How Legacy Publications Are Targeting Latino Audiences

Print media expands with Spanish-language articles and podcasts

The New York Times on top of a stack of newspapers
The New York Times and other top titles are offering a diverse perspective on a variety of topics. Getty Images

For decades, Spanish-language media outlets in the United States have kept Latinos informed. Papers like El Diario La Prensa in New York, La Raza in Chicago and La Opinión in Los Angeles remain trusted news sources for Spanish speakers.

As legacy news organizations like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times expand their coverage with Spanish-language articles, they’re providing news and content to distinct demographics like U.S.-based Latinos. Actively and intentionally researching, building out signature experiences and creating content with this rapidly growing demographic in mind is starting to yield impactful results. 

The Washington Post announced in late June plans to release a twice weekly Spanish-language podcast hosted by Colombian journalist Juan Carlos Iragorri and to publish pieces, both original and translated, in Spanish under the opinion section. Given the range of issues that impact Spanish speakers and modes of accessing content, Post Opinión will house diverse perspectives primarily from across Latin America, but also Spain, the U.S. and elsewhere. The podcast is also the first of its kind from a major legacy organization.  

Cultural competency

Former editorial director of The New York Times en Español Elias Lopez will oversee Post Opinión, an opportunity he intends to use to tap new and seasoned journalists to discuss the concerns in their respective Latin American countries.

“Because of the cultural affinity, because of all the issues that sort of thread throughout the region—like migration and corruption, governance, climate change—we feel that we’re uniquely positioned to dedicate editorial resources to elevate that debate and add more perspectives,” said Lopez.

This multilingual, multicultural, multiethnic demographic is comprised of various nationalities, generations, racial and gender identities and socioeconomic backgrounds, making it a challenge to lump everyone into a monolithic target market. 

“A deep understanding of Hispanics is critical to effectively engage and connect with them,” said Karina Dobarro, svp, multicultural and international brand strategy at media services agency Horizon Media. “Brands that acknowledge the differences while tapping into the similarities can successfully market to this growing segment.” 

A closer look at American Latinos, particularly those who are U.S.-born millennials and Gen Z, reveals they prefer to consume news online and from English-language news sources. 

Fidel Martinez, audience engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times, shared his initial skepticism on the WaPo’s announcement via Twitter.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that media outlets will eventually get it right,” Martinez said. “This country is becoming more and more Latinx … so especially [for] legacy organizations, grabbing new audiences is going to be key to their survival and their prosperity down the line.”

Lopez noted that this is a “natural step” for the publication. While he believes the Post’s content will resonate with an international, Spanish-speaking audience, he also views their offerings as “supplemental” content for a local media diet. 

Audio storytelling

The media diet of Latinos born outside of the U.S., who tend to be older, is predominately Spanish-language news sources. With 89% saying they get at least some of their news in Spanish, they also tend to consume news from legacy corporations like Univision and Telemundo. 

While there are over 750,000 podcasts, a small portion are in Spanish, and of those, few focus on news. While some see an impenetrable market, others see a void turned opportunity. 

“We couldn’t find content in Spanish that we really wanted to consume, and we were finding ourselves as bilingual people consuming media in English,” said Carolina Guerrero, co-founder and executive director of Radio Ambulante, a pioneering Spanish-language narrative podcast. 

Founded in 2012, the NPR-distributed podcast Radio Ambulante joined English/Spanglish-podcasts like Alt.Latino, which began in 2010, and the longest-running Latino-focused program on U.S. public media, Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa. 

“Spanish is a bit behind on that end for this format specifically,” said Guerrero, referring to the lack of Spanish-language podcasts. While she admits there have been challenges like startup costs and obtaining advertisers, an 87% growth over the last year shows an engaged audience.

Whether it’s through translating specific pieces like The New York Times, which christened its Spanish-language site, or sharing new content where one’s audience engages most, such as WhatsApp for Radio Ambulante, the industry is getting one step closer with each attempt. 

“It’s a big responsibility when you’re trying to expand internationally and when you’re trying to attract new audiences to consider the diversity and nuances and range of perspectives you can include,” said Lopez. 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@janelmwrites Janel Martinez is a Bronx-based writer and founder of award-winning site Ain't I Latina?, an online destination celebrating Afro-Latinas.