Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spanish-Language El Clasificado Balances Print Growth With Online Push

Aug 4, 2011 | By Karen E. Klein

Growing up in East Los Angeles, Martha de la Torre spoke South American-influenced Spanish, which often elicited playground taunts from her classmates, mostly Mexican- Americans. Midway through elementary school, she swore she’d never speak Spanish again, except to her Ecuadorean grandmother.

Today she runs El Clasificado, the largest free, weekly Spanish- language classified print publication in the U.S., reaching more than 1.5 million people. It’s the flagship title of the thriving 130-employee publishing company de la Torre and her husband, Joe Badame, started 23 years ago for Southern California’s Latino population.

In June, the couple rebranded, changing their company’s name from El Clasificado to EC Hispanic Media to reflect the growth of their five online editions as well as their geographic expansion into the agricultural heart of Central California. With 2010 revenue of $16.3 million, the business is on track to hit $19 million this year, de la Torre says.

“El Clasificado is a marvelous niche product,” says Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of marketing firm Advanced Interactive Group in Altamonte Springs, Fla., which publishes Classified Intelligence Report. “It takes a long time to win [the Hispanic market’s] trust and loyalty, but once you have it, you keep it.” While online sales for classifieds in the U.S. have more than doubled to about $6 billion since 2006, Zollman says, the overall industry has shrunk to about $15 billion, half its 2006 total, due to the economic downturn and the collapse in classified revenue at most daily newspapers. 

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