NEW YORK Tinkering with a family business that's been thriving for eight decades is fraught with potential disasters. But Monica Lozano, publisher and CEO of Los Angeles' La Opinión since 2004, has something in her back pocket that's guided her through the newspaper's successful expansion into new sections, magazines, Web sites and the inclusion of some English-language content: the paper's original mission, which has been handed down through three generations of Lozanos.
"I know I carry on a tradition that was established by my grandfather 82 years ago," says Lozano, who is Marketing y Medios' All-Star in Print. "That mission was to serve the community, which, in that case, was primarily an immigrant population, primarily from Mexico, that needed a source of information about their issues and reflected their reality. Our community today is much more diverse and our scope of influence is much broader, but the core value stays intact."
That mission has remained unchanged even with La Opinión's merger three years ago with New York's El Diario La Prensa to form ImpreMedia, a partnership formed just after the Lozano family bought back the Tribune Co.'s ownership stake in La Opinión.
Lozano, 50, who also serves as svp for ImpreMedia, has been in charge of La Opinión during a difficult time for the newspaper industry, one in which circulation figures have tumbled and ad revenue has migrated to digital media.
La Opinión has seen its daily audience grow 8 percent since last year, to 520,000 readers, according to Scarborough Research, even as its circulation has slipped. Advertising revenue for the 12 months through March 2007 was flat compared to the year-earlier period at $52 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
But more significant has been La Opinión's growing reputation under Lozano's leadership as a laboratory for editorial and advertising strategies for ImpreMedia. The Spanish-language newspaper chain has 10 publications in six key markets that serve 32.3 million Hispanics, including Vista magazine and the newly acquired daily paper Hoy in New York.
"What she has done is bring in new talent to the paper, new reporters and a substantive number of female reporters," says José Luis Benavides, a journalism professor at California State University, Northridge. "If La Opinión puts in more resources [into its news gathering operation], this paper could become the most important Spanish-language daily newspaper in the world, not only Los Angeles."
La Opinión launched weekly magazine La Vibra in 2001 to reach young Latinos who don't often pick up newspapers. The magazine has expanded to four other markets and is distributed in ImpreMedia papers, as well as in coffee shops and on college campuses as a standalone.
In October 2005, the paper launched tabloid La Opinión Contigo (La Opinión With You), which is geared to Latino families who aspire for more: higher education, a bigger home and perhaps their own business. It's distributed to 260,000 homes in selected ZIP codes, giving advertisers the opportunity to target specific neighborhoods. The Contigo concept is now being adapted by other ImpreMedia publications.
"All of us [at ImpreMedia] benefit not only from having Monica run our largest property but also in advising us where to go with our editorial," says John Paton, chairman and CEO of ImpreMedia. "Monica is the guiding light for all our editors."
In February, La Opinión revamped some of its editorial content to create an entertainment and lifestyle Sunday supplement. La Opinión also has been dabbling with English-language content, beginning nearly two years ago with a weekly section called Vive Mejor, where issues such as healthcare are addressed in both Spanish and English to make it accessible to every member of a family.
It soon will begin publishing some of its editorials in English and Lozano is overseeing the introduction of English onto some of ImpreMedia's Web sites, including LaOpinion.com, which in June had 1.5 million unique visitors, according to WebTrends.
Lozano also has been solidifying partnerships with outside companies such as ESPN and Univision. La Opinión has an onsite camera for its reporters to appear on Univision's L.A. affiliate, KMEX Channel 34.
She has overseen La Opinión's influential experimentation with advertising, offering clients unique positioning such as front-page and u-shape ads, wraps and custom publishing, essentially anything that's effective for an advertiser that doesn't compromise the paper's editorial integrity.
"People know the brand. They trust the brand," Lozano says. "That comes from having upheld our primary mission over all these years. We'll do everything we can to hold onto that and deepen the relationship with our audiences."