By Frank McCoy
Homero Luna, 27, is a happy man. Last October, El Tiempo, his four-year-old Spanish- language weekly tabloid, became a two-section broadsheet newspaper. Mr. Luna started the Dalton, Georgia, paper – which prints 28,000 copies – to reach the 35,000 Hispanics who work in northwest Georgia's carpet and poultry industries. Eight years ago, the former college newsletter editor left Mexico and took a job in a local poultry factory. During the next three years, he says, he planned the launch of El Tiempo because "Latino people are working night and day [here], and it's their only way to get the news in their language."
Mr. Luna's success – in a non-traditional Hispanic market like Dalton – reflects the Hispanic population's national expansion and its appetite for daily, weekly, and monthly reading material. The National Hispanic Media Directory reports that from 1970 to 2000, the number of papers it tracks grew from 232 to 543, their total circulation rose from 955,000 to 14.1 million, and ad sales revenue ballooned from $14 million to $533 million. By con-trast, the Newspaper Association of Amer-ica reports that from 1970 through 1999, total U.S. morning and evening newspaper cir-culation fell from 62 million to 56 million and the percentage of daily adult news-paper readers dropped by 21 percent.
Corporations have discovered local print as a way to tap the estimated $282.5 billion in buying power of the nation's 33 million Hispanics. To facilitate regional and national ad buys, the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) has helped in the formation of Latino Print Network, a group purchasing program with more than 200 member publications. Kirk Whisler, a newspaper industry veteran who heads the program, says typical advertisers come from the consumer goods, hotel, bank, and government sectors.
"A lot of times they ask for the top five or top 10 markets," says Mr. Whisler. "Other times, they specifically look to reach the smaller markets. In some of these areas, Spanish-language print is the only vehicle for reaching [Hispanics]."
Mr. Whisler cites four criteria that affect buys in the print medium: publication quality, circulation, readership research, and ease of purchase. He says local Hispanic print has achieved good quality, with many publications having been in business for 15 years or more. During the last decade years, a push for circulation audits has produced solid numbers on specific Hispanic newspapers. Research represents "one of the weaker points," Mr. Whisler concedes, although 88 publications this year conducted readership studies. And the Latino Print Network's goal is to make it easy to buy comprehensive coverage. "When someone wants to buy Spanish-language TV, they can make two phone calls and reach 88 percent of the audience. With five phone calls, they can reach 80 percent of the Spanish-language radio stations," he says. "We're trying to accomplish the same for print."
Retailers have long utilized the strengths of print advertising, such as coupons and brand identification. Yet as recently as five years ago, Kmart Corp. didn't even target the Hispanic market. Today, 500,000 circulars carrying the Kmart logo flow through Spanish-language newspapers each week. Such campaigns lend credence to the assertion of MediaWeek Editor William F. Gloede, in a report last year on minority media, that an ad "in the right lan-guage (both linguistically and culturally) sells more product among minority audiences than a general ad in a mainstream outlet."
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