Hispanic Newspapers Defy National Newspaper Trend

Memphis, TN – With newspaper advertising and circulation declining nationwide, there is a bright spot. Nicole Erwin reports.

The acceleration of the decline of the nation's newspaper industry has yet to hit its peak it seems. At least 120 newspapers have filed bankruptcy since 2008 and more than 21,000 jobs lost. Yet, in the midst of this hardship, one portion of the industry has kept its head above the rest, the Hispanic Newspapers.

David Cortinas, Secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Publications says readership is up.

"It's unbelievable the numbers how they continue to grow and not just in pockets but all over the United States. And we have seen small numbers in the decrease in sales, just like anybody else across the board, but we haven't seen any newspapers lose their companies because of lack of advertisement."

Despite the poor economy much of the loss of newspaper sales is attributed to online access. Cortinas says computer sales are growing within the Hispanic populations as well, but the hard copy, the tangibility of print on paper is preferred.

"I think that many are less able to have a computer in their home to get their news, like most in the country get their news online. But I believe that many Hispanics back home in Mexico and Ecuador and Central and South America read newspapers."

The hardest hit in the industry though has been the English daily papers. Cortinas says 90 percent of the Hispanic publications are weekly. As of right Hispanics spend around $800 billion dollars a year on consumer packaged goods. That is expected to grow to $1.2 trillion by 2010. This is significant to the papers because Cortinas says it is there Hispanic families look to make their purchasing decisions.

"Seventy-nine percent of the Hispanic families are influenced by Spanish-speaking advertising. So, it is important that they get advertised in Spanish because they comprehend what is begin read to them where in English they may get only 50 or 30 percent."

The Hispanic community in Memphis is relatively large but kept under the radar. Latino Memphis estimates there are more than 100,000 Hispanics that call Memphis home. Sidney Mendelson is the owner of the city's bilingual newspaper, La Prensa Latina. He is a white male that speaks little to no Spanish, he is a part of the other 20 percent of non-Hispanic newspaper owners in the U.S. Mendelson worked in the media for years and noticed the increase demand for Hispanic advertising and services and an opportunity to not only profit but help an undeserved demographic. Mendelson says the paper works closely with the University of Memphis and this year for the first time the school held an open house for Hispanic high school students and their parents.

"Now here is a major issue right here of where a major university is now taking the positive steps of helping get the information out. Many of these people would never even know how to go to the university to register and what if these families are illegal, what do they do, do their kids still have the opportunity to go to college, well certainly they do. You might say it's a bit late, why didn't they do this earlier, I can't answer that question, but they are certainly holding their heads up bright right now."

John Malmo is a market and advertising expert. He says readership is increasing for a couple of reasons, first there are more Hispanics and second there are more Hispanic papers in the market with wider distribution, making it easer to attain them. He says the English speaking market was saturated with other forms of media, like television and the Internet causing a gradual decline; whereas the Spanish speaking market, started from scratch.

"If or when the Hispanic population levels off, and or when there is growth in additional Hispanic media to compete with Hispanic newspapers, readership growth in Hispanic newspapers will peak and being to decline." Malmo says in the meantime. "It is possible that Hispanic newspapers could out perform English language newspapers, but it is unlikely due to the difference in the socio-economic levels between Hispanic and English language readers in the market."

David Cortinas agrees but says it will be a while. Even though 200 new papers have popped up in the last year, advertising is still down across the board.