The National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) gathers in Miami at the Atton Brickell Hotel on November 5 - 7 for their annual convention. Nationwide Spanish-only and bilingual newspapers plus newspapers from Mexico, Latin America, Spain, Puerto Rico publish newspapers deemed as Hispanic print media. The NAHP organization is 35 years old and every year members learn that while dailies may be struggling for survival, weekly community and niche newspapers are thriving. Hundreds of newspapers make up some of the membership. These publications like Negocios Now in Chicago, Hoy Delaware, Al Dia in Philadelphia, La Conexion, North Carolina, El Sol, Miami, La Voz, Denver, La Prensa, Denver, El Latino, San Diego and more continue to succeed in attracting advertisers attempting to reach the Latino market. The Latino market’s buying power exceed a trillion dollars. The Latino Market continues to expand in reach and spending power.
According to La Voz Bilingüe in Denver, Publisher Pauline Rivera adds, “It is a matter of time before these weekly newspapers become a source for mainstream readership. Savvy advertisers like Macy’s, Comcast, Walmart, and others know that these publications are their source to reach the Latino market.”
While major newspapers across the country struggle for readership and revenue in the age of digital media and short attention spans, niche newspapers continue to thrive. Long gone are the newspaper wars between the Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News and in their place, Coloradans are increasingly looking to smaller community papers as primary sources of news.
For the last several years, the National Newspaper Association (NNA) has commissioned studies to track the trends in newspaper readership across the country. Many of those surveys have been completed by the University of Missouri in collaboration with their well-known journalism school. In 2010, Missouri and the NNA combined efforts to show both the decline in big city papers and the sustainability, even thriving nature of more specialized newspapers. The survey found that some 7,500 small newspapers are circulated in the United States. Over 75 percent of those surveyed said they read their small, local paper every week. Nearly all readers pay for those papers.
A follow up survey in 2013 by the university indicated that 71 percent of respondents read a community newspaper at least once a week. The circulation of those papers are from just a few hundred to just under 15,000. 96 percent of those readers pay for the newspaper, showing their willingness to pay for news content. 83 percent said their family relies on the paper for news and information. 47 percent would choose a local newspaper for their primary source of news compared to 24 percent relying on television. As might be expected, there is an age gap in readership – older residents are much more likely to read any newspaper than their younger counterparts.
Newspapers like La Voz have distinct advantages and particular challenges not faced by the big dailies. Community papers like La Voz receive revenue from advertisers that require content providers to specialize in niche markets – in this case, ability to reach the Latino community in Colorado and New Mexico in both English and Spanish – something a mass marketing approach cannot achieve.
When La Voz entered the Colorado Springs market to meet the needs of southern Colorado’s bilingual community, publisher Pauline Rivera told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “We are providing information to a society that has changed over time. In order to survive in this country as a newspaper we need both languages. If you are not the community, then you don’t know. You can’t come and say that these are the stories that we think the community needs and wants.” Indeed, Rivera purchased the newspaper, in part, out of frustration that the Latino community and especially the bilingual community’s news needs were not being met.
A look at La Voz advertisers gives hints as to their success. When the HIV treatment drug, Triumeq wanted to reach Spanish speaking population in the western United States, they took out a four-page ad in the Denver-based paper. Salud Family Health Centers also reach their target population through La Voz, in Spanish, for gynelogical and obstetric services. Macy’s department store advertised during September and October in La Voz in celebration of Latino Heritage Month, featuring actress Gaby Espino. Xfinity followed suit, advertising for cable television services with a photo of screaming fútbol fans, a familiar image throughout Latino communities in the Americas. Finally, Peoples Bank put out an advertisement for home loan services, making clear they are friendly to Spanish-speaking communities. Each of these marketing efforts are tied specifically to the Latino community. Even when featured in Spanish which may not be understood by the English-only readership La Voz serves, the ads are perceived as Latino-friendly.
For other community papers, like The Greater Park Hill News, published in one of Denver’s historic neighborhoods since 1961, almost all advertising is neighborhood driven. Schools, home services like cleaning and remodeling, and numerous real estate agents dominate advertising space. News and ads irrelevant to anyone outside the neighborhood are seen as vital to residents living in Park Hill. A zoning variance on 18th Avenue, two local boys invited to a lacrosse all-star showcase, and programming for Park Hill Library are illustrative of how neighborhood-centric the content can be. In many cases, the successful formula has been to cover topics no one else does, bringing readers back for more. Those that write for niche papers are usually members of that community, offering insight that outsiders cannot.
Besides ethnic boundaries for smaller newspapers, geography plays a major role in the formation of smaller, community papers. Rural papers have sustained production by covering microscopic topics like obituaries and high school sports.
Forty-nine percent of rural residents surveyed in the Missouri study indicated they had never read a newspaper online, bucking the trend for larger cities moving toward digital platforms for news.
One hallmark of niche papers is their willingness to take bold political stances, early movers for candidate and issue endorsements that have a disproportionate effect on their community. Many feature editorials that are of great importance to their communities but not in the larger region. Niche newspapers are more likely to be independently owned than major dailies. Sixty percent of community papers are owned by chains compared to 80 percent for the dailies. More independence provides latitude in choosing which topics to cover.
There are disadvantages to being small and independent. Neighborhood or ethnic-focused papers are faced with the challenge of less-than-daily circulation while keeping news relevant. The NNA reported earlier this year that 70 percent of community newspapers use syndicated content in their papers, allowing them to include notable columnists and in-depth nationally relevant articles. From last year, the percentage using syndicated content has remained steady.
The top ten bilingual newspapers vary in circulation size from top rated El Nuevo Dia from Puerto Rico with 200,000 to Diario Las Americas out of Miami with around 50,000. Nine of the top ten Spanish-English newspapers have associated web sites where content is featured in both languages. Non-profit, the Alliance for Audited Media lists ten large newspapers in the state of Colorado and over 100 smaller newspapers, listing two bilingual newspapers including La Voz Bilingüe.