American Renaissance

Growth in Papers Largely in Spanish

Several Cities have Two; Hoy to Debut in L.A.

Robert Manor, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 25

There are fewer newspapers to pick from these days — unless you speak Spanish.

While the number of English-language daily newspapers has declined by roughly 17 percent since 1970, the number of Spanish-language or bilingual dailies has more than quadrupled, from eight to about three dozen, according to the Latino Print Network.

That increased competition will become evident again in March when Hoy will be published in Los Angeles, where it will compete with the 77-year-old La Opinion. Hoy is published by Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune.

Many of the Spanish-language papers sport tiny circulation figures and enjoy a lifespan measured in months, but some dailies succeed and become long-lived institutions. New York’s El Diario-La Prensa, for example, has been published for 90 years.

La Opinion recently said it would merge with El Diario-La Prensa and buy other Spanish-language newspapers, creating a national chain of publications.

“I think there is a lot of room to grow,” said Danielle Gonzales, vice president of Tapestry, a firm that helps companies buy and place multicultural advertising. “It’s sort of the birth of a new [media] category, and I think it can get a lot bigger.”

Spanish-language dailies hope to take advantage of the increasing number of Hispanics living in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 37 million Hispanics in the country, or about 13 percent of the population, up from 9 million, or about 4 percent of the population, in 1970. The bureau says that by 2025 there will be 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., or about 17 percent of the population.

While the number of English-language dailies has been falling, so has the percentage of people who read a paper every day. Publishers are interested in the Spanish-language market because it is one of the few areas of print journalism showing growth.

Since being introduced in New York in 1998, Hoy has gone from zero circulation to more than 90,000, according to Louis Sito, publisher of Hoy. Chicago’s edition of Hoy, introduced last year, now sells nearly 20,000 papers a day.

Sito has ink in his veins. A native of Havana, he began his career as an apprentice printer at the Chicago Sun-Times. Thirty-nine years later, he is building a newspaper chain.

So why the same name for newspapers in New York, Chicago and, soon, Los Angeles?

“We are trying to create a national brand that is recognized widely,” Sito said. “We do this one city at a time.”

Although the papers have the same name and look similar, they run news that is relevant to their communities.

“They are different in that they will have a very strong local component,” Sito said. “It’s the same format with different content.”

New York and Los Angeles aren’t the only places where Spanish-language newspapers are colliding. In Miami, the Miami Herald publishes El Nuevo Herald in competition with the independent Diario Las Americas. In Texas, the Dallas Morning News publishes Al Dia while the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram publishes Diario La Estrella.

Thomas Oliver, interim executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications, says multiple papers can survive in the same market because they are a bargain for advertisers.

An English-language paper might charge $50 for a three-line classified ad, he said, but “you can buy a classified ad in a Hispanic newspaper for $10. The ad rate is very accessible to local advertisers.”

Spanish-language newspapers that are published by large English-language newspaper chains are able to exploit economies of scale. They can use their corporate sponsor to get a better deal on paper. Some share office space with the English-language paper. And sometimes the Spanish-language paper can pick up advertising from the English-language paper.

Broadcast media set the stage

The growth in Spanish-language daily newspapers has a precedent.

“It is mirroring what happened in the broadcasting industry over the past 20 years,” said Jose Luis Benavides, assistant professor of journalism at California State University at Northridge. “In 1985, there were 17 Spanish-language [television] stations. By 2002, there were 252.”

Benavides said the growth of Spanish-language papers is helping new immigrants adapt to U.S. society.

“The Spanish-language media performs a very important role in making its audience become Americanized, to be American,” he said.

Industry observers say the content of Spanish-language papers differs from that of English-language papers, but not radically.

They are likely to offer more coverage of soccer than the sports section of an English-language paper, and immigration issues are given more play. Spanish-language papers also are likely to carry more community news, and those communities can be quite diverse.

“There are a whole bunch of people under the umbrella of the Spanish-speaking market who have very little in common except that they speak Spanish,” said Rich Gordon, associate professor of journalism at Northwestern University.

Cubans have different interests than Mexicans, Gordon said, and Puerto Ricans have different interests than Peruvians.

Many readers are bilingual

Spanish-language daily newspapers face an obstacle that English-language newspapers don’t.

“Second — and third-generation Hispanics tend to be bilingual and English-language dominant,” said Hazel Reinhardt, a newspaper consultant.

She said that as Hispanics are assimilated, they are likely to choose English-language papers over those in Spanish.

But another newspaper consultant, John Morton, said that as long as many people emigrate from Spanish-speaking countries, the Spanish-language market will remain strong.

“Immigration is growing faster than assimilation,” he said. That means there is going to be a place for Spanish-language newspapers, he added.