Bucking the trend

With news media at a tipping point, an independent Spanish newspaper is managing to find new ways to grow

JOSE REY, OWNER, publisher and CEO of Magazine Latino Media Inc., is a guy who likes to keep busy.

His operations, he explains, include his flagship publication, Magazine Latino, a free Spanish-language newspaper for the Latin American market in Ontario and Canada, distributed in 12 cities across the province and digitally online.

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Add to that a free 24-hour Latin music radio station he runs on the side, and his newest project, a “very fancy, very flashy” glossy women’s magazine called Majo that is about to launch.

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But before he’s even done describing that concept, he’s teasing another idea he’s been working on — a real estate listings platform for Spanish-language realtors. So, yeah, a busy guy.

“This is Canada,” Rey says matter-of-factly. “You need to do everything for survival.”

Rey started Magazine Latino Media in 2006, a couple years after immigrating to London as a refugee from Colombia in 2004. “London didn’t have any Spanish newspapers,” he recalls. He had been in the newspaper business back in his home country, so when he arrived here, it seemed like a natural avenue. He took a year to learn English, and by 2006 he was self-publishing a 16-page, black-and-white newspaper that he distributed among London’s Spanish-speaking population.

Bucking the trend media Media

Timing and circumstance were on his side. The ‘Londombia’ immigration boom that brought thousands of Colombian families to the area was in full swing, and the city was seeing a formation of a real diaspora community. “It was a lucky moment for us, because that is right when I started the newspaper.”

Like many in diaspora communities, Rey senses that the Spanish-speaking market is routinely overlooked — by politicians, by the news media and by advertisers. There are 45,000 Latin Americans in London, he notes, and around half a million across the province. And yet, when was the last time you can remember seeing them highlighted in an ad campaign or a news story? Rey envisioned Magazine Latino as a corrective to that.

“This is Canada. You need to do everything for survival” —Jose Rey

“Magazine Latino is the window to connect the Spanish market with all Canadian businesses and services,” he says. “The focus is on news, and to get information out about different and important issues for our community.”

Today, Magazine Latino has grown from that 16-pager into a 40-page, full-colour publication distributed from Windsor to Ottawa. Add to that a digital presence posting daily news content, and the operation now ranks as the country’s largest Spanish-language news company. Locally, you can find the paper in public libraries, Shoppers Drug Marts and just about every Latin American restaurant, church and grocery store in the city. “Everywhere that Latinos are going,” Rey says. “That’s a lot of traffic.”

Any media publication faces an uphill battle these days, and multicultural media is no exception. “It’s not easy to do,” Rey admits. “It’s very hard for journalism professionals in Canada right now. It’s not cheap to do everything we do.”

Bucking the trend media Media

But while there are plenty of examples of Canadian media operations cutting back or ceasing operations altogether, Rey has his eyes firmly set on expansion. “In the next five years, I want to reach Montreal, because there’s another big Spanish market there,” he says.

Outside of Toronto (where there are a handful of local competitors), Spanish-language newspapers are few and far between, and Magazine Latino is able to corner the market to an extent, especially in mid-sized cities where there is often a large Latin American population but a smaller media base. Cities like Windsor, Waterloo, Burlington, Mississauga — these are the markets where Magazine Latino thrives and provides the company a sturdy base from which to build.

“My focus now is on all the main Canadian cities – we’re talking about Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal,” Rey says. “Right now, we are the biggest Spanish media company in Canada because we do different things.”

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Not an operator short on ideas or follow-through, Rey’s journey to becoming a distinguished Canadian (he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee in 2012) and his entrepreneurial path are intertwined, and it is hard to imagine one without the other. “The important thing for my media is to keep our community together, under one umbrella,” he says.

And where else but in London, the poster city for the growing Latin American community in Canada? “I love London,” Rey says. “I love living here. London gave me the opportunity to live.” Bucking the trend media Media Kieran Delamont

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