Jeremy Halbreich, Chairman & CEO at AIM Media Texas, has been a leading executive and entrepreneur in the Metro and Community newspaper market for many years. Halbreich has had leading positions at the Dallas Morning News, American Consolidated Media, and the Chicago Sun Times Media. His latest venture, AIM Media Texas, owns several dailies and weeklies in Texas, including Hispanic publications in the Rio Grande Valley. We interviewed Halbreich to ask him about the evolving (Hispanic) community newspaper market.
Portada: We understand that AIM Media Texas is present in two markets. What features do Odessa and The Rio Grande Valley share, what features of these markets are different?
Jeremy Halbreich, Chairman & CEO at AIM Media Texas: “We are very fortunate that both Odessa and the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) are strong, attractive growth markets today and for the foreseeable future. The RGV has population of between 1.2 and 1.3 million and we cover the market with four daily newspapers (three English language in McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville and one Spanish-language in Brownsville), a large 2X weekly English language publication in Weslaco, a weekly English language publication serving South Padre Island and a large Spanish language weekly publication serving the entire RGV region. The RGV growth is fueled by medical services, education, retail, construction, oil and gas, agriculture and the influence of Mexican nationals. Odessa is in West Texas and sits squarely in the middle of the Permian Basin. The population is just under 150,000 and the local economy is driven by oil and gas and construction. We cover the market with one daily newspaper and one weekly publication.”
In what way is your current experience at AIM Texas different from the one you had at ACM and before that at the Dallas Morning News?
J.H.: “My years at TDMN were prior to the beginning of the secular decline in the newspaper industry and most especially prior to the extreme challenges faced by the large metro newspapers. We took great advantage of the growth of the DFW market and we had the luxury of operating in a very entrepreneurial fashion. It was truly the golden age of newspapering. At ACM, we focused exclusively on smaller, more remote and oftentimes rural markets as far away from the large metro markets as possible. It was also a time of growth and opportunity in most of our locations and we were fortunate to have sold the over 100 publications across 10 states immediately prior to the onset of the recent recession. One of the many benefits of our experience with ACM was our introduction to the RGV when we owned the shopper publications serving the major RGV markets. Following three exhilarating years operating Sun-Times Media in Chicago, AIM Media Texas brings us back to Texas and to the RGV along with Odessa. These are wonderful markets and we are experiencing nice, steady growth in our markets in this post-recession period. It is also very exciting and very challenging to blend in the opportunities presented today to serve the Spanish language audiences in the RGV and the digital audiences in the RGV and in Odessa.”
It seems that the community newspaper sector is the area that has changed the least over the last decades. Is that right and, if anything, what has changed?
J.H.: “The community sector has not been impacted as adversely as the large metros and specifically because they have always focused and remained dedicated to their immediate local communities. They typically have less direct competition than the metros and they are more sensitive and more connected to their local audiences.”
Are you planning to acquire or build new print and digital properties?
J.H.: “Yes, we are always looking and evaluating and we see tremendous opportunities to launch new products or reposition existing products across all mediums including print, digital, mobile and video.”
In which markets?
J.H.:”We are focusing our initiatives and our resources on digital, mobile, video and also on serving the Spanish language audience in the RGV.”
With many newspapers going to a digital paid content model is that a strategy you are also pusuing?
J.H.: “We are evaluating the experience and performance of others around the country and following how the various models are working in different market settings. It is likely we will launch some initiatives next year.”
Virtually all our local advertising in the Rio Grande Valley is targeted to Hispanics.
What amount of your business is paid subscription print business?
J.H.:”Our paid print business is fairly typical for mid-size community newspapers with these revenues representing 10% to 20% of our total revenue base.”
Can you quantify how important Hispanic business is for AIM Texas revenues?
J.H.: “For Local advertising – In the RGV, the population ranges from 80% to 95% of our individual sub-markets so virtually all our local advertising is targeted to the Hispanic market as defined. For national advertising – The same applies. The RGV holds the 10th largest population of Hispanics in the US.”
We have found great and growing success in print and in digital when we focus on delivering products and information in appealing formats to the Hispanic audience.
In terms of advertising in English or Spanish or bilingual in your properties, what trends are you seeing there?
J.H.: “Due to the unique growth characteristics of the RGV, we see growth in both English language and Spanish language advertising.”
Some observers say that the Hispanic print advertising opportunity is very challenging because Hispanics tend to consume more broadcast media. What do you have to say about that?
J.H.: “We have found great and growing success in print and in digital when we focus on delivering products and information in appealing formats to the Hispanic audience. Hispanics are not a homogeneous group and it is important to reach them in multiple ways and through multiple layers including language, medium and delivery methods.”
Can you explain national print/digital advertising campaigns you have done at AIM Texas that are specifically geared to Hispanics?
“If you are asking about specific national campaigns using Spanish language advertising this group includes Sprint Mobile/Mansi Media, T- Mobile/Gemstone, Colgate/News America Spanish Co-Op, Chrysler/Magnet Media, Boost Mobile/AT&T.”
We understand that through RGV Media Network you also place into broadcast and TV and into your own properties? Does RGV Media Network work as media placement firm?
J.H.: “No, not formally, but we will coordinate with local broadcast outlets if it serves the purposes of our advertisers and marketing partners.”
What is your strategy regarding cross border media? Do you have agreements with publications/media on the Mexican side of the border so that your advertisers can cater to Mexican audiences who cross the border into the U.S?
J.H.:“We have owned and operated the RGV properties for just over one year and so have not yet had the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with publications and media across the border other than a small handful of commercial print customers who print with us in McAllen. However, we do publish a weekly, free distribution publication with 75K+ distribution that is available in many locations frequented by Mexican nationals visiting the RGV.”