People en Espanol Boosts Circulation After Redesign

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People en Espanol is enjoying the afterglow of an editorial redesign in a market harsh to most publishers.


The 11-times-a-year Hispanic celebrity magazine from Time Inc. managed the unique feat of upping circulation, advertising sales and subscription price for 2004.


"Our readers have embraced us as an extension of their culture," said Jose Perez, consumer marketing director at People en Espanol, New York.


The August 2003 issue, for instance, was the best-selling newsstand issue since May 1999 -- 170,000 copies, up 19 percent from the August 2002 magazine.


That issue's sales also were notably higher than the typical one-third accounted for by newsstand in the average audited paid circulation of 407,679 copies monthly. In 1998, the rate base was a mere 200,000.


The August issue's coup was an exclusive story, a critical edge in the saturated celebrity media market. Mexican singer Luis Miguel and Cuban-born Univision television news anchor Myrka Dellanos announced their love affair in that issue.


Such articles reflect a return to a formula that was abandoned for some time: celebrity journalism, human interest and fashion and beauty.


Much of the credit for the magazine's rejuvenation is attributed to Richard Perez-Feria, who joined People en Espanol in May as editor. Others responsible were recently departed publisher Lisa Quiroz and associate publisher Diane Malloy as well as the marketing and support staff.


Before Perez-Feria took over, the magazine did run articles on Hispanic celebrity gossip, all unique to People en Espanol. But it also devoted pages to cooking and health. It even offered financial advice.


"One of the first things Richard did was to really realign the editorial according to the People brand," Perez said.


It is the fare People en Espanol readers like. The audience is 80 percent female with a median age of 35, mostly Spanish speakers and readers. Many are foreign born, often from Mexico. And they are highly aspirational.


"Even the third-generation Latinos, who everybody thinks speak only English, are really returning to their roots, and they want to know more about their culture," Perez said. "We call this reverse acculturation."


The thirst for information has emboldened People en Espanol to take a step few publishers dare. It raised the basic rate of a year's subscription to $19.97, up 33 percent from $14.97 in 2003. To ease the pain, it increased frequency to 11 times a year from 10.


Similarly, the rate base rose 6.25 percent this year to 425,000 copies, putting more distance with direct rivals. Reader's Digest's Selecciones reported monthly circulation of 328,365 for the first half of 2003, and Latina 263,165. Others like Christina and the bimonthly Vanidades are further out.


Also, among subscribers younger than 35, 76 percent subscribe to just one Spanish-language title, People en Espanol, it is claimed.


It helps that the magazine is written in Colombian Spanish, the idiom that is readable across most Spanish-speaking markets in this hemisphere.


People en Espanol benefits to a large extent from the market penetration afforded by Time Distribution Service, which places People magazine nationwide.


Courtesy of that distribution, People en Espanol is available in supermarkets, bookstores and Wal-Mart. It also is sold where many Hispanic-Americans shop -- mom-and-pop bodegas, Spanish pharmacies, bakeries and wholesalers as well as ethnic supermarkets like Navarro's and Sedanos.


In addition, using census information to identify ZIP codes, the publisher targets businesses frequented by Hispanics. So the title reaches doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms, beauty parlors and lawyers' offices.


Perez is clear that this is not just dumping copies.


"There's good bulk and there's bad bulk," he said.


The top markets for circulation are the heavily Hispanic-populated Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago and Puerto Rico, particularly San Juan. Ninety-nine percent of distribution is in the United States. Mexico displays some copies on newsstands.


People en Espanol has the largest subscriber file of any Spanish-language magazine in the United States. It owes this status to direct mail, third-party agents, donor gifts, telemarketing -- research shows Hispanics are less likely to sign up for the no-call list -- and partnerships.


"We rent select segments of our files," Perez said. "Some names are not released."


Online, the magazine sells subscriptions via Amazon. It also has a deal with AOL Latino, part of the Time Warner family. People en Espanol ads and content run on that site. AOL Latino receives ad space in the magazine.


"Partnerships are becoming a major part of our source mix," Perez said. "We quadrupled our estimated subs for AOL Latino in 2003 by really focusing our efforts on AOL Latino."


Direct mail is the chief tactic for subscription acquisition. People en Espanol claims one of the highest response rates in all of Time Inc. Vehicles used include insert cards and renewals.


Creative and offers target Spanish speakers through qualified lists of direct response buyers and name-acquisition programs. Retention initiatives focus on consumers by country of origin, highlighting celebrities, stories and themes with appeal to specific audiences.


Performance shows that lists of music and book clubs that target Hispanics work well for People en Espanol.


What do not work well for prospecting are compiled lists. In a way, it is a function of how list firms gather their data. Many compiled lists are composed from warranty card data. But few warranty cards submitted by consumers are in Spanish. So it is hard to find a good compiled list.


Other Hispanic lists to avoid are those driven by last names, Perez said.


"We're constantly testing new lists because one of the challenges for marketers in this particular universe are surname-driven," Perez said. "We've found that those names do not work for us. Just because a name ends in a vowel doesn't mean they read or speak in Espanol."


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