February 23, 2007

ImpreMedia Expands Spanish-Language Media Empire

By Elena Shore
New America Media

In what observers of the Spanish-language press see as a positive development in the coverage of Hispanic communities in New York, ImpreMedia announced this week that it is buying the Spanish-language newspaper Hoy New York, and its weekend publication, Fin de Semana, from the Tribune Company. The move essentially doubles ImpreMedia’s reach in New York, the second-largest Hispanic market in the country.

ImpreMedia, a Spanish-language newspaper and online news publisher, already owns New York’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario La Prensa, and weekend paper El Diario Contigo.

“This is one of our most important announcements to date,” John Paton, Chairman and CEO of ImpreMedia, said in a statement on Monday. Together, El Diario La Prensa and Hoy New York reach just under half a million readers in New York.

“I like the idea of Hoy New York being under a partly Latino-owned company,” says José Luis Benavides, journalism professor at California State University, Northridge. “The Lozano family (publisher of La Opinión and co-founders of ImpreMedia) has a long history in Spanish-language journalism.”

“Hoy New York is a great addition to ImpreMedia in terms of the coverage of Hispanic issues,” says Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, editor of El Diario La Prensa. “Impre-Media has a track record of paying close attention to Spanish-speaking communities and highly valuing community journalism.”

“That’s one of the things that makes us different,” says Paton of ImpreMedia. “We encourage our newspapers to be more local and to understand their communities.”

ImpreMedia’s acquisition of Hoy New York represents “the inverse of corporatization” of media, says Vourvoulias-Bush, as the newspaper’s ownership changes from a large media conglomerate to an independent Spanish-language network known for its community journalism.

“This shows the vitality of ethnic markets as opposed to the mainstream market,” Vour-voulias-Bush says. “This may be part of a trend away from media conglomerates, toward a community- and local-based enterprise in journalism.”

Observers say ImpreMedia’s model of journalism has proven to be more successful than that of the Tribune.

“What you see is a failure of the general approach of what Tribune wanted to do (with Hoy) — creating a national newspaper,” Benavides says. “Two thirds of Hoy Los Angeles was produced in New York. It made sense from the business point of view, but journalistically that model failed.”

“Unfortunately,” Benavides adds, “other media seem to be going this way: NBC Tele-mundo’s news hub in Dallas-Fort Worth is exactly that.” NBC Telemundo announced last year its plan to shift Telemundo newscasts from a local to a regionalized news format produced out of its national headquarters. “I think that model is doomed,” Benavides says.

Tribune’s new strategy is to make the Los Angeles and Chicago editions of Hoy “more closely aligned” with the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, respectively, according to a statement released Monday by the company. Tribune will also continue to publish the Spanish-language weekly El Sentinel in Orlando and South Florida.

That shift in strategy is a major one, Benavides says. In Los Angeles, he says, Hoy and the Los Angeles Times have long operated in two separate buildings, with no relationship between the two news teams. When they work together, using the resources of the English-language paper and the expertise of the Spanish-language paper, Benavides says they can produce content that neither team is capable of producing alone.

Editorial collaboration between mainstream media and in-language press may become more commonplace, as many English-language newspapers across the country find themselves shrinking while the Spanish-language press experiences rapid growth. In New York, the combined circulation of El Diario La Prensa and Hoy New York has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

New York’s El Diario La Prensa is the fastest growing paid major daily newspaper in the United States, according to the ABC Fas-Fax released in September 2006.

Vourvoulias-Bush says there are three reasons for the paper’s growth: its high-quality editorial coverage of New York’s diverse Hispanic communities, which are under-served by English-language media; the growing Hispanic audience as a result of immigration and demographic changes in New York; and El Diario La Prensa’s expansion of its multimedia Web site.

“The Spanish-language market is doing much better than the English-language market,” Vourvoulias-Bush says. “Its circulation is growing; we’re just growing faster.” Last year alone, El Diario La Prensa’s paid circulation increased by six percent and its readership rose by 25 percent.

El Diario La Prensa and Hoy New York will remain separate newspapers, Paton says. The paid, premium El Diario La Prensa and the free, transit paper Hoy target distinct markets, he says.

The Tribune Company acquired Hoy in 2000 when it bought the Times-Mirror Company. Tribune newspapers Hoy and Newsday were involved in a scandal over inflated circulation numbers. When the scandal broke, Hoy revised its circulation numbers downward. In Jan. 2006, the newspaper switched from a paid to a free daily.

Hoy New York represents ImpreMedia’s entrance into free daily newspapers, which constitute a growing share of the Spanish-language newspaper market, according to Paton. ImpreMedia also owns La Opinión in Los Angeles, El Mensajero in San Francisco, La Prensa in Orlando and Tampa, and La Raza in Chicago. It also owns the weekly entertainment publication La Vibra and the bilingual Vista Magazine.

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