Upstarts: Start-up Mambos to Beat of Booming Market
BY Marc Ballon
With the Latino population in this country on the rise, can an English-language magazine for Latinas make it?
COMPANY: Latina Style Inc.
HEADQUARTERS: Washington, D.C.
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Latina lifestyle magazine
FOUNDER: Anna Maria Arias, 37, former managing editor of Hispanic Magazine
CAPITAL: $225,000 loan from relatives; $140,000 in personal savings
KEY COMPETITION: New Latina lifestyle magazines Moderna and Latina
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES: Clearly defined market; Latina ownership
Anna Maria Arias had had enough. Tired of the media's portrayal of Latinas as sequined sexpots and ghetto gangstas, she decided to fight stereotypes with ink, paper, and imagination. She launched a magazine.
In 1994, Arias, a former managing editor of Hispanic Magazine, founded Latina Style, an English-language lifestyle magazine for the Latina professional. "There was nothing on the newsstands that addressed my concerns," she says. "Now there is."
Latinas have embraced the magazine's spicy mix of Hispanic cultural, business, and entertainment news. Promotional support from prominent Hispanic organizations, including free distribution, has won Latina Style credibility. That has translated into profits. This year the magazine, which has a controlled circulation of 150,000, is projected to earn $100,000 on revenues of $1 million.
Arias chose her market well. Latina Style was the first magazine of its kind to target the nation's estimated 3 million educated, affluent Latina professionals. Arias figured that advertisers would leap at the chance to reach that growing but largely neglected group. She was right. Companies like Nissan and Nordstrom were persuaded to advertise before a prototype even existed. "It lets Latina women know that we want their business," says Dierdre Francis-Dickerson, manager of strategic relations for Nissan, which will spend roughly $42,000 advertising in the magazine this coming year.
The growth of the U.S. Hispanic population--and advertisers' recent discovery of this booming market--should help keep Latina Style in the black. Hispanics, who number nearly 29 million, account for more than 10% of the U.S. population and could make up 25% by 2050, according to the Census Bureau. Advertisers spent an estimated $100 million in Latino magazines in 1996, 271% more than in 1990, according to Kirk Whisler, publisher of The 1997 National Hispanic Media Directory.
Not surprisingly, a slew of publications has mamboed into the fray. Latina, a slick monthly backed by Essence, and Moderna, an attractive quarterly, compete directly against Latina Style. Other newcomers include Time Warner's People en EspaÑol and Newsweek en EspaÑol.
"Latina and People en EspaÑol may have Hispanic names and Hispanic journalists, but they're like the Taco Bells of the Hispanic media," says Alfredo J. Estrada, publisher of Moderna and Hispanic Magazine. "Latina Style and Moderna are the real thing. Readers can tell the difference."
What Latina Style lacks is paid subscribers. Only 10% of its circulation is paid, far below the 37% average for Latino glossies. "To me a magazine can survive only if it has an audience willing to pay for it," says magazine expert Samir Husni, professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi.
But even if paid subscribers fail to materialize, Arias believes Latina Style will thrive. After all, she notes, hers is the only 100% Latina-owned national magazine, an authentic voice.
For information on Hispanic publications, call Kirk Whisler, publisher and coauthor of The 1997 National Hispanic Media Directory, at 619-434-7474. For statistical data on America's growing Hispanic population, contact the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20233, 301-457-3030. For information on Latina businesses, contact the Business Women Leadership Foundation, 1700 K St. NW, Suite 1005, Washington, DC 20006; 202-822-5010.
LATINA STYLE, Anna Maria Arias, 955 L'Enfant Plaza North SW, Suite P110, Washington, DC 20024; 202-479-2539; fax, 202-479-0654 23