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Full-Court Press

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Lured by the rapidly rising influence and affluence of Hispanic executives, a growing number of business magazines are aggressively ramping up efforts to reach the market. Early this year, at least a dozen new and existing magazines were targeting sectors of the Hispanic professional community, and experts predict even more to emerge in the months ahead.

This flurry of publishing activity began last year when advertising revenue for Hispanic magazines surged 16 percent over the previous year, according to HispanicMagazineMonitor. "It's a very attractive market niche," says Carlos Pelay, president of the Media Economic Group, which publishes the HispanicMagazineMonitor. "Look at the auto advertising. You're starting to see Volvo, BMW, and more luxury brands advertising in these magazines."

From Hispanic Network and Latin Trade to Hispanic Magazine and LATINA Style, the race is intensifying to attract the interest of Hispanic professionals largely ignored by the mainstream media. In September, industry giant VNU, parent of Billboard, the Hollywood Reporter, and 47 business-to-business magazines, launched its monthly Marketing y Medios targeting the Hispanic advertising community. In November, Grupo Televisa purchased a 51 percent stake in Hispanic Publishing Group, publisher of Hispanic Magazine and Hispanic Trends. And in the last year, several media companies have had "serious talks" about buying Miami-based Zoom Media Group, publisher of Poder, which targets affluent executives, according to Zoom editor-in-chief Isaac Lee.

Venezuela-based Manduca Media, parent company of Diario El Universal, took a majority stake in Zoom in 2003 and reorganized the company, hoping to take advantage of the growing interest in Hispanic leaders. Zoom launched the national edition of Poder in September of that year. Published in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, it targets what the company calls the "U.S. Hispanic business elite." But it is hardly alone in trying to woo high-end executives. Latin Trade expanded last year, announcing it was the "only pan-regional business magazine published in Spanish, Portuguese, and English," offering advertisers "unparalleled opportunities to reach our premium audience." Meanwhile, Latino Leaders bills itself as "the national magazine of the successful American Latino."

While general consumer magazines typically are supported by both subscription and advertising revenue, business magazines rely more heavily on advertising, living or dying by the allure of the audience they can deliver to advertisers. For example, Poder distributed 86,000 copies in such major markets as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Houston, but only about 6,400 copies were actually purchased, according to the July 2004 audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. "It would be very hard for us to move further than the 86,000 because of the target we are trying to reach," says Zoom's Mr. Lee, claiming that the average Poder household earns more than $200,000 a year. In fact, according to HispanicMagazineMonitor, the Miami-only version of Poder, with a circulation of only 22,500 copies, generated more revenue than the national edition, thanks primarily to its ability to lure advertising for high-end real estate in the Miami area.

Experts say the varying circulation numbers and claims offered by the growing number of titles in the market can be confusing. Not all business magazines are audited, "so you're not really sure of the exact circulation," says J.R. Gonzales, president of JRG Communications in Austin and former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). The key to the growth of Hispanic publishing "is to maintain a certain degree of independence and journalistic integrity," Mr. Gonzales says. "We see some publications out there are nothing but fluff pieces for advertisers and friends."

The USHCC is a partner in Hispanic Trends, which uses the group's mailing list to boost circulation. In exchange, the chamber receives 6 percent of the magazine's ad revenue, which was estimated to be $844,290 in 2004, according to the HispanicMagazineMonitor. Chamber representatives also make up half of the editorial board of Hispanic Trends, a relationship that has raised questions about the magazine's independence. But Mr. Gonzales says board members only review lists of suggested stories.

Sam Verdeja, publisher of Hispanic Trends, joined with three partners to buy Hispanic Publishing from founder Fred Estrada in February 2003, taking control of Hispanic Magazine and Hispanic Trends. Mr. Estrada kept Vista Magazine and formed a new company, Vista Media. At the time of the sale, Hispanic Trends reported circulation of about 50,000. In November, when Televisa bought its 51 percent stake, Hispanic Trends reported a circulation of 100,000, with plans to increase publishing frequency from six issues in 2004 to eight in 2005. Circulation growth stemmed from direct-marketing efforts and increased distribution to chamber members, Mr. Verdeja says. Hispanic Trends also reported a 109 percent increase in advertising revenue in 2004, to $844,290 from $402,242 in 2003, according to HispanicMagazineMonitor.

Industry insiders say that with Hispanic Magazine as the real prize (with a reported circulation of 280,000 and revenues of $7.6 million a year), a variety of major players considered investing in Hispanic Publishing, including Time Inc. and Condé Nast, creating what one observer described as "an aggressive auction" for the company. "It's a strong platform to build up for them," says Kim Mac Leod, managing director of DeSilva & Phillips, a media-focused investment bank. "The company has a foothold in both camps [consumer and business-to-business], and a lot of publishers don't have that foothold."

Ultimately, Editorial Televisa reportedly paid $4 million for its 51 percent stake in Hispanic Publishing, a figure Mr. Verdeja declined to confirm. At the time of the sale, Mr. Verdeja still owed Mr. Estrada, the previous owner, $4 million, a debt which has been paid off since the Televisa investment, Mr. Verdeja says. Mr. Estrada did not return a phone call seeking comment, and Mr. Verdeja declined to discuss any changes in the company since the sale.

But the purchase pushed Editorial Televisa into a sizable role in the U.S. Hispanic publishing market, and allowed Hispanic Magazine and Hispanic Trends to tap Televisa's distribution and advertising networks. Televisa's move into the market also signals that more big players are looking to partner or consolidate to build a presence in the growing market. Poder beefed up both its editorial and marketing by signing a partnership agreement with The Economist in which each issue includes several articles from The Economist, as well as a column by Michael Reid, The Economist's Latin American editor.

Ultimately, experts say that despite the number of longtime publications in the market – Hispanic Business magazine, for example, was started in 1979 – the business magazine sector targeting Hispanics is relatively young. Of the hundreds of Hispanic magazines tracked by Latino Print Network, 51 percent were started in the 1990s and 29 percent after 2000.

Few doubt that more big players are likely to enter the market, either through acquisitions or launching new titles. "If you don't expect other competition to come in, you're living in a fantasy," says Mr. Verdeja. "Whoever better satisfies the needs of readers and advertisers will stay around. Like any other business, it will be survival of the fittest."

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