Online Presence Still Stumps Hispanic Print Publishers

“Build it and they will come” is not necessarily the kind of simple strategy that can work for Hispanic print publishers as we can see from the sampling of print-owned sites now offered online. The challenge we faced almost ten years ago when I was general manager at el diario/La Prensa of monetizing a newspaper website is really not that different today but the urgency to put something online remains the same. Moreso, if the continued rehashing of newspaper content online (with a sprinkling of video streaming thrown in) is any indication of what the industry has to offer, then Hispanic publishers are still very far from figuring out how to best use their presence on the web.

This was made clear with the recent introduction of Impremedia’s Impre.com. By combining all of their content under one online umbrella and giving it a name that really brings no immediate meaning to mind one has to wonder if the Hispanic print industry is truly that confused or if perhaps Impremedia just happens to know something we don’t. Is bigger in this case better? Only time will tell. But I doubt it.

I am not trying to knock Impremedia’s efforts, in fact kudos to them for at least investing in their products and making an effort to raise the bar. More publishers should be as ambitious and perhaps this new entry will have a ripple effect and force others to join the fray. But the question, still remains: How do we monetize a newspaper’s online presence? Or a magazine’s for that matter?

At issue are several factors, foremost being that if content has value, then why give it away? As newspaper circulation continues to suffer, how smart is it to post that same content (often as much as a day late) online? And why bother redirecting your readers to your site in the first place unless there is a direct benefit to do so? Language is also an issue. When it seems that most research points to a younger, English dominant Latino as the core, online user, how will these predominantly Spanish language newspaper sites create the kind of appeal that already seems to exist in Yahoo, AOL Latino and others such portals? Also noticeable is that many of these same younger, Latino online users often don’t read newspapers, much less in Spanish. The challenge — and cost involved — is daunting. Sure, we can talk millions of impressions, so called unique visitors and razzle dazzle, but what about duplication, cannibalization and all those other questions that so often arise?

In panels I have moderated, classes and seminars I’ve run and countless informal meetings with publishers, with Latino online users and with newspaper readers the discussion rarely offers a solution. At the AHAA conference in San Antonio this past week a print panel consisting of John Paton (CEO, Impremedia), Filiberto Fernandez (Publisher, Casa y Hogar) and Jaime Gamboa (President, Tu Ciudad) discussed the value of print in a manner that seemed more like a basic 101-type sales presentation than an informative session aimed at the advertsiing agency’s top players. That the audience consisted of more media sales reps than agency delegates, made the experience more bothersome to me. At this stage in the game, we really should be talking cutting edge online startegies, not basic justification for advertisers to use a traditional media such as print. When a student from the University of Arizona appeared to stump the panelists with low statistics on Spanish dominant online usage, the clarity of the online dilemna became much too strong to ignore. But in all fairness to the panel, does anyone have an answer?

At the end of day, Hispanic advertising revenue, which for print is already limited, is still the light at the end of the tunnel. Companies like Hispanic Digital Network (HDN), which sell based on packaged overall impressions have at least figured out how to build business. But as publishers continue to package online, use online as added value, or simply sell it on the unsubstantiated hope that somehow these sites have a brand value, the industry will continue to limp along. I would love to see an example of a Hispanic print company actually getting it right. If you know such a company (in any language) let us know.

The forum is open.

By Roger Gonzalez
President, Alliance Media & Communications
Hispanic Media Consulting and Multicultural Marketing

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