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Phoenix Media buys El Planeta

Hispanic market growth expected

By Jenifer B. McKim
Globe Staff / December 2, 2008
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The company that owns The Boston Phoenix alternative weekly has bought the Spanish-language weekly El Planeta, saying it hopes to attract a larger Hispanic audience in the Boston area.

Phoenix Media/Communications Group and El Planeta's owners did not disclose the purchase price, but the company has been investing in El Planeta since 2005 and already prints and distributes the newspaper.

"I personally strongly see the value in the Hispanic newspaper market and the opportunity for that to grow," said Bradley Mindich, Phoenix Media's president. "It was one of these opportunities we couldn't pass up."

Mindich said he was approached about acquiring the paper by its founders, Javier Marin and Jon Urruzuno, who said they decided to consider selling when the lease on their offices came up for renewal recently.

Marin said he and Urruzuno launched El Planeta in Brookline in May 2004 and distributed the paper in his family's minivan. It is now the largest of four Spanish-language weeklies published in and around Boston, Marin said.

"It's a nostalgic moment, but I'm also very proud of the transaction," he said. "The paper will grow, and the people will be happy working for a much bigger media company. It was the natural evolution of the process."

According to Verified Audit Circulation, a California auditing company, the paper had a circulation of more than 34,000 for the six-month period ended in March. But Mindich said his company prints 50,000 copies of El Planeta each week. Marin said circulation growth has been steady.

Still, Phoenix Media is acquiring El Planeta at a time when most US newspapers are seeing significant drops in circulation and revenue. Mindich said the Phoenix, with unpaid circulation of 265,000 in New England, and El Planeta have not suffered circulation declines because they serve niche markets. El Planeta and the Phoenix will share some content, and both publications have websites: tuboston.com and thephoenix.com/Boston.

The nine full-time employees and a handful of interns who make up El Planeta's sales, marketing, and editorial staffs will move to the Phoenix's Boston office early next year.

"There's a sense of happiness. It's a new beginning," said Marcela Garcia, the newspaper's editor. "In this time of recession and crisis, everyone is happy to have a job."

Phoenix Media also owns alternative weeklies in Portland, Maine, and in Providence, plus the FM radio stations WFNX 101.7 in Lynn and WFEX 92.1 in New Hampshire.

Jenifer McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com.

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