Hot New Read: Latino Magazines

Yvette Doss is many things: young, articulate, a University of California at Berkeley graduate with a passion for green nail polish and vintage clothing. She's also Hispanic. And that, she says, makes her virtually invisible in the mainstream media.

"I felt completely left out by everything on the newsstand," Ms. Doss explains. "There are magazines for every niche - older Jewish women, young African-American men, people who sail - but nothing for us."

Her solution: Frontera, a quarterly magazine for young English-speaking Latinos that covers a lively blend of music, politics, and personalities. After a year of producing the magazine from home, Doss has moved operations into a small two-room office high above the multiethnic bustle of Koreatown in Los Angeles.

Frontera is already breaking even - and that success encapsulates the hottest development in the magazine industry: a boom in Latino publishing. With Hispanics poised to become America's biggest minority group, advertisers and the media are waking up to that market's El Dorado potential."It's a wonder it's taken so long," says Jay Melvin, director of international marketing at the Magazine Publisher's Association. "I think the demographics are starting to wake people up."

With more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, the demographics are enough to make any marketer drool. The 27-million strong community wields $228 billion in spending power, is the fastest-growing group in the US according to the most recent Census report, and has a growing college-educated middle class whose median age is just 24.

Publishers have rushed to serve this group in the last five years with new English-language periodicals like Si, Hispanic, Latina, Moderno, Urban, and Que Linda. Time Warner joined the fray in October with the launch of People en Espagol, which is expected to reach a readership of 1 million. "The time is certainly right," says People vice president Jeremy Koch, "[there's] a void in the burgeoning Hispanic marketplace."

The size of that void became clear with the death of Mexican-American singer Selena at the hands of a fan. People was the only national weekly to report substantially on the tragedy and the issue sold out overnight. A subsequent tribute issue sold nearly 1 million copies.

Those sales numbers don't surprise Christie Haubegger, the publisher of Latina, a glossy women's bi-monthly she launched seven months ago with the backing of black publishing house Essence Communications.

"Our reader response has been extremely emotional," she says, adding that newsstand and advertising sales have catapulted Latina a year ahead of projections. "For the first time, readers were able to see a Hispanic woman on a magazine cover who looks as good as Claudia Schiffer, if not better."

Like Doss, Ms. Haubegger was motivated by the fact that she couldn't identify with magazines out there. "I never saw anyone who looked like me, there wasn't much guidance on issues I'm disproportionately affected by, and I have a completely different set of celebrities," she says, listing salsa singer Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, an actress playing Selena in an upcoming movie.

For reader Anna Lisa Raya, a New York-based editor, the bilingual Latina is a "godsend." "Some publishers think the only way to reach the Latin market is to do it all in Spanish. That's not true at all," she says. "There are a lot of us who don't speak Spanish, but whose issues are part of the Hispanic community."

The community's diversity is slowly being recognized. "There's a growing awareness among publishers that it's not monolithic," says Ivette Achong of media analysis firm Latin Reports. "There are language, cultural, and multi-generational issues." She says the future of Hispanic-oriented publishing lies in targeting different groups in the market and it is already happening.

Magazines like Frontera have built on the differences separating their readers from their parents. Frontera's name, which means "border" in Spanish, refers to the fact that its readers straddle borders of all kinds.

At Latina's glossier Broadway offices in New York, Haubegger describes her typical reader the same way: "She's somebody who's trying to update her mother's recipes," Haubegger says, "without losing the flavor."

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