Noticias drops out of NYC race, but was it really trying to compete?

In a move that came as a shock to readers and staffers alike, News World Communications, Inc. closed down New York City daily, Noticias del Mundo on April 30th, laying off 38 staffers. The company, owned by Reverend Moon's Unification Church, launched the publication in 1980 along with the printing press Stellar Printing, which will remain in business. News World also shut down “The World and I” magazine, laying off 31 staffers. “Insight” magazine was cut to “a five person skeleton crew.”

Only two NDM staffers will continue to work for News World. Phillip V. Sanchez, publisher of both Noticias and Tiempos del Mundo will retain his position at Tiempos. Editor in chief, Pepe Cardinali will also continue at Tiempos del Mundo. Both are members of the Unification Church. None of the other employees were affiliated.

A sales executive said that NDM had year-long advertising commitments from companies including Ford Motors, SBLI, Cablevision, and Time Warner, among others. “You can't imagine how busy we were,” the source said, adding that Noticias was famous for its sports section and cable companies, dish networks and “everything related to sports” were among NDM's best advertisers. Health, education and real estate were also strong ad categories for Noticias. Local advertisers included restaurants, because NDM's popular restaurant section, and sports leagues.

According to an article in El Diario/La Prensa, sales personnel at Noticias stated that US $500,000 in advertising had been sold in the first trimester of 2004. But this was refuted by sources at Noticias who said that if that figure were correct the paper would not have closed.

Where will advertisers and readers go now?

Local advertisers will most likely turn to smaller, free community papers that cater to specific nationalities, where they will get the service and personal attention that they had come to expect from Noticias. NDM is encouraging national advertisers to go to El diario/La Prensa. Noticias and Hoy seemed to have had a more antagonistic relationship. Hoy was seen by some Noticias staff as a copycat paper. Also, when the two papers shared a distributor, Noticias was always placed underneath Hoy at newsstands, which according to one of the sales staff, hurt their circulation.

Nancy Tellet, vice president and media director at Siboney USA says she never saw Noticias as a real competitor in the New York market. She mostly buys space in Hoy and el Diario/La Prensa because she sees them as the most dynamic and most dominant papers in New York City. “They [Noticias del Mundo] were trying to play with the big guys. It's a very difficult market to compete in.”

Noticias was very popular in New Jersey, especially after the re-launch. It also did well in Queens and Manhattan. Because it was a conservative paper, its readers tended to be older Hispanics, mostly over 40, who had lived in New York/New Jersey for a long time. It was most popular with Mexicans, Ecuadorians, and Peruvians and was becoming more and more popular with Dominicans. Noticias received thousands of letters from readers who were confused and disappointed with the closure. El diario/La Prensa has moved quickly to rescue stranded readers by bringing on popular NDM sports editor, Mario Concha, as well as running a full page ad expressing their regret at NDM's closing and extending their sympathy to employees. They have also approached NDM account executive Francisca Rivas.

News World claimed that their decision to close NDM was based on the paper's financial difficulties, and was part of a larger restructuring within the company, including the expansion of Tiempos del Mundo, a hemispheric paper published in Latin America and the U.S. (For more on new plans for Tiempos see page 9 of this issue). But most of News World's publications were losing money. Rev. Moon reportedly “invested” more than $1 billion dollars in The Washington Times, News World's flagship publication. Insight Magazine, which was launched in 1995, received an “annual subsidy” of $40 million dollars.

Another staffer, who spoke on the basis of anonymity said that NDM had been running at a loss since its inception and had received about $1.8 million per year from News World, down in the past few years to $1.5 million.

But according to sales staff at NDM, things were looking up for the publication this year. It had re-launched the paper in January with a new format that made it easier and less expensive for advertisers to place ads. They had also changed distributors (NDM had previously used the same distributor as Hoy, its biggest competitor), and circulation had increased between 7 and 9%. Exact circulation numbers are hard to come by. The media kit promised a circulation of 50,000 and one staffer estimated the circulation at about 8,000 daily, which would make 50,000 a probable weekly circulation.

There remains a lot of speculation as to the real reason for the closure. One staffer explained that Noticias' failure was caused mainly by the publisher's [and parent company's] lack of strategy and interest in the newspaper. “He [Phillip Sanchez] did not have much experience in publishing and didn't really care about making the paper successful. His main focus was on Mexico, because he had government connections and personal interests there.” Many believe that Rev. Moon uses his publications as “policy laundering” vehicles – as a way to promote the policies and goals of the Unification Church.

Staffers are also trying to figure out why News World Communications, Inc. refused to sell the paper. Sources say that there had been at least two offers, but that News World refused to sell, possibly because they did not want to open the books. One of the offers came from Ecuadorian entrepreneur Hector Delgado, owner of Delgado Travel, a very successful money transfer business and travel agency with its main office in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Carrie Barnes