Blurred Borders: The Lone Star State Media Market

Ahhh, Texas. While for many the Lone Star State conjures images of surly cowboys and sawdust floors, the present day reality is far-removed from the mythology around the sprawling state. With a population that is over 35% Hispanic—more than double the national average—Texas is a place where the Hispanic media market and the general market overlap. In some cities, the Hispanic market is the general market: El Paso, for instance is 81% Latino, as is McAllen. The Hispanic population is also becoming increasingly diverse. For generations, it has served as one of the primary entry points for Mexicans coming into the U.S. The result is a robust mix of unacculturated 1st generation Latinos and highly acculturated 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Latinos, each with their own media consumption habits and preferences. The diversity of Texas’ Spanish-speaking masses is becoming ever more evident as immigrants from all over Latin America arrive. And there is no shortage of media options to choose from. While a few years ago, it seemed that demographic realities warranted, and in fact demanded, a daily newspaper format, it has become apparent that this is not universally the case. In actuality, the model du jour seems to be the free weekly newspaper, preferably home delivered.

Houston: A major market

Rene Cantu, director of communications for the Houston Chamber of Commerce says:

“Houston’s Hispanic population is growing quickly. There are a lot of first generation residents as a result of recent migration. Obviously the largest Hispanic population is Mexican, but there is also a growing population of Colombians, Venezuelans,

Ecuadorians. Many come with a mind toward starting their own business or expanding their Latin American business into the U.S.” Cantu adds that there is a strong market for Spanish-language classifieds, evidenced by the fact that there are two such publications in circulation, Buena Suerte and La Subasta.

La Voz de Houston (100,000, Weekly, Spanish) is a weekly newspaper that was established in 1979. La Voz is written in mainstream Spanish. Covering news of Houston, Texas, Mexico, Latin America and the rest of the world, La Voz concentrates on issues and news that affect Hispanics. It also carries health, business, an amusement page and coverage of such subjects as food, sports and entertainment. La Voz de Houston is delivered directly to Hispanics' homes through The Houston Chronicle and via freestanding racks in approximately 600 locations. The paper is distributed via home delivery, rack distribution and in Houston Chronicle single-copy sales on Wednesdays. The paper is in tabloid format, and runs both ROP and FSIs.

The Houston Chronicle and Impremedia have a licensing agreement to publish Impremedia’s La Vibra entertainment magazine, which is targeted at younger, urban Hispanics in the Houston area.

La Semana News(125,000, Spanish, weekly) is another popular weekly among Houston Hispanics. The paper draws a host of national advertisers including big-box retailers Target, Best Buy and Sears, as well as telecom companies Cingular, Verizon Wireless, and Amazon.

RUMBO Houston, published by Meximerica Media which recently was taken over by Impremedia, enjoys the largest circulation of any of the company’s three Texas weeklies, with 100,000 copies distributed on Fridays. It is written completely in Spanish and targets first and second generation Mexicans between the ages of 21 and 54, and other Latinos looking for a daily newspaper in Spanish. The paper touts that its features have been cited by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Univision. RUMBO focuses on local, national and international news and features, service advice, lifestyle, sports and entertainment, with an emphasis on exclusives.

El Paso
: Crossing the border

“The border market is really quite interesting,” says Rodrigo Vallejo of Dallas based independent advertising agency Camelot Communications. “The line between Mexican and U.S. media is blurred, particularly with radio, as many stations cover areas on both sides of the border.” Vallejo says that outdoor advertising is another good option for advertisers as rates are comparatively low. Companies like  JC Penney, Mervyn’s, Chevrolet and Lowe’s, are typical print media advertisers and have also taken advantage of outdoor advertising programs, according to Vallejo.

Located right on the border, El Paso is a huge market for recent immigrants. Much of the advertiser dollars come from big-box retailers who seek to market not only to El Paso residents, but also to the steady stream of Mexican shoppers that spend nearly $3 billion a year on various goods. It is estimated customers from the Mexican cities Juarez and Chihuahua account for over 50% of the cities annual retail sales.

One look at El Paso y Mas (50,000, 2x/weekly, Spanish) shows just how big that retail business is. The paper, which is published by the El Paso Times, is loaded with inserts from every imaginable big-box retail outlet, including Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Best Buy and more. Interestingly, Wal-Mart is the only one placing bilingual FSIs. Speaking about what makes El Paso such a unique market, El Paso Times Group Market Development Director Robin Montoya commented, “Most border communities have multiple print products that can be Spanish language based, or Spanish “design focused” but still in English. Our market is unique because there is a significant portion of the market (our last Market Study indicates as much as 60%) who speaks and work in both languages. Only 13% speak exclusive Spanish.  That allows a great deal of flexibility in methods to reach Hispanic consumers.”

The El Paso Times also publishes two other Spanish-language products, TV y Mas (50,000, weekly, Spanish) and Autos y Mas (50,000, weekly, Spanish). TV y Mas is an entertainment publication in magazine format that has everything from horoscopes and recipes to articles on telenovelas. Its advertisers vary greatly, but are mostly local businesses like contractors and beauty salons. Autos y Mas is essentially a showcase for local auto dealer’s to advertise their wares and does not include editorial coverage.

Also reaping the benefits of big-box retail’s big-box ad budgets is the area’s only daily, El Diario((20,000, Spanish, daily), published by Mexico’s Editora El Paso del Norte. El Diario counts Best Buy, Wal-Mart and among its top advertisers, says general manager Ivonne Rodriguez “We are the only Spanish-language daily in El Paso, so we capture a lot of readers who are first generation” Rodriguez notes. The paper also draws some telecom investment from companies like MCI and Verizon. The auto category is also strong, with Ford, Pep Boys and Checker Auto parts all advertising. El Diario also draws some advertising from across the border, where it publishes El Diario de Ciudad Juarez, and El Diario de Chihuahua.

“The border market is very interesting, particularly in terms of radio programming,” says Victor Apodaca, Sales Director at Universal Radio Network. “Lots of our stations cover both sides of the border, so there is a real mix of Mexican and U.S. advertising.”

In 2007, the company completed 4 drops of 2 million pieces, each drop dedicating 1 million to Texas and California each. The Canasta de Familia program is a poly-bag containing product samples, inserts and La Buena Vida, a bilingual lifestyle publication dedicated to cooking, sports, finance and everything in between.

Dallas/Ft. Worth: Major Properties Compete

“Dallas/Fort Worth is unique in its combination of two things: The sheer power of the numbers of Hispanics—1.6 million—and the many first-generation Hispanics,” says Bill Vincent, business manager of the weekly La Estrella (28,000, Spanish, weekly). “Many first-generation Hispanics carry their most immediate reading and buying patterns here from Mexico.” La Estrella used to be a daily product, under the moniker Diario la Estrella. Vincent says they decided to adopt a weekly format because of market demand. “Our focus is weekly, and home delivery. Rather than being available any day of the week, we strive to be available on the days most of our market wants to read a newspaper,” says Vincent, differentiating his paper with Al Dia, the area’s big daily newspaper and a competitor. Preprints are an area that La Estrella foresees being big for their company in 2008. Vincent says that advertisers are attracted to their home-delivered weekend product La Estrella en Casa, which has over three times the distribution of its newsstand product, with approximately 97,000 copies delivered each Saturday. Among the paper’s advertisers are: Carnival, Bank of America, Chesapeake Energy, Wal-Mart, Target, several furniture stores, Verizon Wireless, Metro PCS, among others.  La Estrella’s website garners a mix of local and national advertising, including local auto dealership ads and U.S. Army banners. Job website also advertises regularly.

Al Dia (35,000, Daily, Spanish) is Dallas’ only Spanish-language daily newspaper, and one of only a couple Texas Newspapers that follow the daily publication paradigm. The paper publishes six times a week, with an additional 5,000 copies printed for its Saturday edition. Marketing Director Isaac Lasky comments, “Our daily format is doing very well; we are expanding our distribution in single copy via racks and have shown important growth in our home delivery service. Readers and advertisers value the uniqueness of a daily that offers important relevant news, readers value the fact that they are not looking at stale results from sports, entertainment, local or national news.” Lasky notes that advertisers like the flexibility of placing ads on important dates—like one-day sales events— for their business objectives. Readers like the daily-updated classifieds, he adds. Local and national retailers favor our weekend edition to place ROP ads as well as inserts. Grocery stores and automotive advertisers also prefer the weekend edition of Al Dia.

Lasky is quick to point out some features that set Al Dia apart from other local and statewide publications. Al Día uses mass media advertising utilizing TV, Radio and out of home communications offering free home-delivery subscriptions to boost its readership and rate base. He also points to Al Dia’s continuously-updated website as a valuable reader resource.

Rodrigo Vallejo, Media Planner for Dallas-based Camelot Communications, says that in terms of print advertising in the Dallas area, Al Dia is the strongest property.

Vallejo’s agency uses a lot of TV and Radio in a non-traditional way. “We like to do DJ endorsements, live events, things that really connect the brand with the community at a local level,” says Vallejo. Camelot counts Southwest Airlines and Novamex among its clients. Both companies have tended to favor television and radio advertising:

San Antonio
: English-dominant

San Antonio is an interesting market within Texas’ Hispanic media space due to the fact that its Latino population is the most acculturated. This reality allows for both bilingual and Spanish-language publications to co-exist, as they cater to different audiences. The San Antonio Express News publishes two products: Conexion (50,000, bilingual, weekly), which targets the English-dominant Hispanics, and Cancha (25,000, 2x/weekly, Spanish), which was launched just last year, and caters do Hispanics who prefer to receive their news in Spanish. The two products are meant to be complimentary, and to offer advertisers total market coverage.

San Antonio is also home to the non-profit, which seeks to promote Mexican-American relations, and concerns itself with Mexican and American immigration policy, trade partnerships, etc. The acronym MATT stands concurrently for “Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together” and “Mexicans and Americans Todos Trabajando,” which means roughly the same thing, except that it focuses on the working partnership between the two peoples.

San Antonio-based ADS Media Group has a door-hanger/direct mail/editorial hybrid product called Canasta de la Familia that targets Latino homes in Texas and California, according to CEO Dub Doyal. In 2007, the company completed 4 drops of 2 million pieces, each drop dedicating 1 million to Texas and California each. The Canasta de Familia program is a poly-bag containing product samples, inserts and La Buena Vida, a bilingual lifestyle publication dedicated to cooking, sports, finance and everything in between.

The San Antonio Express News has a door-hanger program, Mexico Express, which targets affluent Mexicans in Monterrey. The circular reaches 60,000 upscale households, 70% of which travel to San Antonio at some point during the year. Preprinted inserts are packaged and home-delivered in a poly-bag. The delivery times are meant  to mirror popular travel times, the delivery program is available 26 weeks per year.

Rumbo distributes 50,000 weekly copies in San Antonio combining local editorial coverage with national and international news, including sections on sports and personal finance.

: Hispanic Nation

In stark contrast to the highly acculturated city of San Antonio, is the southern Texas city of McAllen, whose population is 80% Hispanic. McAllen is located at the southernmost part of the state and his home to three mid-sized Spanish-language papers: Rumbo del Valle (60,000, Spanish, weekly), El Periodico USA (60,000, weekly, Spanish), and La Frontera(20,000, weekly, Spanish).

Given McAllen’s proximity to the border and its burgeoning immigrant population, immigration issues are a staple feature in each of the publications. Rumbo also features content that is shared with its two other Texas editions.