‘Californian’ Launches Weekly For English-Speaking Latinos

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

With the launch Friday of the magazine-style weekly M?s, The Bakersfield Californian becomes the second daily publishing a product for a demographic that sooner or later will reach a significant size in newspaper markets around the United States: English-speaking Hispanics.

Last year, on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo, the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News launched Conexi?n, a paid weekly tabloid with editorial content that’s about 60% English and 40% Spanish.

M?s (“More” in English) is also being launched on a Mexican holiday, Independence Day, but it’s taking a slightly different approach to the same market of Hispanics who can trace their roots in the U.S. back at least two or three generations.

M?s will have a magazine look with a glossy cover. It will be home-delivered to 20,000 targeted Hispanic households, with another 5,000 copies available free in racks. Content will be mostly English, with one section using words from the English/Spanish idiom known as Spanglish.

Mary Lou Fulton, the Californian’s vice president for audience development, said in an interview Thursday that M?s targets an underserved segment of the Hispanics who make up fully 42% of Kern County’s population.

“A lot of the Latinos are first-generation, but we have many who have been in the county for generations and who may or may not speak Spanish,” she said. In fact, Fulton notes, the paper’s research shows two-thirds of the county’s Hispanics speak only English or are bilingual. “A lot of time people think Hispanics are a single market, when in fact they are just as diverse as any other group, and they need to be thought of that way,” she said.

The Californian discovered another fact about this slice of the Hispanic population: Only 24% of these households subscribe to the newspaper.

Creating a new product also fits in the Californian’s thinking about its whole market, Fulton said.

“We have a very aggressive and ambitious strategy for new products at the Californian because we have a real belief that it’s going to take a diverse group of new products to meet the needs of our diverse audience,” she said.

Back in January, the Californian formed Mercado Nuevo as an independent subsidiary to create products for these underserved audiences. Fulton is also president of the subsidiary.

“We think the best chance for [new product] success is to give them independence and give them a new home,” she said, speaking from Mercado Nuevo’s downtown offices down a block away from the daily newspaper.

M?s is just the first publication to come out of Mercado Nuevo, which is also home to the paper’s Craigslist-like online community site Bakotopia. Later this fall, the company will launch a Spanish-language real estate book, Fulton said.

There will be a little cross-promotion between M?s and the daily newspaper, Fulton said, but because there is little overlap in the audience, the weekly is being introduced with a campaign heavy on radio, event marketing, movie theatre ads, and concert sponsorships.

“We want this to be the home for our Latino community,” M?s Managing Editor Olivia Garcia, a third-generation Latina who grew up in Bakersfield, said in a statement. “Our mission is to shine a spotlight on Latinos, our culture, our style and issues we care about. We’re excited to be pioneers as we bring this publication to life.”

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