

Lucy Roberts, a media buyer for HMC Advertising agrees that in the San Diego market, one must play both sides of the border: One of HMC’s biggest clients is Disney on Ice, which runs weekly shows in the city. “We have a lot of simultaneous efforts going on for the show,” says Roberts. “It’s very much a direct call-to-action effort.” HMC runs radio ads boosting the show, and places outdoor ads on both side of the border. In addition, the company has partnered with a major supermarket chain in Baja, California, to include coupons in its weekly circular. Roberts says that this vehicle delivers a very strong response: For the last Disney on Ice show it promoted, 7,200 coupons were redeemed.

La Prensa San Diego(35,000, 35,000, Spanish) has been publishing for over 32 years, making it one of the older  Hispanic papers. The paper distributes 35,000 copies every Friday. One thing that sets it apart from other area papers is that it is published bilingually. “We target the middle class Mexican American who lives, works, goes to school, and votes in San Diego. We also target non-Hispanics, it is important that our elected leadership, and others, understand the Hispanic community,” says Editor Daniel Muñoz. “As a border community, there is a unique opportunity to reach to two markets/two countries. As a news source we are in a unique place to discuss such relevant issues as immigration.”

Muñoz points out that the demographics of the area make it imperative for local businesses to address the needs of Hispanic consumers. He notes that the County of San Diego is home to 600,000 Hispanics. In the city of Chula Vista, Hispanics comprise 50% of the population, in San Diego 25%. Most businesses have to have bilingual staff on the premises. While much of the marketing in San Diego is done with the monolingual Spanish speaker in mind, Muñoz contends that most are missing out on the bilingual and even monolingual English speaking Hispanic, the Hispanic who speaks some Spanish, watches some Spanish language television but in general is more comfortable in English.

This year, community newspaper El Latino celebrates 20 years of publishing in San Diego. The paper has a verified distribution of 80,000 weekly copies, mostly racks, with 35,000 home-delivered copies.

Publisher Fanny Miller points to the paper’s slogan as being at the heart of its mission: “We don't just cover the community, we are the community.” El Latino averages 85% local ads, and works closely with its local advertisers to make sure their businesses grow. “Small businesses are typically not as knowledgeable in marketing as larger ones so we help with not only with there advertising, but with any other marketing they might be looking to do,” says Miller. Some of the paper’s major advertisers are Home Depot, Sears, Wamu, Ikea, Sycuan Casino, Valassis and Safeway-Vons.

“San Diego County is divided in 18 cities, with a Hispanic population of almost a million within the county, with some cities having 50% or more in Hispanic population,” says Miller. “If we count the Hispanic Population in the Region with Tijuana, we have over 2 million Latinos shopping and spending in San Diego County with a purchasing power of 14.5 billion, so it really is quite a vibrant market.”

With a circulation of 90,000, Enlace is home-delivered every Saturday to targeted areas of San Diego County and distributed via homes, outdoor racks, restaurants, schools, entertainment and community centers, retail locations and other venues frequented by Latino clientele. This free publication offers news and feature stories, an Internet column, professional soccer coverage, plus community events, arts and entertainment listings from both sides of the border. Single-sheet CPMs range from $26.00-$32.00. The median age of its readers is 32, with a median household income of about $37,000.

Diario San Diego (17,000, weekly, Spanish) is another local news player in the San Diego market. It has special sections on news and entertainment, sports, children’s interest, and border news. It also publishes a 1-2 page weekly real estate section called Nuestra Casa, which used to be a full 16-24 page monthly supplement, before the housing crisis took hold and many advertisers evaporated. Publisher Jose Santiago Healy says that the paper is working with its other ad categories to make up for this drop in revenue.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a staggeringly big Latino population—approximately 8.5 million, most of whom are Spanish-dominant. However, there is a sizeable and growing population of more acculturated Latinos in the area in every area of business. In May of 2005, Emmis Communications launched Tu Ciudad Los Angeles, a bimonthly English-language magazine targeted at this growing community of affluent Latinos in the area, which measures over 3.5 million. The magazine’s target readers are college-educated Latinos, ages 25-49 with a household income of $91k. Co-publisher Jaime Gamboa describes the magazine as “a fun, energetic, and irreverent guide to the city.”

Maria Kordes, Media Buyer in Muse Cordero Chen, who among other accounts buys media for California State Lottery tells Portada that she is pleased with the advertising vehicles available in the Los Angeles market. However, she would like to see more advertisers targeting niche markets.

Tu Ciudad (115,000, 10x annually, bilingual) is the result of a partnership between Emmis Communications, publisher of Los Angeles Magazine, Jaime Gamboa and associate publisher Gabriel Grimalt, formerly of Los Angeles' Spanish Broadcasting System. “Tu Ciudad is a fun, energetic, and inspirational guide to the city,” says Gamboa. “Everything in LA is Latino-influenced—from the food and the culture, right down to the street names,” says Gamboa. “As a result, much of the content that is of interest to our Latino audience is also of interest to the wider LA community.” The bulk of the magazine’s distribution is mailed (85,000) with 20,000 copies distributed to newsstands and the remaining 10,000 are listed as public distribution copies.

La Opinion (125,000, daily, Spanish) is an Impremedia property serving the greater Los Angeles area. About 40% of its advertising is national, and covers all major categories, including telecom, financial, automotive and home improvement. The paper features weekly supplements on sports, entertainment, and lifestyle. La Opinión also publishes La Opinión Contigo (255,000, Sundays, Spanish), a free weekly product that is fully bilingual, has a circulation of 250,000 and is home-delivered.

Daily newspaper Hoy L.A. (80,000, weekly, Spanish) underwent some big changes this year, replacing publisher Javier Aldape with Roaldo Moran: “Hoy is a relatively new paper with steady year-over-year revenue and readership growth. We will continue to fulfill advertiser and community needs in order to continue our growth trend,” Moran tells Portada. Hoy recently increased the circulation of its weekend product, Fin de Semana, to 500,000. Moran says that this move has brought increased interest in national and major retail preprints.

Impacto USA (255,000, weekly, Spanish) is a paper with enormous reach. Delivering local and national news, it is home-delivered to 250,000 homes weekly by The California Independent Postal Service Marketing Group (CIPS), the largest alternative delivery service in the country.

San Francisco

San Francisco is the 9th largest Hispanic DMA in the country, with almost 1.5 million Hispanics comprising 18.5% of the population. Over 60% of these Hispanics are Mexican, 2% Puerto Rican, and the rest are from other Latin countries.

San Francisco-based bilingual paper El Mensajero (110,000, weekly, Spanish) was acquired by Impremedia in late 2005 to complement its Southern California property La Opinión. Monica Lozano, Senior Vice President of ImpreMedia and Publisher and CEO of La Opinión noted that “the ability for newspaper advertisers to directly reach Hispanics in both Northern and Southern California through one Spanish-language buy is really important.”

La Oferta is the oldest all-Hispanic owned publication in San Jose, distributing 22,000 weekly copies. A bilingual publication, La Oferta targets first, second, and third generation Hispanics and non-Hispanic readers. Its entertainment section “¡Vamos!” targets a younger demographic, and seeks to deliver this coveted audience to advertisers. La Oferta reaches San Jose/Silicon Valley, the largest Hispanic market within the San Francisco Bay Area.

El Bohemio News is a weekly that distributes 28,298 copies and is CVC audited. It is distributed to stores, restaurants, community centers and an extensive newsrack fleet. It is all-Spanish and is published on Fridays. FSI zoning available by zone, city, and Zip Code


The Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto DMA is the 11th largest Hispanic DMA in the U.S. and is home to almost a million Latinos, who make up one-fifth of the total population. The area’s Latino community is young, with 27% under 18 years of age.

Vida en El Valle publishes three of its five zoned editions there, distributing almost 95,000 copies each week among the three papers. The Sacramento edition is the largest, with 45,000 weekly copies, then Modesto, with 30,000, and finally Stockton, with 20,000.

The paper has a diverse offering for advertisers: “Fresno specifically has had some success with special theme pages and specific category programs. Twice a month we publish a Health, Beauty & Fitness page geared for health professionals, gyms, beauty salons, etc.,” says sales manager Bill Gutierrez. “We also publish a Sociales page; readers can send in their wedding, anniversary, event and party photos. We print them free of charge, and we charge advertisers to be on the page. The advantage for advertisers is that their message appears on a highly visible page. Readers love to see photos of themselves and their neighbors.”

The paper has also just instituted a special program for non-profit organizations, offering half-page ads at a cut-rate. “Many Latinos don't know what resources they have at their disposal and this is an effective way for non profits to educate the Latino public, publicize events or highlight their organization. There is also an online component to this promotion that will stay online throughout the year so readers can refer to it,” says Gutierrez.

Finally, Vida en el Valle also has the ability to direct mail an advertiser's message to specific households based on their individual needs. They sell a wide variety of non traditional products including brochures, business cards, menus, rack cards, calendars, posters, etc. Bender takes stock of these offerings, adding, “Newspapers must view themselves as multi-faceted marketing companies; we aren't just newspapers anymore.”

El Heraldo Catolico is the Spanish-language monthly for the Diocese of Sacramento, Diocese of Oakland, and Archdiocese of San Francisco. It is distributed the first Sunday of every month at the Hispanic Mass celebrations in all three dioceses. Distribution is 37,000 with additional distribution at retail establishments located in Hispanic neighborhoods. It reports on a broad spectrum of social, economic, political and religious issues in the Hispanic community, including concerns of youth, young adults, families, and seniors, recent immigrants and established citizens. The paper is published by Echo Media.

Online Operations

While Hispanic newspapers have traditionally maintained underdeveloped websites, as placeholders on the net or as value-added advertising for their print sponsors, there is an increasing trend of further online development. Vida en el Valle’s Valerie Bender notes, “The Web site is beginning to take off. We've been running online contests for Juanes, Vicente Fernandez, Ricky Martin, George Lopez and others. We also run online contest for tickets to movie premieres and sports events to increase traffic on the site.” Bender says that, increasingly, the paper is using the print edition to move readers to the Web for additional stories, photos and information. “While we can't fit everything in print, we can give our readers additional material online. We use Web references to this material throughout the paper. Because we are bilingual, we also use the Web to highlight Spanish-only stories and fully translated stories,” says Bender.

Prensa de San Diego Editor Daniel Muñoz comments that the paper uses the website to offer readers and advertisers another vehicle, as opposed to breaking news: “La Prensa has maintained a Web site since 1986 providing content on line. Our web site, as then, is updated every week, reflecting the news in the weekly publication. During disasters such as the recent fire storms in San Diego we provide daily information to assist our readers,” says Muñoz, adding, “Our primary source of income from the Web is from news services like Lexis-Nexis that buy our articles. Other than that, we garner very little online income.”

Hoy LA’s Roaldo Moran puts it this way: “Our online edition is a work in progress, but already attracts an audience far beyond our print markets of Los Angeles and Chicago. Electronic media has forced newspapers to react. I think it has made it challenging, and has helped us get out of the comfort zone, which is good.”

Angelo Figueroa, editorial director for Tu Ciudad Los Angeles, notes the online medium’s exclusive capabilities and speaks of the magazine’s efforts to drive readers online. “We see the website as an extension of the print publication,” says Moran. “But you can do certain things on the web that you cannot in print.” He cites the piece they did with Cuban-American actor Odette Yusman, who appeared in the movie Cloverfield. “The movie release didn’t coincide with our print edition at all, so we ran a Q&A with her on the website, included a trailer for the movie, and even posted a playlist of her favorite music.”

Tu Ciudad is also making a conscious effort to reference its Web site in the print edition to drive more traffic to the fledgling site, launched just over a year ago. Moran says that these print references seem to be working as 60% of its 8,000 monthly unique visitors are first-timers.

Figueroa points out that having a Website is imperative these days for publishers to enhance their advertiser offering. “Most advertisers today want some sort of online component for their buy. Other advertisers, particularly local advertisers, just want to go for Online because it is cheaper and they have limited budgets. Across the board, though, the chances of getting the sale are much higher if you offer an online component.”  

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