May 1.2003: Content analysis: women's magazines, Abuelita´s Flan and Grandma´s apple pie
The famous Canadian media guru Marshall Mc Luhan (1911-1981) claimed that “for rational beings to see or recognize their experience is an unbought grace of life.” He argued that the main reason people read magazines is to see a reflection of themselves.
Latin American women living in the United States are both Latinas and mainstream American women, and they want to see both these identities reflected in their magazines. “Magazines targeted at Latina women reflect the struggles and contradictions between the two different cultures in which they live,” says Federico Subervi, chair of Communication Studies at Pace University in New York.
What type of content satisfies the needs of the modern Hispanic woman? Cathy Areu Jones, publisher of Catalina, says that “unlike women's magazines that target a general U.S. population, magazines for Hispanic women cater to a specific segment of the population long overlooked by mainstream publications. This segment lives in two cultures, may speak two languages, but is defined by neither.” Latina, the high circulation magazine published by Latina Media Ventures, embraces the bicultural identity of the Hispanic woman with the promotional slogan “I eat flan and apple pie.”
According to Subervi, editors of magazines written for Hispanic women should keep in mind that, in general, “mainstream American women are more emancipated than Hispanic women.” This difference is reflected in the more conservative way that Hispanic magazines cover dating, beauty and family issues, said Subervi.
Hispanic women's magazines also tend to emphasize more “serious” issues – such as career, business, education and the arts – compared to their lighter, more gossipy, mainstream competitors.
Robert Bard, publisher of Latina-Style, tells Portadatm that even though Latina-Style is an English-language publication, “it tends to publish more serious, business-oriented articles rather than style/fashion/gossip/entertainment pieces.”
Latina-Style regularly features articles on “career, business opportunities, technology tips, entertaining at home, book and movie reviews, travel destinations, investment guidance, and food and drink recipes.”
“Mainstream women's magazines often reflect a stereotypical view of Hispanic women,” said Cathy Areu of Catalina magazine, adding that, Dame Edna's condescending comments about the Hispanic culture in a recent Vanity Fair “would never have appeared in Catalina, or other Hispanic women's magazines. That's what happens when magazine staffers are not familiar with the Hispanic market.”
According to Robert Bard, all of his magazines are geared specifically towards Latinas. This is not to say that the “average” American woman would not identify with them, but rather that their content is meant to be specifically helpful and culturally sensitive to Latinas. As an example of such an editorial product he cites the Latina-Style 50 Report, a yearly study of the fifty U.S. companies that provide the best career opportunities for Latinas.
In Areu's opinion, “stories ranging from finances, to parenting, to spa retreats should be written with the Hispanic woman in mind. How often does this demo get thought of in everyday content?” Areu asks, adding that “every reader needs to be catered to. The Hispanic woman is no different. Talk to us from our cultural perspective, and we'll appreciate it”.
Can mainstream magazines do the job?
It is not surprising that publishers of magazines designed specifically for Hispanic women claim that only they can really cater to the needs of Latinas. Do Latinas really need publications specifically targeted to them? Can't mainstream magazines do the job?
In order to find out, Portadatm asked Tina Georgeou, Vice President of the Business Development Publishing Group at Meredith Corporation, one of the largest publishers of women's magazines in the U.S. According to Georgeou, “The Hispanic woman's interest in home and family is as strong, if not stronger, than that of the ‘average' American woman. While the subjects of interest may be similar, we are conscious of the fact that the treatment will need to be slightly different.”
Diane Salvatore, editor-in-chief of Ladies' Home Journal, told Portadatm that “Ladies' Home Journal targets women without a focus on any race.” The June issue of Ladies' Home Journal will profile Noelia Rodriguez, press secretary to the First Lady, as a “Woman in Charge,” highlighting the fact that she is one of the highest ranking Hispanics in the Bush administration.