Hello, Generation Ñ

Spanish-publishing leaders from the book, magazine, and online sectors gathered at New York University’s Center for Publishing on June 26 for a day of digesting demographics and peering at new strategies to reach the sorely untapped Hispanic market in both English and Spanish. Things got off on a suitably controversial note as Mindy Figueroa, VP of Santiago and Valdes Solutions, dismissed the official figure of 35.3 million Hispanics, claiming that undercounts, population growth, and the inclusion of Puerto Rico bump that figure to 40.5 million people, who will bear a glorious buying power of $630 billion by 2002. Glossing over the apparently negligible medley of variations between one version of Spanish and another, she focused on the more compelling marketing angle: the Hispanic middle class is burgeoning. Market niches of pinpointable lifestyles, defined by age and length of duration living in the US, await the marketer keen to surf the Latin wave. But beware “Los Babys,” “Generation Ñ,” and the “New Latina,” who comprise the 70% of the Hispanic population under 39 years of age.

The self-appointed Latina Linda Goodman, President of distributor The Bilingual Publications Co., jumped in to report a breakthrough in librarians’ attitudes toward Spanish books. Those librarians who formerly snickered, “We don’t have that [Spanish] problem yet,” are now desperately stocking their shelves with Spanish books. Of dire need are works on diseases, citizenship, real estate, and ESL, among other topics. “Publish these books and you will succeed,” she intoned.

Then Christy Haubegger, calling herself “the only childless Latina left in the country,” regaled the lunchtime crowd with tales of single-handedly launching Latina magazine. Now with a paid circulation of 203,000, Latina reaches an English-preference, Hispanic market of women who allegedly consume 17.5% of the nation’s lipstick. And Elizabeth Bradley, magazine and marketing consultant, described the transformation of People en Español (with a circulation of 317,000) from a translation of People to a unique product with 90% distinct editorial. The key lies in supplying Hispanic-oriented content, instead of simply translating existing material.

On that note, Lisa Alpert, Publishing Director of Random House Español, lamented the lack of marketing and PR funding allocated to Spanish books, despite the enthusiastic response of Spanish media book reviewers to jaded publicists. (They are reported to cry, “Publish more Spanish books! We’ll buy them!”) The future of Hispanic markets appears to lie simply in providing more “in-culture” books in Spanish and English backed by marketing. And for an ironic socio-cultural postscript: apart from a general market two-thirds underserved, jails and correctional services librarians are said to be clamoring for material too.