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Latina Magazine Finds Success With 'New Mainstream'

The publication broke out of its ethnic marketing niche to attract advertisers and reach fashion-savvy young women.

May 03, 2000|LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At a time when many magazines are struggling, one is creating a buzz with its pipeline to trend-setting young women.

Its average reader is a health-conscious 29-year-old with at least one credit card and a household income of $46,000. When it comes to beauty and fashion, she spends more than your average American woman.

And she happens to be Latina.

New York-based Latina magazine, which unveiled its tagline "the new mainstream" last year, is getting its message across like never before. This month's issue boasts 80 ad pages, up from 40 last May. The total for 1999: 600 ad pages, expected to top 800 this year.

Ad Week recently named the bilingual publication No. 3 in its "10 under 40" list of America's hottest magazines targeting young adults, calling it a "hot prospect for media buyers." And Advertising Age named it one of the nation's five best magazines.

Subscriptions--which account for 80% of circulation--are at a quarter of a million and growing, with more than a fourth of them in California.

Most revealing is the lineup of new high-end advertisers, many of whom have never tried to reach Latina consumers. Chanel, Ann Taylor, Bisou Bisou, Bebe, Emporio Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren, XOXO, Liz Claiborne Cosmetics' fragrances, and the list goes on.

The breakthrough has come with a lot of persistence and education from Christy Haubegger, Latina's founder, president and publisher.

"We were hearing, 'We don't do Hispanic advertising,' " she said on a recent trip to Los Angeles. "[I would say] 'Your target is female humans, right? Well, we have some of those.' "

Simply put, Haubegger said, Latinas are no longer a niche to market to. They are the American consumer, and in many ways, even more so.

Consider this: Although Latinas comprise 11% of American women, they consume 16% of the lipstick and 17.5% of lip liner. The same patterns hold true for hair products--Latinas are 34% more likely than non-Latinas to use styling gel at least four times weekly.

"You've seen the architecture of our hair," joked Haubegger. "We don't achieve that with just one product."

And when young Latinas in a focus group were faced with the statement "My appearance is an important reflection of who I am," they were twice as likely to agree as non-Latinas. Two-thirds of Latinas, compared with fewer than four in 10 Americans overall, felt the need to keep up with new styles.

So Haubegger decided it was time to change the pitch. Instead of being an "ethnic book," she would position her baby as an "enthusiast publication" akin to Self, for women who are more trend-savvy, more appearance-conscious and more likely to spend on hair and cosmetic products than your average consumer.

By all accounts it is working.

Cosmetics and fragrances represent about 40% of the magazine's ad business, with a strong showing from automotive, pharmaceuticals and, increasingly, upscale fashion.

The magazine has boosted readership in part by treating subscribers as "members," inviting them to local book signings and make-overs. A recent makeup day at Macy's in the Glendale Galleria resulted in a 50% boost in cosmetics sales for the day, Haubegger said.

"Cosmetic advertising is down overall, but for us it's up," she said. "These companies have to find the disproportionate users."

The magazine's unusual profitability--many magazines operate in the red--has allowed it to improve coverage. Its in-depth celebrity spreads are now accompanied by investigative journalism and first-person tales from entrepreneurs and other successful Latina professionals.

Coming this fall: a book by Latina magazine and Disney's Hyperion Press on Latina beauty. The book will contain tips on makeup, hair, clothing and skin care for the wide range of looks in the Latina community.

Said Haubegger: "I always say, 'Thank God for Ricky Martin.' The interest in the market has exploded in the last year. . . . All of a sudden there's not enough supply for the demand for information on the Latin market."

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