Regional Newspapers in Latin America

A number of newspapers are distributed regionally in Latin America, including global newspapers such as the Financial Times (London), the International Herald Tribune and USA TODAY, and also national newspapers such as the Miami Herald. At the present time, these newspapers have relatively small circulation.

The principal difficulty in publishing a regional newspaper is neither the collection of news nor the preparation of the editorial content nor even the availability of advertising revenue. Rather, the stumbling block is in distribution. On one hand, for a region as farflung as Latin America, it is prohibitively expensive to ship printed copies from just a few central locations in a timely manner. On the other hand, the small circulation numbers do not justify the establishment of many local printing plants and distribution networks.

Yet the notion of regional journalism is clearly an attractive one, especially as trade barriers are breaking down and regional intergration is now a major collective objective. Already, there exists several successful regional television news networks (CBS TeleNoticias, CNN/CNN en Español and ECO). The distribution of the television signals is accomplished through assorted means such as direct-to-home satellite signals, wired and wireless cable and even affiliation with local broadcasters.

There have been a couple of different approaches towards the establishment of new forms of regional newspapers. First of all, a number of global publishers have created editorial materials specifically for the Latin American region. These materials are transmitted via satellite and then appear as inserts in a number of national newspapers, which own first-class printing plants and distribution networks in their respetive countries. Two good examples are:

A different approach is adopted by the Grupo de Diarios América. This is an association of ten of the most prestigious newspapers in Latin America. The members are: La Nación (Buenos Aires, Argentina), O Globo (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Zero Hora (Porto Alegre, Brazil), El Tiempo (Bogotá, Colombia), El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile), El Comercio (Ecuador), Reforma (Mexico), El Comercio (Lima, Peru), El País (Montevideo, Uruguay) and El Nacional (Caracas, Venezuela). Their relationship consists of using satellite transmission to exchange news and advertising materials among its members. In fact, advertisers can now place an ad in all ten newspapers simultaneously. At the same time, the newspapers obtain excellent news materials from other countries.

According to the recently completed study, Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996, the weekday edition of the ten GDA newspapers has a total number of 9.2 million readers (age 12-64) per day while the Sunday edition has 15.4 million readers (age 12-64).

The importance of newspaper readers lies beyond sheer numbers. Usually, these readers are more affluent and better educated, and therefore extremely attractive to certain advertisers. The top 'newspaper of record' in a country is compulsory reading for the business, political and cultural elite. Here are some of the characteristics of the GDA readers.

Percents of GDA Readers by Demographic Characteristics

Characteristics Weekday GDA readers Weekend GDA readers
Socio-Economic Level
Level A
Level B
Level C
Level D


Annual HH Income
US$36,000 or more
8.9% 13.5%
12 years or more schooling 4.9% 9.3%
TOTAL 3.3% 5.4%

(Source: Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996)

(Example: 9.3% of persons 12-64 with 12 years or more of schooling read the Sunday edition of a GDA newspaper, compared to 5.4% among all persons 12-64, or 15.4 million out of 280 million).

While this approach seems viable and promising, the opportunities may be vanishing fast for latecomers. In some countries, there may not be more than a couple of newspapers that will provide a good fit, and the search for partners will become increasingly difficult in time.

(posted by Roland Soong on 5/18/1997)

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