Hispanics, especially those not born in the U.S., get their magazines almost exclusively through retail channels. “Foreign born audiences resist contracts and obligations, and many have little or no faith in the postal service,” said José Raúl Pérez, consumer marketing director at People en español, at a recent industry conference. To target Latinos, magazine publishers must develop good retail distribution strategies.
Most Hispanics live in or near major cities where chain bookstores and public libraries play an important role in the distribution of reading material, including magazines. Not surprisingly, buyers for bookstores and libraries are showing an increased interest in acquiring periodical publications geared toward Latinos.
Borders Books, whose 400 stores nationwide all have Spanish-language sections, is setting up a taskforce to analyze and acquire more Spanish-language products, including magazines.
Currently Borders carries 80 different magazines specifically targeting Spanish-speaking audiences. “We are interested in expanding our Hispanic assortment in a variety of categories including Fashion, Women's Interest, Health, Teen, Men's Interest, and Film & Entertainment,” Margaret Lane, Spanish-language periodical buyer at Borders Books, tells Portadatm. Borders has a central buying staff that purchases titles for all the stores.
Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore in the U.S. and the owner of 250 stores in Hispanic neighborhoods, also has a growing appetite for periodicals targeting Hispanic readers. Last year, the bookseller created a national program for Spanish titles and significantly increased its selection of Spanish-language books and magazines. “We've had double digit increases in Spanish-language book sales over the past four years,” Mike Ferrari, director of merchandising for Barnes & Noble recently told The Associated Press. “It's one of the few areas where we're fighting to keep up with customer demand.” Barnes & Noble would not answer Portada's requests for more specific information.
Several Latino magazines have signed distribution deals with a strong emphasis on bookstore distribution. Batanga Magazine, a publication covering the Latin music scene, recently announced a magazine distribution agreement with Media Solutions, the exclusive distributor for the Books-A-Million bookstore chain. Under the agreement, Batanga Magazine will be distributed at Books-A-Million stores. Books-A-Million is the third largest book retailer in the United States, with 207 stores. It has a strong presence in the southeastern United States.
Additionally, Art Nexus magazine, a publication on Latin American and Hispanic art, signed a distribution agreement with Ingram Periodicals in an attempt to increase magazine sales at major newsstands and bookstores. Ingram is a direct distributor of more than 3,000 magazines from over 1,100 publishers, and sells to over 7,500 independent bookstores.
Another great distribution platform for publishers is the network of U.S. public libraries which has more than 16,000 library centers and branches nationwide. According to a survey by the magazine Criticas, budgets for Spanish-language material – mostly books, but also periodical publications, and DVDs – are increasing significantly more than overall budgets. The authors of the survey interviewed personnel in charge of acquiring reading material for public libraries. Spanish-language material ranked third, after DVDs and audio books, on librarians' priority lists for acquisitions.
Generally, a third of the survey respondents said that Spanish-language budgets are increasing this year, while half said budgets are staying at the same level as last year. Net increase of Spanish-language budgets in 2003 was 8%, while overall budget increases were below 3%. The average U.S. public library has an acquisition budget of $30,500 a year.
More money for Latino pubs?
The Queens Borough Public Library in New York City has the highest circulation of books and other publications in the U.S. Of the 2.2 million Queens residents, 577,000 are Spanish-speakers. Thirty eight of the sixty three public libraries in Queens have Spanish sections. Adriana Acauan Tandler, director of the New Americans Program at the Queens Borough Public Library, is enthusiastic about acquiring more magazines (see box) targeting Hispanics. “If we had the means, the library would purchase many more magazines, since they are an excellent source of current, up-to-date
information, and are extremely popular with our customers who read Spanish,” Tandler tells Portadatm>
What type of content does Tandler look for in magazines for Latino readers? “Public libraries are interested mainly in magazines with popular appeal. The magazine should include information on the adaptation process, including information on immigration, and the job market – jobs that make sense today, including some alternative careers that do not require a University degree, [information on] how to start a small business including interviews with successful owners, and features about successful/celebrity Latinos and short stories by Latino writers.”