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Marcelo Burman

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San Jose, Costa Rica based, Grupo Cerca has been a pioneer in Central American media. It can be said that the company founded 11 years ago by Argentinean entrepreneurs Marcelo Burman and Damian Szafirsztein, introduced modern magazine publishing on a regional level to Central America. We talked to Damián Szafirsztein, VP Grupo Cerca, about recent developments at Grupo Cerca.

Damian Szafirsztein

Grupo Cerca publishes both owned and operated magazines and websites and it also holds franchises for other publishers in Central America and in some cases for other Latin American countries.
Owned and operated magazines include Construir (Construction), IT NOW, Mercados & Tendencias (Business), Productor Agropecuario (Agriculture) and Avant Life (Luxus and Lifestyle).
The third-party owned properties Grupo Cerca currently has licenses for are ¡HOLA! (six Central American countries, introduced two years ago), Domus (Architecture and Decoration for Central America and the Caribbean). Grupo Cerca also used to represent Grupo Televisa titles in Central America. “We stopped working with Grupo Televisa two years ago” says Szafirsztein. “We chose to concentrate our efforts on our own magazines and on those licenses where we can control the business and add our own creativity and innovation.” Grupo Cerca also discontinued its licence for Advertising Age’s Central American edition.

We now have sales executives based in Miami. We have substantial growth potential with ¡HOLA! in the panregional luxury ad category.

Throughout the last decade the Central American magazine market has developed a lot. “It got much more professional,” says Szafirsztein. “We positioned ourselves as the industry leaders, we are the only company that has been able to develop in a “multi-product” and “multi-country” way in the region. We now have 8 offices in 7 countries of the region and are also growing our presence in Mexico,” he adds. Regarding digital media, the executive says that while it is not an ad revenue source as big as events and print, digital is key to the strategic development of the company.

“While digital is not an ad revenue source as big as events and print, it is key to the strategic development of the company. 

Il Mio Papa:A Mag About Pope Francis

The most recent addition to the stable of third-party publications is Il Mio Papa. Published weekly in Italy by Mondadori, il Mio Papa is a magazine about the daily life of Pope Francis. Grupo Cerca has the license for Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua y República Dominicana and soon will add Mexico to the mags total monthly circulation of 70,000. According to Szafirsztein, all “brands in line with the values of the magazine are potential advertisers in Il Mio Papa. The core readership of the new mag is between 20 and 60 years old. Szafirstein notes that Pope Francis is wildly popular in Latin America and that this should bode well for the success of the magazine.

Better to Own the Mag or Just to Operate a License?

Asked whether Grupo Cerca prefers to own and develop its own magazine brands as opposed to have third-party licenses, Szafirstein notes that the advantage of owning a brand is that “you are the owner of the business. However, you need to invest more in order to position the brand. Major titles like ¡HOLA!, Il Mio Papa and Domus allow us to enter into a new segments together with a leading brands. We also have an agreement with IDG, which allows us to publish their content in the digital and print versions of Grupo Cerca owned IT NOW.”

Check out: Publisher Profile: Cosas Magazines; 5 Country Approach

Custom Content

Custom Publishing is an additional revenue stream for Grupo Cerca.” We make magazines and books for banks, private clubs, newspapers and large corporations. For instance we have worked many years with Audi making their digital and print magazine for Latin America (except Brazil, Mexico and Argentina). Right now we are also working on Topbrands, a book about brands, in addition to other custom books such as RSE (Responsabilidad Social Empresarial together with our mag Mercados & Tendencias) and Construccion Sostenible (along with our mag Construir).
Szafirsztein stresses that the joint collaboration between Editorial, Marketing and Advertising Sales units is a crucial element for Grupo Cerca’s success.

Presence in Miami

Grupo Cerca has also recently placed more emphasis in panregional ad sales out of Miami. Szafirsztein says that Grupo Cerca achieved substantial growth over the last 11 years without a strong presence in Miami. This is something we have changed this year. We now have an exclusive sales executive based in Miami for panregional sales. We believe we have substantial growth potential with magazines such as ¡HOLA! in the luxury category.  In addition, advertisers who want to position themselves in our specialized B2B magazines are strong prospects.”

¡Hola! magazine has arrived in Central America through a licensing agreement with Grupo Cerca. As of November, the monthly magazine is now publishing a local edition in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Portada talked with Marcelo Burman, President and CEO of Grupo Cerca, about the launches and details of its agreement with local partners in each of the six Central American countries, and how ¡Hola! plans to market advertising in the magazine.

Translated by Candice Carmel

This year, ¡Hola! is marking the 70th anniversary of its founding in Spain. Its last product launch was in 1994 with ¡Hola! Mexico. Since then, the glossy’s international expansion has been done through licensing agreements.

In 2010, ¡Hola! made the decision to localize its print magazines in Latin America, where it already publishes ¡Hola! through partnership licenses with La Nación (Argentina), Copesa (Chile), El Comercio (Peru), and El Tiempo (Colombia). The magazine is also present in Ecuador, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

Now, through a licensing agreement with Group Cerca, which is overseen and run by Burman, ¡Hola! launched regional editions last November in six Central American countries: Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

“The magazine didn’t have a licensee in Central America, because of incompatibility between its business model and the size of the Central American countries. That is why we proposed a business concept to ¡Hola! that included a regional Central American framework, as well as localizing [the title] to each country.”

HOLA-COSTA-RICA-Nr-2Grupo Cerca handles publishing, marketing, and distribution of its own titles, and also acts as commercial agent for international titles such as ¡Hola! Burman told Portada that the company works with a total of about 34 titles and plans to launch new ones in 2014.

For ¡Hola!’s regional launch in Central America, Grupo Cerca entered into local joint ventures in the five remaining Central American countries. The agreements call for Grupo Cerca to handle license management, editorial coverage, and marketing of the magazine’s advertising. Local partners will be responsible for the magazine’s marketing and distribution.

While the Central American editions of the magazine have a regional slant to cover all six 6 countries, they also include 30%-40% of local content in each country edition, Burman told Portada. The remaining 60%-70% is international or regional Central American content. Burman explained that all ¡Hola! international licensees can use content produced by any of the other country editions and hopes that “the Central American content will also reach editions published in other countries.”

Every ¡Hola! edition has 30%-40% local content

The launch of ¡Hola! magazine at the regional level was accompanied by an advertising campaign in all partner media (publishing groups or newspapers), TV, radio, public spaces, and social networking. Galas assisted by 250 people were also held in each country, benefitting local organizations and public foundations.

Two editions have been launched to date and a third is expected early next year.

As for the distribution of 56,000 copies that were printed for the region, Burman expects to “adjust the number of copies for each country, before considering a printing increase.”

Portada: Why did you decide to go with a system of local joint ventures?

Marcelo Burman: Because we recognize that we are strong in Costa Rica, but not strong enough to handle the distribution and marketing in the other countries. So we decided to partner with our local partners to maximize and complement our strengths.

We joined forces with our local partners to launch this successful product and complement each other.

¡Hola! Costa Rica

Hola-Costa-Rica-Ed-1In Costa Rica, Grupo Cerca also publishes Advertising Age, Mercados & Tendencias, Audi, and Productor Agropecuario, among others, and will be responsible for the complete production and distribution of ¡Hola! magazine. The edition has an initial circulation of 11,000 copies, and is priced at 2,750 colones (about $5.50).

¡Hola! Nicaragua

Hola-Nicaragua-Ed-1In Nicaragua, Grupo Cerca works with Diario La Prensa. ¡Hola! Nicaragua has a circulation of 6,600, and is sold at 145 cordobas (approximately $5.50).
Hugo Holmann, Publisher of Diario La Prensa, said the partnership “is a strategic alliance, and not just for Nicaragua. This is just the beginning of a larger project.”

¡Hola! Guatemala

Hola-Guatemala-Ed-1In Guatemala, Grupo Cerca is partnered with the Prensa Libre newspaper. ¡Hola! Guatemala has a circulation of 10,100 and will be distributed at points of sales and also sold by subscriptions. The sticker price of the magazine is 48 quetzals (about $5.50).

¡Hola! El Salvador

Hola-El-Salvador-Ed-1El Diario de Hoy is ¡Hola!’s local partner in El Salvador. The magazine has an initial circulation of 8,150 and is priced at $5.50.

¡Hola! Honduras

Hola-Honduras-Ed-1In Honduras, the magazine was launched in partnership with Grupo OPSA, which publishes El Heraldo newspaper. Grupo OPSA distributes the magazine in 250 points of sales and by subscription. ¡Hola! Honduras has a circulation of 8,150 and is priced at 120 Lempiras (also about $5.50).

¡Hola! Panamá

Hola-Panamá-Ed-1In Panama, Grupo Cerca works with Grupo Espasa, publisher of El Panamá América. The magazine has a circulation of 11,000 and is priced at $5.50.

Advertising

Advertising is handled by Grupo Cerca locally in each country. Its main advertisers to date have been premium brands such as Cartier, Audi, Valentino, Bulgari, Cavalli, Tous, Benetton, and Chanel, among others.

Burman added that advertising for ¡Hola! is also sold regionally in Central America, and that the ratio of regional to local advertising is even. Whether brands prefer to advertise locally or regionally “depends on where the advertising comes from,” he said.

We are exceeding sales budgets, both in copies as well as advertising.

Regarding future agreements to also sell ads jointly with Latin America [editions], Burman says that “we are not doing that at the moment, but do not rule it out in the future.”

¡Hola! in Latin America

Magazine

Publisher

Frequency

Circulation

Price

Release date

¡Hola! Argentina

La Nación

Weekly

85.000

20,90 ARS

2010

¡Hola! Colombia

El Tiempo

Fortnightly

30.000

9900 COP

2012

¡Hola! Costa Rica

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

11.000

2750 CRC

2013

¡Hola! Chile

Copesa

Fortnightly

20.000

3000 CLP

2012

¡Hola! Ecuador

Vistazo

Fortnightly

10.000

5 USD

2011

¡Hola! El Salvador

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

8.150

5,5 USD

2013

¡Hola! Guatemala

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

10100

48 GTQ

2013

¡Hola! Honduras

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

8.150

120 HNL

2013

¡Hola! México

Hola S.L.

Weekly

85.000

35 MXN

2006

¡Hola! Nicaragua

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

6.600

145 NIO

2013

¡Hola! Panamá

Grupo CERCA

Monthly

11.000

5,5 USD

2013

¡Hola! Perú

El Comercio

Weekly

14.000

15 PEN

2010

¡Hola! República Dominicana

Mercado

Monthly

20.000

200 DOP

2012

¡Hola! Venezuela

El Nacional

Fortnightly

30.000

70 VEF

2012

Read the article in Spanish