Dawn Wotapka's Media Movers

Media Movers: MundoNow CEO Rene Alegria

March 15, 2023

Posted by Dawn Wotapka

MundoNow president and CEO Rene Alegria

Some publications try to appeal to many, while others own their niche. The latter is where you’ll find MundoNow, which has spent more than four decades transforming itself into a prime Latino media source serving readers that are either bilingual/bicultural or English-language preferred.

As president and CEO, Rene Alegria has been a driving force in successfully rebranding to move beyond print into a digital-first platform that generates an astounding 10 million unique visitors per month, 70 million page views and more than 250 million served ad impressions. MundoNow started as a Spanish-language newspaper in 1979 but began publishing original English content in 2020. With a vision of empowering, informing and bringing purpose to Latino community – a cultural force often underreported or stereotyped by national outlets – Alegria has transformed it into the nation’s largest certified-minority-owned bilingual and bicultural digital media platform. What’s more, it has earned an eye-popping 16 Emmy awards in three years.

I chatted with Rene about MundoNow’s roots, what the mainstream media about Latino readers and owning up to mistakes.

Dawn Wotapka: Tell me about MundoNow. How was it started and what is the audience?

Rene Alegria: Hard to believe, but MundoNow has been a Latino media leader for 43 years: first as Atlanta’s leading Spanish-language newspaper, then becoming the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the South — and now, as the number one certified minority-owned digital media platform in the USA.

While other media companies have come and gone, MundoNow remains steadfast, nimble, and dedicated to our mission, each a vital ingredient to our success. We also employ a lot of immigrants, which is a vital ingredient to our success — or that of any company, really. We connect with today’s Latino across multiple platforms — digital, print, social media and even audio — by way of our newly launched Latino podcast network, Oyenos Audio.

As our community has changed over the years, so have we. In June of 2022 we rebranded from Mundo Hispanico to MundoNow, to better reflect our modern Latino sensibilities. We started to publish content in English and as such became a fully bilingual, bicultural company. In this way, we’re able to connect with our core Spanish-language roots, as well as English-preferred Latinos who don’t exactly see themselves in traditional Spanish-language media.

Dawn: Let’s dig deeper into your audience.

Rene: Our audience spans quite the spectrum. From pop culture fans of Bad Bunny, to political junkies interested in renewed Immigration policy, to conspiracy theories about the latest Juan Gabriel sightings, and more. In the coming months we’ll launch MundoPride for our LGBTQ+ Latino brothers and sisters, for example, a community most large Latino media companies won’t touch at all — as well as MundoBusiness, a resource center for entrepreneurs. Our audience is never bored by us, that’s for sure.

Dawn: How is it funded?

Rene: We’re a 43-year-old company, so at this point we’re funded by the advertisers that want to authentically connect with our community by partnering with a minority-owned platform that walks the cultural walk. By way of campaigns that we activate using all we have at our disposal, from traditional ads to branded content to podcasts. We do a little bit of everything to bring home the bacon.

Dawn: There are a variety of ways to get content on your site. Why is that?

Rene: There is no singular point of entry to any digital platform these days. Whether it be our newsletter, traditional organic search or social media, we find a way to get our content to our audience. Things change so much in the digital world, so we just have to be creative and rely on our knowledge and experience to light our way, welcoming users to us any way they prefer.

Dawn: How are U.S. Latino audiences consuming news and content differently from other readers?

Rene: US Latino audiences are proud, smart and see through any attempt to cater to us in a way that reads inauthentic. We know this well, as everyone on staff who creates content is Latino and can relate to being pitched to or represented in a way that reads false.

There are some specifics that make our Latino audience different from others though. There’s the language differential, first and foremost. First-gen Latinos prefer Spanish over English, and we provide that. Second- and third-gen Latinos are either bilingual or English-preferred, so we provide content that connects with them.

Second is how we approach our community. Popular celebs for the Latino community may not be big in the general market, so we provide a content bridge from Latino fan to Latino celeb. Same with news. What may be big news in our community may not rank top 20 in the general market. We provide that information bridge to all Latinos, regardless of acculturation level.

Dawn: What are the biggest challenges facing your industry?

Rene: The unpredictability of the industry trips everyone up. Within a year, technology changes, new social media platforms rise and fall, ad-serving gets more complicated and nuanced, etc., etc. Luckily, we’ve pretty much weathered every storm at this point and know that in order for us to win out each year, we must stay true to ourselves and our community. Sounds cheesy, but it works and helps to keep us focused.

Dawn: Do you see many mainstream journalists ignoring the Latino reader?

Rene: I think mainstream journalists today are different from generations past, and see Latino readers as part of the whole, separate and equal. So, I do think many mainstream journalists see the Hispanic reader; at least they are starting to more and more. I’ve been around long enough to see the waves of interest in our community come and go. From Ricky Martin bustin’ out his Vida Loca in ’99 to each presidential election since, where every hungry politician courts us for our vote, we’re used to such mercurial interests from the outside. All in all, it’s dramatically better than it was when Latinos were stereotyped as Ricky Ricardo or Cheech Marin figures — or even worse, parodied like we were in the ’80s Three Amigos film. Yes, times have changed for the better.

Dawn: What can be done to advance perceptions more towards reality?

Rene: Like anything, people see and cover what they want to see and cover. Today’s journalist is born of a more diverse American than in years past, and this early diversification is what I think will make a huge difference in connecting with Latino readers in the years to come. Time and an open mind are remedies for most anything.

Dawn: Why are so few Hispanic journalists employed at mainstream publications? Or is it getting better?

Rene: If you’re Latino and statistically do not come from a family of great means, journalism may not be a proven career path to your achieving the American Dream. With newspapers closing shop across the country and a digital world viewed skeptically by so many, it’s tough out there to be a journalist, Latino or not. Still, I do see mainstream publications opening more doors for us. They need to in order to stay relevant in today’s America. Every day, our USA gets more and more Latinized. No turning back from this cultural progression in demographics.

Dawn: What is the biggest misinformation out there about Hispanic news consumption?

Rene: That we only consume news in Spanish. Not true!

Dawn: How can PR people best pitch your publication?

Rene: Any PR person can send me a direct email at Ralegria@mundonow.com and I’ll make sure that pitch gets into the right hands.

Dawn: You previously spent time in the book industry. What was that like and how does it help you today?

Rene: I loved my time in the book industry: such smart people, across all disciplines. I started the first Latino book imprint of its kind under any of the big five publishing houses. What a ride it was. But it was tough. This was more than 20 years ago and most people were not as receptive to reaching out to the Latino community as they are now. If only Gen Z had been in some of the meetings I was in — with questions that while well-intentioned were so off the mark culturally as to be offensive. The Tweets and Toks would’ve come down hard and fast. Sigh.

Still, the inundation of so many different types of content I got to work with, from fiction to non-fiction, to the entire publishing process itself, gave me so many skills that I cherish. Reading is fun!

Dawn: What advice do you give to young people who want to be journalists?

Rene:  Stay focused. The skills you cultivate as a journalist transcend any day job. Be curious, ask questions, root out the truth, in everything you do. Whether you decide to make your mark in journalism or not, your training makes you superhuman. Know this and proceed accordingly. You’ll find your path and roll.

Dawn Wotapka is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who loves to read and write. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She is a slow runner and an avid Peloton user. To submit tips for her Media Movers column, you can contact her at dwotapka@gmail.com. Be sure to connect with Dawn on LinkedIn

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