Spreading the media word across the Mexican border

This story appeared in Campaign Magazine: the website requires a subscription.

English-language titles in Mexico have failed to establish a sturdy web presence. Have they missed a trick?

Immigration between Mexico and the US makes headlines around the world. Thousands of Mexicans cross the frontier dividing the two countries every day – illegally and legally. But immigration between the two works both ways. Thousands of Americans are choosing Mexico over the US – and not just for a holiday.

The audience for English-speaking media in the Latin American country is on the increase, opening up new opportunities for media owners, both here and abroad, who are targeting English speakers.

There are 1.7 million Americans living full- or part-time in Mexico, according to data from the Association for American Residents Overseas. The Mexico City consulate says there are between three and seven million Americans in Mexico every day. What’s more, ten million Americans are expected to move to Mexico over the course of the next ten to 15 years,most of whom will be looking for a place to rent or buy, and live out their retirement comfortably – and they’ll be bringing dollars with them.

There are already a number of smaller, state-based publications in the country such as the Guadalajara Reporter and the Oaxaca Times that serve English speakers in those regions. A number of international English-language titles operate in Mexico such as The New York Times and the international edition of the Miami Herald. But the only English-language newspaper Mexico could really call its own was The News, which was launched in 1950, but closed down four years ago.

That The News relaunched last month is testament to how this media market is starting to heat up. The newspaper is a daily, tabloid-sized ublication, initially distributed just in Mexico City, but with plans to spread into the regions following its relaunch.

“I’m going to be the Carlsberg of newspapers,” the chief executive of he News, John Moody, says.

The reaction from advertisers has been better than he expected. “Everyone’s very excited,” he says.

“There’s no-one like us. The average income of our readers is higher than the average income of other newspaper readers in Mexico.”

The only other English-language title in the market – the free monthly magazine Inside Mexico – was launched last year by Aran and Margot Shetterly, who are both from “north of the border”.

“We wanted to put ourselves in this position, because when you come to a new country to live, you want to know how to set up your life. We can put ourselves in the place people look towards to figure that out,” Aran Shetterly, the chief executive of Inside Mexico, says.

Inside Mexico distributes 60,000 copies each month around Mexico, and aims to push this distribution to 75,000 paper and 75,000 online by 2008. It has 20,000 subscribers to its e-mail newsletter, and focuses more on features than hard news. The basic, but functional, website currently gets more downloads of the magazine in Canada and the US than are distributed in Mexico.

“Our audience isn’t just the people here – they’re anyone who speaks English and has an interest in Mexico,” Aran Shetterly says.

Initially, the concept was hard to sell to advertisers, the Shetterlys say, but there has been a sea-change in attitude over the past couple of months as the magazine has become more established, and as other parts of the market have started to create products aimed specifically at foreigners.

Bancomer, for example, a leading banking brand, has recently signed an ad deal with Inside Mexico to push its new financial services products aimed at English speakers who are living in Mexico.

Monica Balbontin Aguirre, the general manager of the preferred customers unit at Bancomer, says the English-speaking market isn’t well-served, but is getting started.

She says: “We know that Mexico is one of the favoured places for ‘baby boomers’ to retire to, so explosive growth is expected. Inside Mexico is focused on only what is of interest to foreigners living in Mexico. It goes directly to our target market.”

Greg Ritchie, the head of sales for the radio station Grupo Acir, believes the market is just coming out of a learning phase, and that Mexico’s agencies are still more preoccupied and concerned with the bigger markets and volume.

“It’s a niche market in terms of numbers, but in terms of economic power, it’s huge,” Ritchie says.

The relaunch of The News into the market is being welcomed by the founders of Inside Mexico.

“It’s a good thing when a new competitor comes in, everyone sells more. I hope The News sticks around for a long time, and that it is successful,” Margot Shetterly says.

The relaunch of The News will put another paper title in people’s hands, but it will be a while before its website launches, although its online presence is ambitious.

“It has to be richer than a newspaper to attract viewers – it’s going to have things the printed version doesn’t have, such as an online community and readers’ blogs, where people can post things,” Moody reveals, while refusing to be drawn on a launch date for the site.

Until such time as the site goes live, the gap that exists online for an English-language news and community website is glaring.

Inside Mexico’s website is functional but modest, and just allows users to download PDF copies of the magazine.

Given the level of web literacy possessed by their target audience, a delay in building a sturdy online presence could be costly for both titles. Will those editorial brands fill the gap themselves, or will a spunky newcomer beat them to it?

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2 Responses

  1. Hello, just stoped by the comment section to thank you for the work you have been doing so others can enjoy your blog with a morning cup of coffe ūüôā

  2. Following the publication of this story in the UK, the debate about English-language media in Mexico continues….this was posted on Latina Lista this morning:

    http://www.latinalista.net/palabrafinal/2007/11/guest_voz_azteca_americas_ceo_explains_w.html

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