With Three Spanish-Language Papers, Depth of L.A.'s Hispanic Ads Doubted

By DARRELL SATZMAN
Staff Reporter

Despite rosy predictions for double-digit growth in Spanish-language advertising in 2004, the debut of two Hispanic newspapers in Los Angeles is raising questions about whether there will be enough business to go around.

"The level of (Hispanic) newspaper advertising has not been increasing in any visible amount," said Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief executive of Hispanic advertising agency Enlace Communications Inc. "We are seeing industrywide growth. But most of that is in broadcasting and direct marketing."

For years, La Opinion has enjoyed the security of being the only Spanish-language daily newspaper in the nation's largest Hispanic market. But those days are gone.

In March, Tribune Co. will introduce Hoy, the latest version of a daily Spanish-language paper that the company has rolled out in Chicago and New York.

This past Saturday, Daily News of Los Angeles owner MediaNews Group Inc. was scheduled to begin circulating the first issue of Impacto USA, a weekly Spanish-language newspaper that is being delivered free to 250,000 Hispanic households in the county.

In anticipation of those moves, La Opinion announced earlier this month that it had formed a partnership with El Diario/La Prensa, New York's oldest Spanish-language daily, as part of a plan to launch a network of newspapers around the country.

But first La Opinion will have to take care of business closer to home.

"It's going to be a battle, there is no doubt about it," said Jose Lozano, the former publisher of La Opinion and vice chairman of the new company, Impremedia. "Our task is going to be to ensure advertisers who have been with us a long time that La Opinion represents the best value because of our history and our relationship with the community."

La Opinion, with circulation of about 125,000, has gained few readers in recent years. In New York, where the tabloid Hoy was launched in 1999, the Tribune newspaper surpassed El Diario/La Prensa's circulation in three years.

Tom Pellicane, senior vice president of advertising and marketing for Hoy, said the L.A. edition would have about 70 employees.

"If you look at the market from a broadcast perspective it's a very crowded field," he said. "That's not the case with print. Los Angeles only has one daily (Spanish-language) paper. We think our model fits."

Hoy's big advantage, one that Impacto also hopes to exploit, is its sales relationships with its more established sister English-language papers under the same corporate umbrella.

Sofia Escamilla, media director for ad agency La Agencia de Orci & Associados, said Hoy's reader-friendly layout and relatively modest pricing has made the paper a tough competitor in New York and Chicago. "We're excited about it because it brings more competition to the category," she said.

Still, Escamilla acknowledged that competition would be fierce for Hispanic advertising dollars in Los Angeles, especially with Impacto added to the market.

Xavier Campos, director of sales for Impacto, agreed that competition would be stiff but said the market has matured to the point where it can support several publications.

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