In an interview last January, Hoy publisher Digby A. Solomon told Portada, “We expect revenue to increase by more than 30% and circulation in Chicago to reach 30,000 average paid daily by September 2004.” That did not happen. And last week, Tribune announced its decision to distribute Hoy-Chicago for free – 45,000 copies will be distributed Monday-Thursday and 60,000 on Fridays.
Tribune's decision to move from paid to free circulation in Chicago and Los Angeles beginning in January reflects several trends in US Hispanic publishing.
- The difficulty of building paid readership
General market, paid publications (about 1,500) have suffered circulation declines in recent years and U.S. Hispanic publications hoping to build paid circulation haven't faired much better. Around 80% of US Hispanic publications are free. Among those dailies that are paid, advertising sales are by far the largest source of revenue. While general market daily newspapers (average cost – US $0.50), tend to have an 80/20 advertising/circulation sales breakdown, paid Spanish-language dailies (mostly US $0.25) tend to have closer to 90/10 advertising/circulation breakdowns. Building paid circulation in the Hispanic market is especially difficult because Hispanic consumers tend to buy publications on a single-copy basis.
Still, there are a number of paid Spanish-language newspapers, most notably el diario/La Prensa (Impremedia, New York) and La Opinión in Los Angeles. Other papers, including El Nuevo Día Orlando (published by Grupo Ferre), Al Día in Dallas (Belo Corp.), Rumbo – Texas (Meximerica Media), Diario Latino (Healy Media) and El Día (Houston) are also paid, but most have not ruled out a strategy change or the possibility of complementing their paid product with free home-delivered publications. Al Día in Dallas is currently contemplating a weekend TMC (total market coverage) product to meet advertiser demand (mostly retailers).
- Readership as opposed to paid circulation
More and more publishers are coming to the conclusion that free, mostly home-delivered publications are the best way to satisfy advertisers' demands. Beginning in January, Hoy-Los Angeles will put out a free daily publication (circ. 80,000 Monday-Thursday and 150,000 Fridays) to compete with the large, mostly home-delivered weekly Impacto USA, formerly El Económico. Earlier this year, Impacto USA, published by the Los Angeles Newspaper Group (Media News Group), increased its circulation from 100,000 to 250,000 copies, mostly through home-delivery. Impacto USA has strong distribution in Long Beach and the Valley areas of Los Angeles. Other successful publications, like Chicago weekly La Raza (recently acquired by Impremedia), are also free. Now publishers are looking to ensure high pass-a-long rates, which mean increased readership, through the right combination of home-delivery, rack and store distribution.