Hispanic market evolves in recession

Advertising spending is down, the media industry is suffering, and Hispanic print outlets seem to be taking a real beating.

Advertising spending is down, the media industry is suffering, and Hispanic print outlets seem to be taking a real beating. After years of growth and diversity, Hispanic publications in major US markets are beginning to fade. Several major magazines and newspapers have folded or downsized in the past few months, and it seems every week another outlet bids farewell. It's an unfortunate situation for many reasons. And if you are a Hispanic PR pro, it's most likely having a direct effect on your rate of success and client's satisfaction.

The situation began last year, when several Spanish-language outlets surprisingly ceased publication. Some small, weekly papers were the first to lose ad dollars, and others were newer, targeted outlets that could not convince advertisers that niche marketing was the way to go.

The English-language monthly Tu Ciudad shut down, and Batanga, a bilingual music magazine catering to a younger Hispanic demographic, closed its print edition. Bilingual and English-language outlets quickly lost financial support with Hispanic-marked ad dollars often going to support Spanish-language media.

The Hispanic sports industry was hit especially hard. Of the big three Hispanic sports magazines, only two remain. ESPN Deportes La Revista ended its relationship with its publishing licensee, Televisa Publishing, leaving its future unclear, and Sports Illustrated Latino went on hiatus. Fox Sports en Español is now the one magazine to pitch with new product launches and news of sports. Then, at the end of 2008, the decade-old pioneer of Spanish-language media in New York, Hoy, closed.

That's when it sunk in. We would now have to be extra crafty, creative, and strategic if we were going to continue to secure quality Hispanic media coverage for our clients, let alone rival last year's results. The loss of outlets created more challenges when pitching media, yet yielded fewer results – not the best climate for kicking off the New Year.

So how are we managing the situation? By doing exactly what is necessary. We are offering custom pitches to specific outlets, not mass distributing stories. We are giving exclusives, even at the risk of impressions. We are designing news stories that are compelling and relevant, and we are working with clients to ensure that every pitch is newsworthy.

There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. Hispanic media and Hispanic consumers are becoming more active online. The Internet seemed to be a hard sell in the Hispanic community for some time, but that has changed as many news organizations find it a more cost-efficient way to maintain presence.

We're also redefining the role of the Hispanic firm as we work with our clients to engage consumers through more experiential and interactive methods. Community and grassroots initiatives and social marketing have become the core of many of our campaigns. Media coverage is a piece of a greater plan now, not the central component.

Melissa Karp Smith is EVP of RL Public Relations/Sportivo.

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