THE INDUSTRY AT A GLANCE
NUMBER OF OUTLETS
We identified 624 Latino news media outlets in the U.S., including Puerto Rico. (See our section on Puerto Rican media.) If we subtract Puerto Rico, the number is 558.
The two big players, Univision and Telemundo, have a combined total of 136 TV stations out of the 181 stations we identified. Univision owns and operates 65 stations, along with the 26 stations of UniMás, a sister network owned by the same corporation that carries Univision programming. Telemundo, owned by Comcast through NBC Universal, owns and operates 45 stations. We identified 49 local TV stations not owned by either company.
We found 244 newspapers and 32 magazines. All are print publications, independently owned and with small newsrooms or no newsrooms at all. Many don’t produce original content.
The largest newspaper companies serving Latino audiences are ImpreMedia, a network of two dailies and two periodicals serving New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Longwood, Florida; Mundo Hispánico, an Atlanta-based regional network of one local newspaper and several digital publications; and the 22 Spanish-language newspapers owned by English-language newspaper companies. (See the full list in the Appendix.)
We also identified 87 digital-only publications, most of them websites with small or no newsrooms. And our research turned up 33 podcasts and two newsletters — again, all with small or no newsrooms.
The U.S. has hundreds of Spanish-language radio stations, but the majority do not produce news content and are not included in this report. We identified only 37 radio stations that produce news content for Latino communities; most are small and owned by Latino community members.
The industry’s few big players — the largest of which are the TV giants Univision and Telemundo — are owned by non-Latino corporations or private-equity funds. The medium-size newspapers are owned mostly by national and regional Anglo-American media companies. Latinxs own most of the small, independent outlets.
Univision, the largest media company serving the Latino population, is the oldest Spanish-only TV outlet and the first Spanish-language TV network in the U.S. It is owned by a private equity consortium led by the Saban Capital Group, which paid over $13 billion for the company in 2007 and has been trying to sell it at a profit for the past decade. (The last offer received, according to a Univision executive, was for $16 billion; the owners passed, he said, because they “are focused on a higher number.”)
Founded in Texas (under a different name) by a Mexican immigrant in 1955, Univision has long been tied to Televisa, the largest media conglomerate in Mexico, owned by the Azcárraga family. The family has always wanted to own the company outright, but the Federal Communication Commission forbids foreign ownership of broadcast media in the U.S. “To avoid FCC rules limiting the percentage of stations owned by foreign investors, Azcárraga entered partnerships with station owners throughout the United States who were already U.S. citizens,” wrote Jessica Retis, a professor and researcher who has extensively studied the U.S. Spanish-language media, in her most recent report, Hispanic Media Today.
Univision has had several U.S. non-Latino owners, including Hallmark.
The Saban Capital Group bought the network from the Cisneros Group, a Florida-based media group originally from Venezuela. Today, the Azcárragas own about 30 percent of Univision. The company has an agreement with Televisa that requires Univision to buy content (mostly telenovelas) from the Mexican conglomerate at a cost of $300 million yearly.
For a long time, as a Univision former executive told us, the network’s only audience strategy was to offer Mexican content to U.S. Latinxs: Whatever worked in Mexico, it was assumed, worked for U.S. Latinxs as well. The U.S. Latino population was then much smaller than today. (Only around 6 percent of the country’s inhabitants were Latino in 1980.) And a majority of Univision’s viewership then was made up of Mexican immigrants.
But telenovelas do not appeal to today’s younger U.S. Latinxs. “For many years that formula worked,” said an executive at Univision, “until the industry started having to compete with Netflix, Hulu and other on-demand production content.” In recent years, Univision’s rival, Telemundo, has been gaining ground with series that are more culturally relevant to U.S. Latinxs.
Since at least 2014, Univision’s consortium of investors has been attempting to go public in order to sell the company. For that reason, it sought to become more appealing to the bilingual, younger Latino market, and in 2016 purchased Gawker Media, a group of widely read English-language websites. But its attempts to become a publicly traded company failed.
In 2018, a consulting group was hired to restructure the company — again, in order to sell it. The result was a drastic cost-reduction process that ended in a leadership change, hundreds of layoffs, the sale of Gizmodo Media Group (formerly Gawker Media) for a fraction of its acquisition price, and the undoing of an ambitious and modernizing digital news operation (more on that in our Outstanding Innovation Models section).
Telemundo, the second-largest TV network, was also Latino founded. Angel Ramos, a Puerto Rican entrepreneur, started it as a local island station in the mid-50s. But since 1983, when he sold it to John Blair & Company, the network has been owned by non-Latino corporations. The telecommunications conglomerate Comcast is the current owner. In 2010 it took control of Telemundo when acquiring NBC, which had purchased Telemundo in 2001.
Under Comcast, Telemundo started beating Univision in prime-time ratings. And it has since expanded its network of local stations, acquiring three in the first half of 2019 alone and creating “duopolies”— joint news stations of NBC and Telemundo — in regions with large Latino populations, a strategy that has increased its bilingual news offerings.
Many other local TV stations also belong to non-Latino corporations. Spectrum owns NY1 Noticias in New York, for example, and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group owns Telemundo in Austin. There are exceptions: Los Angeles-based LATV, a private company that promotes itself as “the only remaining Latino-owned network in the Hispanic television space” and the Brooklyn-based Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (ITN), a public broadcasting station whose five-member board includes four Latino directors.
Newspapers and Websites
Newspaper ownerships fall into three broad categories: foreign-owned, independent and locally owned, and those owned by Anglo media companies.
ImpreMedia owns two of the oldest Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S.: El Diario La Prensa in New York and La Opinión in Los Angeles. Headquartered in Brooklyn, ImpreMedia is also the owner of the periodicals La Raza (Chicago) and La Prensa (Central Florida). All these publications have a long history as advocates of the communities they serve, and all have been struggling to survive in recent decades. They were merged in 2003 when John Paton, a media investor, created ImpreMedia.
In 2012, the company was sold to the owner of La Nación in Argentina, the newspaper of record in Buenos Aires. Company executives in Buenos Aires and Brooklyn say that ImpreMedia is self-sustaining, that is to say it incurs no operating costs for its mother company, which does not help fund it either. “This is a challenging business, but we are profitable,” said ImpreMedia’s CEO Iván Adaime.
ImpreMedia’s newsrooms have seen wave after wave of layoffs in the past years, and its print publications have dramatically lost readership. The newsrooms, said an editor interviewed for this report, experience “a process of constant reduction.” La Opinión, for example, went from a newsroom of more than 100 employees 20 years ago to a current newsroom staff of 15.
These reductions have had a huge impact on content. Owing to a lack of resources, La Opinión stopped producing the investigative accountability reporting that was its trademark in the past. These publications have also lost influence, company executives say. In the past, for example, whenever the President of Mexico visited Los Angeles, he would schedule a visit to La Opinión. In those days, the paper’s editor-in-chief would periodically meet with the leaders of Latinx communities: politicians, business people, diplomats and other influencers.
That is not the case anymore. The same can be said about El Diario La Prensa, which used to represent, in particular, the Puerto Rican community of New York City and was an important platform for its growing political influence.
Mundo Hispánico, founded in 1979 as Atlanta’s Spanish-language newspaper, was bought in 2004 by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, owned by the Cox Media Group, the Atlanta-based company that runs dozens of local print and digital publications across the country. Mundo Hispánico was sold in September 2018 to Mundo Hispano Digital Network, a tech- and Latino-oriented media company owned by former Georgia State Senator Sam Zamarripa and two entrepreneurs, Marcos González and René Alegría. Mundo Hispano Digital Networks defines itself as “part of a collective effort to foster emerging Hispanic media entrepreneurs around the country.” It publishes a newspaper for the Spanish-speaking community in Atlanta and a website that has national reach.
The 23 medium-size papers we identified as owned by Anglo newspaper companies are mostly Spanish-language sister publications of English-language papers in cities or metropolitan areas with a significant Latino population. For instance, El Nuevo Herald, owned by McClatchy, shares a newsroom with The Miami Herald. Al Día, a Spanish-language publication of The Dallas Morning News, is owned by the A.H. Belo Corporation. According to editors interviewed for this report, such Spanish-language publications typically receive significantly fewer resources and less attention from their owners than their English-language counterparts. Editors are often asked to translate content from the English publication into Spanish to fill the pages of the publications for the Latino readers but rarely get their own, original, content translated into English.
The prevailing ownership model for Latino newspapers, news magazines and web-only periodicals, according to our survey is independent, private Latino ownership. That seems to be the case for most of the smaller print publications (newspapers and magazines) we found.
Our survey and interviews found these common characteristics among such independent owners: They are immigrants from Latin America. They make little or no money from their outlets. And in many cases they use their incomes from other businesses or professions to sustain the publications. (We found a full-time musician, a used-car salesman, an immigration lawyer and an assistant teacher, along with a businessman who created a digital platform to help Latinxs file their taxes.)
Some of these publishers see their outlets as “passion projects.” Many use them to advocate for Latino immigrants. Most see themselves as a voice for their communities. But with very limited resources, they struggle to produce original content, resorting to newswire agencies and volunteer opinion columns from community members. In some cases, it can fall to just one person to attend events, report, write, edit, create a layout, sell ads and deliver the papers.
Hundreds of radio stations serve Latino communities across the U.S., most of them in Spanish. Most offer primarily music and religious content; only a few (we found 37) produce news content. Many of these stations are commercial and privately owned by five major radio groups, the largest of which is Univision.
Among radio stations that produce original news content, we found public models — Radio Bilingüe, a publicly owned network that owns and operates 13 FM non-commercial stations in California and the Southwest; and Latino Public Radio in Rhode Island — and community-run and cooperative rural stations. As Jessica Retis has explained in Hispanic Media Today, particularly in the case of radio:
. . . public and community media have played an especially important role in Hispanic activism against discrimination, racism, and exploitation. Similar to the trend of Latinx theater movements, Spanish-language and bilingual community radio projects were founded mainly in rural areas with a majority presence of Latinx workers and students.
Lastly, we found a few nonprofit outlets, including the podcasts Latino USA (in English) and Radio Ambulante (in Spanish), both distributed by National Public Radio. And we identified a cooperative-ownership model, Neta, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas (More on Radio Ambulante and Neta in our Outstanding Innovation Models section.)
The prevalent business model for Latino media is a reliance on advertising revenue, a traditional model that is in crisis.
The crisis reached Spanish-language media some years later than it reached English-language media, according to a 2011 study. It was only in that year that Spanish-language print publications felt the impact of the digital disruption. Although audiences had already started to decrease, ad spending was still growing until then. The numbers have since been steadily descending for both readership and ad revenue.
Those we interviewed for this report cite financial sustainability as their most important concern. Small print publications, including free newspapers that have served local communities for years, are struggling to get ads from the small community-owned businesses that traditionally supported them — in some cases, they told us, because these businesses don’t have the resources to sell ads aggressively.
At the same time, the transition to digital platforms, mostly websites, has been challenging, because ad money is not migrating to the publications’ online sites. Editors at medium-size digital Spanish-language publications complain that they are forced to adopt a click-bait strategy. Reporters complain that their performance is measured by their stories’ page view numbers, not by impact. And an editor who runs a specialized web-only publication told us that Spanish-language websites are at a disadvantage because of the bias of search engines, including Google, that under-index Spanish-language content in the U.S.
Many publications have two completely different audiences: one for their traditional print editions and another for their digital platforms. Such is the case for La Opinión, El Diario La Prensa and El Nuevo Herald. Their growing digital audiences tend to be international; their decreasing print audiences are local. Some companies have two newsrooms, creating specific content for each audience. ImpreMedia has its print newsrooms in New York and Los Angeles focusing on local audiences and local news. A separate, digital, newsroom focuses on national news and relies heavily on immigration coverage.
“There is space to grow only on the web,” said an ImpreMedia executive. “Our biggest challenge is that we have a business that is growing and developing and another that is in free fall.”
There is also a generational divide: Print audiences are, as everywhere else in the media industry, older than digital audiences. In the case of Latinxs, this creates an even deeper generational chasm because of the cultural differences between a shrinking, older, immigrant, Spanish-speaking population and a young, growing, U.S.-born, bilingual and bicultural population.
Asked what was their No. 1 need, most editors we interviewed answered “more resources.” Alfredo Carbajal, editor-in-chief of Al Día in Dallas, the Spanish-language daily of The Dallas Morning News newspaper, said his recommendation — for his company and the news media industry generally — would be to continue to invest in research that yields information about the changing nature of audiences.
“That goes hand-in-hand with platforms and technology,” he said. “News media and newspapers used to get research every year or so; change was slower. Now change is constant, faster-paced. If we make decisions based on fresher research, we are going to make better-informed decisions. That needs to be a priority now.”
Spanish-language TV, too, has been slow to adapt to the digital disruption. The business models for Univision and Telemundo are still heavily focused on traditional commercials within their programming. “TV is still the priority for the company,” said a senior digital editor at Univision. “We are not looking to innovate; we stay on the safe side because no other kind of ad sales works in the Spanish-language market.”
Univision’s total revenue for 2018 was more than $2.7 billion. Telemundo does not publicize its revenues, but according to The Wall Street Journal, the network “is on track to nearly double its net operating revenue since 2014 to $844 million this year , according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.” Still, although they are profitable, these broadcast outlets face the same generational challenge as newspapers do, with younger potential audiences consuming news (and sports and entertainment) from nontraditional platforms.
Innovative business models are still rare in the Latino news media industry, according to our research, but a few outstanding cases reveal a path to change in the industry. (For more on leading-edge outlets, see our Outstanding Innovation Models section.)
Remezcla, a platform for millennial Latinxs, receives more than 80 million visits yearly and a robust social media following. The outlet defines itself as a “digital publisher, creative agency and entertainment” enterprise. Its founders — Nuria Net, a journalist; Claire Frisbie, a digital content producer, and Andrew Herrera, who had financial expertise — used savings and family donations to launch Remezcla in 2006. It started as the kind of Latino culture-and-music blog that could be found on MySpace and other platforms at the time. In 2008, the partners received $100,000 from Microsoft Zune, then Microsoft’s music platform, to develop playlists and produce music events for the Latino market for the brand.
Remezcla soon expanded, becoming a network of Latino-culture websites and newsletters in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York and Phoenix. The two women left the company in 2009 (Frisbie) and 2010 (Net). Remezcla kept growing, both in reach among young Latinxs and financially. The company received an $11 million investment in 2017. Today, its partnerships with mass-market brands for event production is central to its business model.
We also identified a small number of nonprofit outlets, those sustained by grant funds, foundation support, donations, events or a combination of those. Futuro Media Group, the company founded by María Hinojosa, the anchor and executive producer of the English-language Latino USA podcast on National Public Radio, receives funding from foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donations. Radio Ambulante, the Spanish-language podcast founded by entrepreneur Carolina Guerrero and author Daniel Alarcón, is supported by foundation grants, individual donations and live shows (and, soon, membership dues). Both podcasts have distribution agreements with NPR in the U.S.
Finally, we identified myriad small publications and radio stations that use volunteers and make no profit.
A FOCUS ON LOCAL NEWS
The Latino news industry has a decidedly local news focus. According to our research so far, local coverage is the main content for a majority of outlets serving Latino communities across the country.
Although the big TV networks, Univision and Telemundo, produce national and global news shows from their headquarters in Miami, each of their local stations independently produces local news shows. “Hires are going into local stations,” a Univision executive told us. “Because the new leadership cares about local politics, they see it as a business opportunity.” Univision recently partnered with Altice’s News 12 Networks, a hyperlocal cable-news network serving New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, to deliver Spanish-language local news to their subscribers.
Over the past several years Telemundo has been aggressively expanding its network of local stations. Its affiliation with NBC has allowed it to create “duopolies,” newsrooms shared by both networks to produce content for both Spanish-language and English-language audiences locally, sharing resources and, in some cases, reporters. These duopolies are located in Los Angeles, San Jose/San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Washington (DC), Philadelphia and Boston.
Spectrum NY1 Noticias, the Spectrum-owned cable channel offering 24-hour news coverage in Spanish in New York City, has recently moved away from more traditional citywide news coverage into hyperlocal, community-oriented coverage. Explaining the move, station director Roberto Lacayo, said that TV journalism “has grown detached from our communities, our vecindarios,” creating news deserts in many neighborhoods and failing to provide meaningful coverage.
Lamenting the “Parachute journalism” he saw happening in the city, Lacayo identified more than 20 neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens with high concentrations of Spanish speakers and assigned reporters to cover them. (Spectrum cable doesn’t serve the Bronx.) He then required those reporters to live in the neighborhoods, so they would have “skin in the game” and be accountable to their audiences. As a result, the cable channel’s news agenda shifted from a dependency on crime stories to a focus on community stories (including chronicling exemplary lives) and service journalism. These days, public transportation is an important beat for NY1 Noticias.
One challenge faced by local outlets covering local news, according to our research: The continual changes in Latino demographics. An editor of a newspaper in Kentucky, for example, told us that his publication used to serve rural Mexican migrants but that in recent years the Spanish-speaking population has become urban-dwelling and more heavily Central American and Puerto Rican. A newspaper editor in Columbus, Ohio, saw her audience transform following an influx of a large Venezuelan community. Adapting to these demographic changes can be challenging, especially for newsrooms with few or no resources.
Another challenge we heard about repeatedly is the difficulty of finding bilingual reporters and editors with journalism experience and sufficient knowledge of the U.S. Latino population and issues, particularly when it comes to local coverage. Many reporters and editors currently serving the Latino population in Spanish-language outlets are themselves immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries. (This concern was the reason the Newmark J-School launched its Spanish-language master’s program in 2016. Its mission is to produce bilingual reporters with a deep knowledge of U.S. Latino communities.)
Only a small number of outlets — for instance, Remezcla, Latino USA and NBC News Latino (the English-language vertical for Latino stories run by NBC News digital) — have a national perspective. And just a few have a global perspective: Radio Ambulante and CNN en Español, for example, offer stories and news for a global Spanish-language audience in both the U.S. and Latin America.
NEUTRALITY VS. ADVOCACY
Latino news organizations tend to identify with the communities they serve, our interviews reveal, and their journalists often see themselves as champions for those communities. This is hardly news. The historical role of Spanish-language media in the U.S. has been to advocate for the rights of marginalized Latino communities, and as a recent Pew Center study showed, “residents of higher-proportion Hispanic areas are more willing to have journalists express their views.” But it is an important corroboration at a time of widespread mistrust in news media and a time when mainstream U.S. media’s traditional ideal of neutrality is being scrutinized and debated.
María Bastidas, digital content director at Mundo Hispánico explains the advocacy role this way: “Our connection with the community comes from the fact that all of us in the newsroom are immigrants ourselves; we all suffered to get our immigration documents in order.”
Readers constantly call the newsroom, she added, “asking for advice on crucial decisions, such as if it is wise to leave the house at a time of immigration raids.” Bastidas says she has also received calls from people living in El Salvador and Guatemala “asking if they can send their children, if they should come or not, ‘should I cross the border or not?’”
This is a common experience among reporters in Spanish-language publications. “When someone has an immigration case, they call us to ask if we know a lawyer. If a little dog goes missing, they call us,” said Wilder Gómez, director and owner of Al Día Media, which includes Columbus al Día.
“We identify with the community,” said Gabriel Lerner, editor-in-chief of La Opinión in Los Angeles. “We suffer their suffering. We are not neutral.”
In the view of Selymar Colón, editor-in-chief of Univision News Digital, the power of the Univision brand is “the relationship we have with the community, the trust we’ve earned.” The network’s audience, she said, “has a sense of familiarity” with Univision, “an intimacy, [a sense that] something that belongs to them.”
Several Latino journalists and editors we interviewed point to the mainstream media’s coverage of Latino stories as a contrast. Mainstream coverage is often stereotyped and biased rather than neutral, they say.
“Media coverage of Latinos is embarrassingly bad, and we provide an oasis of positive, inspiring content,” said a podcast executive from Washington, D.C.
The mainstream media approach Latino stories “as if they were discovering everything again for the first time,” said an editor at Univision, because “there is a lack of knowledge” about the issues that matter to those communities.
“Anglo media only takes us into account when one of us steals, dies or harms someone,” said the editor of a publication in Palm Beach, Florida, adding, however, that this seems to be changing since Trump became President. “I feel they are a bit more compassionate toward us now; their stories are more humanizing.”