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Spanish Papers Square Off

March 02, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

Officials of La Opinion, the nation's largest Spanish-language newspaper, on Monday declared war on its newest competitor, telling the publisher of a new daily called Hoy to "bring it on."

Hoy's Los Angeles edition premiered Monday. It is published by Chicago-based Tribune Co., which publishes editions of Hoy in New York and Chicago and also owns the Los Angeles Times.

La Opinion counterattacked by launching an ad campaign it valued at more than $750,000 that will appear on billboards, radio, bus benches and TV.

The first ad in the campaign, created by La Agencia de Orci & Asociados of Los Angeles, shows a white Border Patrol agent with words in Spanish that might describe him, such as "official," "employee," "traitor," "lifesaver" and "obstacle." "It is a simple picture with complex overtones," said La Opinion Publisher Monica Lozano.

The ad is tied to an eight-part series of articles on border crossings that began Monday and will take "an in-depth look at people who cross illegally, people who are there to defend the border -- people on both sides of the issues," Lozano said. The ad campaign, she said, "connects to the strength of our editorial content, which is based on our knowledge of, and relationship with, our community."

The ads will be supplemented with a business-to-business campaign of testimonials from executives.

"Today, we tell the Tribune Co. to bring it on," Lozano said in a statement. "We have no intention of ceding our preferred status with our readers or advertisers to anyone."

Tribune was once part-owner of La Opinion, acquiring a 50% stake in 2000 when it bought Times Mirror Co. With Tribune focusing its Spanish-language strategy on Hoy, Lozano family members said last year that they would buy back control of the paper the family founded in 1926. In January, the Lozanos joined forces with the owners of El Diario/La Prensa in New York and announced plans to start a nationwide chain of Spanish-language newspapers through a company called ImpreMedia.

La Opinion has a circulation of 124,692 and publishes seven days a week in a broadsheet format. Audited circulation figures for the Los Angeles edition of Hoy, a tabloid published Monday through Friday, won't be released for six months.

Newspaper circulation wars are mostly a thing of the past in English-language publishing, said industry analyst John Morton. In cities where more than one traditional newspaper survives, publishers generally target different groups.

Competition to reach Spanish-speaking populations in New York and Miami -- and now Los Angeles -- has made Spanish-language newspaper publishing "a battleground," Morton said.

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