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Women's Dia

Magazines Aimed at Latinas Are Blossoming on the Newsstands

April 30, 1998|DIANE SEO

The latest women's magazines offer a familiar assortment of recipes, celebrity dish and relationship tips, but with a twist. Targeting Latina readers, the publications explore such topics as how to make empanadas, why Julio Iglesias won't marry and what it's like to be a childless Latina in her 30s.

In the volatile world of magazines, where publishers constantly seek new niches to tap, Latinas have arrived as the latest target group. Over the last two years, dozens of Latino magazines have sprung forth or increased their publishing schedules, kindled by figures showing Latinos to be the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, and with rising disposable incomes.

There are now about 200 Latino magazines, industry analysts say. But it's those backed by major publishers that have stirred the most interest among advertisers and readers, spurring newcomers to the market.

Three months ago, Time Warner Inc. took its quarterly People en Espanol monthly; last summer, Essence Communications' bilingual Latina went from bimonthly to monthly; and last month, Conde Nast and Ideas Publishing Group introduced Glamour en Espanol, a Spanish-language edition of the popular women's magazine.

"When you start seeing the Time Warners of the world getting a payout from this market, others will definitely jump in," said Nancy Pendas-Smith, president of Conill Advertising, a Latino ad agency in New York. "After years of very little opportunities, it's wonderful to be able to pick and choose magazines to advertise in."

The magazines--written in English, Spanish or both--cover a variety of subjects, from sports to cars to business. But so far publishers have been most interested in women. Along with Latina, People en Espanol and Glamour en Espanol, titles such as Moderna, Latina Style, Estylo and Latina Bride have come forth from publishing houses and entrepreneurs, offering beauty, fashion and celebrity coverage aimed at middle-to-upper-class readers.

"The Latina consumer group is not only growing, but we know that Latinas are major decision-makers in a household, influencing everything from what kind of toothpaste is bought to what type of car is purchased," said Anna Maria Arias, publisher of Washington-based Latina Style, which launched in 1995 and appears five times a year.

This trend is particularly evident in the Los Angeles area, the largest U.S. Latino market. About 6.5 million adult Latinas now live in the United States, with 1.1 million of those in the Los Angeles area. The Latino count as a whole has reached 30 million, about 11% of the total U.S. population, according to census data.

But what most strikes advertisers are projections that by 2050, one in four Americans will be Latino, and that Latinos already have purchasing power of $348 billion a year, an increase of 66% since 1990.

"The Hispanic population is like a tidal wave coming at us," said Michael Bevan, Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. advertising manager.

Many advertisers, including Toyota, are expanding their budgets for Latino publications, but others remain lukewarm to the market. Publishers say the biggest misconceptions advertisers have are that Latinos don't read and that they don't have much money to spend.

Because of such views, the Latino magazine market is still a tough go, with grass-roots publications struggling to grow and some magazines, such as Los Angeles-based Si, folding after a few issues.

"Selling ads is still more of an education job than a sales job," said Christy Haubegger, publisher of Latina. "Someone selling for Mademoiselle magazine doesn't have to convince advertisers that the readership uses shampoo. But we're still fighting misperceptions."

Latina is noted for its first-rate look and friendly editorial content, which informs readers about such things as diseases most common among Latinas, the makeup best suited for them, and successful Latinos in Hollywood.

Haubegger, a 29-year-old Mexican American from Houston, decided to launch Latina while attending Stanford Law School. She saw a need for a magazine geared toward educated Latinas in their 20s and 30s who grew up in the United States but who live between two cultures and languages.

She knocked on doors of venture capitalists and took the idea to Edward Lewis, founder of Essence magazine, who agreed to form a joint venture between his Essence Communications and Haubegger's company, Alegre Enterprises.

The first issue of Latina hit the newsstands in June 1996. By the end of that year, the magazine had gone from quarterly to bimonthly. Last summer's decision to go monthly--an important milestone--came amid steady increases in advertising and circulation.

This year, Latina guarantees advertisers it will sell 175,000 copies. That ad rate base will go up to 250,000 at the end of the year, Haubegger said. (Almost a third of Latina's subscribers live in California.)

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