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.
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.”
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.”