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What: Carlos Aviles has been named editor of Southern California News Group’s three Spanish-language weekly newspapers and associated digital media – La Prensa, Excélsior and ImpactoUSA.
Why it matters: Aviles will oversee planning and development of content for Latino audiences in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

descargaCarlos Aviles has been named editor of Southern California News Group’s three Spanish-language weekly newspapers and associated digital media – La Prensa, Excélsior and ImpactoUSA. He started in his new role last Monday Aug. 15.

The Southern California News Group is an umbrella group of local daily newspapers published in the greater Los Angeles area by Digital First Media. Originally named the Los Angeles News Group (LANG) and San Gabriel Valley News Group (SGVN), the organization was formed as an umbrella name for Media News Group operated newspapers in the Los Angeles area. On March 21, 2016 a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Freedom Communications and its two major newspapers, the Orange County Register, inclusing Spanish-language weekly Excelsior, and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, with Hispanic weekly La Prensa, to Digital First Media. [2] [3] Thus, LANG was renamed Southern California News Group. The sale closed on March 31, 2016.

Aviles will oversee planning and development of content for Latino audiences in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. He will also help guide the publications’ overall print and digital strategy, and facilitate the sharing of content between journalists within Southern California News Group.

The Salvadoran-American Aviles has nearly 20 years of experience writing, editing and coordinating coverage for Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers and websites, particularly in Southern California. He brings extensive experience in local, investigative and computer-assisted reporting.

Aviles most recently served as local editor at La Opinión, where he supervised a team of print and digital journalists, and guided special projects and investigations. Aviles also served as local editor at Patch Latino, a bilingual news site of America Online that focused on underserved communities in Southern California. He helped launch Patch Latino’s three bilingual online news platforms and digital presentation, which included the implementation of search engine optimization and social media strategies to drive audience growth.

Previously, Aviles was a staff writer at La Opinión and Hoy in Los Angeles, covering crime and courts, government, immigration, health and education. He also produced video, photography and breaking news for the newspapers’ websites. Aviles briefly worked as deputy editor for La Prensa. Prior to coming to the United States, Aviles began his career at La Prensa Grafica in El Salvador in 1997, where he served as digital editor, reporter and international correspondent.

ImpactoUSA, La Prensa and Excélsior have a combined print circulation of 400,000. ImpactoUSA is home-delivered, and La Prensa and Excélsior have a targeted distribution in news racks and retail locations that reach high-density Hispanic neighborhoods.

“Carlos brings invaluable experience in producing multi-platform journalism that matters to Latinos living and working in Southern California,” said Frank Pine, executive editor at Southern California News Group. “We will lean on his leadership to enhance storytelling and deliver a richer digital experience for a local Latino population that’s growing in size and influence.”

“I am grateful and honored to have the opportunity to serve as editor of these three Spanish language publications,” Aviles said. “I will work hard to continue this company’s commitment to provide the best information to the Latino community of Southern California.”

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Industry observers interviewed by Portada noted that it is only a matter of time until the Los Angeles Times, owned by Tribune Publishing, buys the financially-troubled Freedom Communications or, at least, its most coveted asset, Orange County Register, which publishes Spanish-language newspaper Excelsior. Last Friday, things looked like they were heading in that direction when Tribune Publishing told a federal bankruptcy judge that it was willing to loan US $3 million to fund the bankruptcy case of Freedom Communications in exchange for the right to bid for Freedom’s flagship publication, the Orange County Register, during any future sale process. Why is Tribune Publishing interested in Freedom’s assets and what would a consolidation mean for Hispanic media? Portada takes a look at four key factors.

1. Is Freedom Communications Financially Viable?

Freedom CommunicationsNo, not in its current form and debt levels. For this reason Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 protection last week to restore the company’s fiscal footing and dramatically reduce debt incurred under previous leadership in 2013 and 2014. The aggressive expansion led by Freedom Communications’ former CEO and investor, Aaron Kushner (whose deal included the purchase of the Press Enterprise from Belo Newspapers as well as the launch of a new daily for Los Angeles that was later discontinued) was associated with high costs and substantial debt. Current CEO and Publisher Rich Mirman has stepped forward with several local investors to bid to purchase Freedom. Freedom Communications spokesman Eric Morgan said, “Rich is confident his bid to secure the business will be successful — and we will continue to strengthen our position as the leader in providing local news and information in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in 2016….As Rich alludes to in the letter to employees, we have delivered strong results to the point that Freedom is on pace to turn a modest profit in 2015.”

2. Tribune’s Interest in Dominating Southern California

Tribune PublishingAs an industry consolidator and leader in the Southern Californian print and digital market (The Los Angeles Times, Hoy Los Angeles and recently-acquired San Diego Union Tribune are some of Tribune’s properties), Tribune is very interested in acquiring Freedom Communications’ assets, which include the Press Enterprise based in Riverside, its Hispanic newspaper La Prensa and the Orange County Register, based in Excelsior. The Orange County Register is of particular interest to Tribune due to its strong market position, which is why it is interested in loaning Freedom Communications the money necessary for its bankruptcy case under the aforementioned conditions. Tribune lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal told U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mark S. Wallace that Tribune wants an “opportunity to bid at a fair, open, transparent proceeding” should the Register undergo a sales process. As one observer told Portada, “In Southern California, Tribune now owns the San Diego Union Tribune down to the South and the Los Angeles Times in the North. The Register is sandwiched in-between these larger newspapers and has nowhere to grow. ”

In Southern California, Tribune now owns the San Diego Union Tribune down to the South and the Los Angeles Times in the North. The Orange County Register is sandwiched in between these larger newspapers and has nowhere to grow.

3. Has Freedom Made the Most of the Hispanic Opportunity?

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In California, Hispanics now outnumber whites, and Hispanic-targeted media should be a keystone of any media group’s strategy: even more so because most Hispanic print media properties are community newspapers, a sector that has been relatively shielded from the negative revenue trends of the large metropolitan dailies.
But has Freedom really focused and invested in its Hispanic properties? Initially, Freedom unified the La Prensa and Excelsior products into one newspaper called Unidos in Southern California. However, a year later it went back to publishing the La Prensa and Excelsior publications independently. Industry experts tell Portada that on the Hispanic side, Freedom’s move to bring back Excelsior and La Prensa have not worked. They have failed to connect to the Hispanic community and advertisers, primarily because they have not dedicated the necessary people or resources to reaching out to the Hispanic community.
Perhaps certain neglect for Hispanic-targeted editorial products can best be expressed by the fact that the Orange County Register decided to paint over a cultural mural that depicted Hispanics in the Santa Ana community. The mural had been on the wall of what was the Excelsior building for more than 15 years (see photo). UPDATE-COMMENT FROM FREEDOM COMMUNICATIONS: Freedom Communications no longer owns the building and was not involved in decisions to remove the mural. Excelsior is now located directly in Freedom Communications’ corporate offices, in an adjacent building.
Were Tribune Publishing to buy Freedom Communications, it would have very strong Hispanic Publishing assets led by Hoy Los Angeles as well as its weekend saturation product Hoy Fin de Semana, San Diego weekly Enlace and associated publications like Freedom’s properties La Prensa and Excelsior.

4. A Shrinking and Consolidating Sector

Newspaper CouponsPrint media (newspapers, direct mail and on a lesser scale, magazines) properties are consolidating in the hands of a few players (e.g. Tribune, Gannett Newspapers and Valassis; check out the just-announced Valassis acquisition of Clipper Magazine and Printed Deals). As these once large companies’ advertising revenues are decreasing, their profit margins have become smaller. In a shrinking sector, the only way to increase margins is to consolidate with other companies and reduce costs (in fact, hundreds of Tribune Publishing employees are currently weighing if they would accept a buyout offer) and work out of a lower cost structure. Of course, the acquisition and cost-reduction rationale is the strongest when it comes to acquiring properties in the same or adjacent markets (e.g. San Diego and Los Angeles). This is what has been happening over the last few months (e.g. Los Angeles Times‘ acquisition of San Diego Union Tribune for US$ 85 million last May.

CHECK OUT RELATED ARTICLES:
5.18.2015: ANALYSIS: Tribune Gets a Major Hispanic Footprint in SoCal after the Purchase of San Diego’s UT
12.05.2014: Freedom Communications announces more layoffs, folds unprofitable pubs
9.19.2014: Aaron Kushner to evaluate whether the Los Angeles Register is viable as a daily
8.4.2014: Tribune Publishing spins off, which newspapers will it acquire?
03. 14..2014: Are Hispanic Newspapers growing? Yes! Here are 3 Examples

What: Freedom News Group Spanish-language weekly Unidos en el Sur de California, which was introduced last year by combining the circulation of Excelsior and La Prensa, is now reviving both brands. Freedom News Group is reintroducing its weekly Spanish-language UNIDOS newspaper as two distinctly local editions: La Prensa and Excélsior.
Why it matters: Media brands that are recognized and appreciated by local audiences and the ad-community are very important assets. Freedom News Group is recognizing that and “reviving the Excelsior and La Prensa brands.

Hispanic NewspapersWhen Freedom News Group “killed” the Excelsior and La Prensa brands by launching Unidos en el Sur de California in March last year, several observers who preferred to remain anonymous at the time told Portada, that they did not think it was a good idea to eliminate two established brands from both the audience and advertiser perspective. Now the leadership of Freedom News Group has realized that too: “To actively engage and better serve the 3.3 million Latinos that live and work in Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, Freedom News Group is reintroducing its weekly Spanish-language UNIDOS newspaper as two distinctly local editions – La Prensa and Excélsior – starting today,” the company said.

We discovered we were fighting our legacy a bit, and needed to embrace their local identities again in the same way our communities have from the beginning.

“The brands have always had a reference on the masthead-stated as ‘anteriormente La Prensa’ and ‘anteriormente Excélsior’ following the UNIDOS name change last year,” Orlando Ramirez, publisher of La Prensa and Excélsior,, tells Portada. “We discovered we were fighting our legacy a bit, and needed to embrace their local identities again in the same way our communities have from the beginning. La Prensa and Excélsior have nearly 40 years of combined history. Readers and advertisers come to trust and recognize them,” Ramirez adds.

La Prensa, founded in 1999, concentrates on news and information specific to Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Excelsior, founded in 1992, focuses on Orange County. “If there’s a regional, national or international story that applies to Latinos in both markets, the stories may be the same but have different quote sources, market-specific photos and many other local elements,” says Ramirez.

Additionally, the newspapers will also launch local websites on ocexcelsior.com and laprensaca.com websites this summer, leveraging a mobile-friendly platform that delivers market-specific content and location-based advertising. According to Ramirez, “Digital is an area of high interest and opportunity, particularly on the mobile front. We recognize the importance of a strong digital component and will evolve our online offerings as part of a second phase of enhancements this summer. The priority was to bring local focus back to the print brands—Excelsior and La Prensa—first and then turn attention to digital in the coming months.” Ramirez, a 33-year journalism veteran in Southern California, will be hosting Meet the Publisher events with Latino leaders at the newspapers’ offices to explain how they can be more actively involved and engaged with their local newspapers.

Total Friday circulation for the two newspapers is 170,000. La Prensa distributes 95,000 copies in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and the eastern tip of Los Angeles County. Excélsior distributes 75,000 copies in Orange County. Both papers are distributed across nearly 3,000 rack and retail locations.

Discontinued Los Angeles Distribution

As part of a renewed local focus in serving core Inland Empire and Orange County markets, Freedom News Group refined its distribution footprint. It pared down distribution in outlying Los Angeles and Coachella Valley areas, and increased distribution in high-traffic rack locations in the core Inland Empire and Orange County markets. “For example, Excelsior added 36,000 additional copies in top-performing distribution locations within South Orange County. That said, La Prensa still has distribution in high-density Latino communities within Eastern Los Angeles County,” says Ramirez.

Ad Sales

Freedom News Group sales teams, both local retail reps and national account reps, will sell the two newspapers from offices in Riverside and Santa Ana. “On the national level, we have a veteran multicultural sales specialist, Anita Grace, who represents La Prensa and Excélsior in front of national and global brands. She has been part of Freedom’s Spanish-language strategy for several years.
According to Ramirez, the categories that are the most promising include “Consumer categories including apparel, grocery, electronics, personal finance and telecommunications are key categories. Among our existing advertising partners are Walmart, JC Penney, Target, Best Buy, CVS and Wells Fargo.”

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Circulation increases among Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S. are not an exception. In fact, they are almost a norm. Just last week Portada heard about two Hispanic newspapers who are substantially increasing their circulation: The San Diego Union Tribune’s Enlace and Excelsior, published by the OC Register in Orange County. What is behind these circulation increases which are so contrary to the large circulation declines of general market metro newspapers? Two factors explain the growth of many Hispanic newspapers. The first is their strong appeal as community newspapers in areas where they almost have a monopoly on local information. The second factor, is the growth of the FSI (pre-print business), which is fueling the current growth in mostly home-delivered circulation. Home delivery is heavily favored by retail advertisers who place their inserts in them to make sure they reach household decision makers at home.

In May we reported about newspaper circulation increases in four different Hispanic newspapers. Last week two additional newspapers in San Diego and Orange County, CA announced circulation increases.
The Union Tribune San Diego’s Enlace , a weekly Spanish-language newspapers, is increasing its circulation from 112,982 in by an additional 63,514 copies. The additional distribution will be directed to Southwest Riverside County. Total circulation starting October 5 is 176,496. The Southwest Riverside edition of Enlace features additional local content home-delivered to Spanish-dominant households.  According to U-T’s Enlace, the move, which took effect on Oct. 5, 2013, will allow the U-T to reach a largely underserved community with news and information in Spanish while providing advertisers a premium vehicle to reach Hispanic consumers. Enlace is published on Saturdays.

“the community sector has not been impacted as adversely as the large metros and because they have always focused and remained dedicated to their immediate local communities.

The production of (Hyper) local content about the communities they serve is a key factor explaining the growth of Hispanic newspapers. Community newspapers and media have a strong appeal in markets where there often are few competing local information sources. In an interview with Portada to be published later this week, Jeremy Halbreich, Chairman & CEO at AIM Media Texas, which publishes several Hispanic dailies and weeklies in the Rio Grande (Texas) area, notes that “the community sector has not been impacted as adversely as the large metros and 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.”

Hispanic Newspapers“We are thrilled to begin serving our Latino neighbors in Southwest Riverside,” said Tom Jimenez, vice president of Hispanic products at the San Diego Union Tribune. “We are now in a position to offer our local and national advertisers even greater reach in our high-density Hispanic markets in Southern California.” The targeted Southwest Riverside distribution area has a 41 percent concentration of Hispanic residents — or 319,105 adults — with a median household income of $51,211 according to Nielsen 2013 data. With the addition of the Southwest Riverside edition of Enlace, the U-T now offers three zones that serve readers and advertisers in high-density Hispanic areas in south San Diego County (including Tijuana), north San Diego County communities and Southwest Riverside. Enlace Extra reaches more than 100,000 affluent homes in Tijuana; inserted in the popular La Bolsa Azul, an international home-delivery solution for advertisers.“The current expansion is part of a broader cross-platform media strategy and portfolio,” said Joe Brenneman, vice president and chief revenue officer “We aim to reach more Hispanic audiences, more frequently and on more devices.” In addition to Enlace, the U-T publishes a weekly Spanish language lifestyle and entertainment magazine, Vida Latina San Diego. The magazine recently launched a mobile-optimized companion website, vidalatinasd.com, featuring the latest U-T San Diego Web design technology. Partner news site sdred.com offers another digital platform for advertisers.

Excelsior in Orange County grows home – delivered circulation…

Capitalizing on a US Census statistic stating that Hispanics living in Orange County have the highest Hispanic Household income, Excelsior, the Spanish-language weekly published by the Orange County Register (Freedom Communications) is adding home-delivered circulation.

“Highest earning Hispanic households are the first ones who were offered an opt in, free home delivery subscription of the paper,” says  Excelsior’s Operations Manager Jesus Cobian. He adds that building the home delivery database one requested opt in at a time is a longer way to do things. However, when readers are asking for the paper, it’s because they want the information inside. It’s a slower but stronger home delivery program in comparison to saturating a zip with high Hispanic density.” Excelsior now has 26,000 copies in requested home delivery. Total circulation is 63,000 copies every Friday. Excelsior also released a re-design of the newspaper last month.

 which attracts retail advertisers.

Both Enlace and Excelsior are available for free: In other words, their publishers need to clearly expect that an increase in advertising revenues will finance the home-delivered circulation increase. This is where retail advertisers who place their offers and coupons in preprints (also called inserts or FSI’s) come in. Retail advertisers love to reach household  purchase decision makers, mostly Latina housewifes, at home. Contrary to rack distributed newspapers where inserts (FSI’s) can be lost easily before (and if) the publication reaches the reader’s home, home-delivered publications guarantee that the inserts reaches homes.

 

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