USA Today tests bilingual content with new series

USA Today is looking to make deeper connections with Spanish speakers by launching a new series in English and Spanish. 

The project, called Hecho en USA, will tell stories about the lives of Spanish-speaking Americans. Right now, USA Today’s national enterprise editor Cristina Silva, said the project will aim to publish a baseline of two long form reported pieces each month, which will cover topics including Latinos being the only growing demographic of students going to college and this demographic representing only 1% of elected officials in the U.S. Content for the series will be published in English in print and in both Spanish and English online.

“This is starting out as an important series but if we’re willing to dedicate the investment and time that it will take to develop this, in the long run it will pay off. It’s not a short term proposition,” said Manny Garcia, ethics and standards editor of USA Today. 

Ken Harding, a senior managing director at FTI Consulting, said that historically, Latino-focused brand extensions and Spanish-language products have been a difficult area for publishers to break into.

In September 2019, The New York Times ceased its NYT en Español project, which launched in 2016. The project published both original and translated content in Spanish every day on its own CMS. Additionally, last month Tribune Publishing shuttered its Chicago-based Spanish-language weekly newspaper and site, Hoy, after 16 years of publication.

Andrea Marder, evp of strategic partnerships at media buying agency Mediassociates, said that because USA Today has a very different audience profile from a publication like the New York Times, advertisers for the two publications tend to not be the same as well. Therefore, she said there is a good opportunity for USA Today to have the audience and the advertisers interested enough in the series to support it. 

While the series’ stories will be created by dozens of in-house writers, editors, videographers and graphic designers from across the network’s 260 newsrooms who are bilingual, Silva said a freelance Spanish editor was hired to assist with making sure that dialects and language nuances are consistent across the content.

Garcia said he sees USA Today’s unique value proposition for this series being its widespread network of newsrooms in local regions and bilingual reporters with a diverse background of connections to Latin American communities giving them access to underreported stories.

“We want to cover their lives, not just the immigration debate,” said Silva.

Now that several publishers have stepped out of this space, Harding said that USA Today gets the advantage of having fewer national scale competitors, aside from the television-native Telemundo and Univision. 

“There haven’t been many good success stories,” said Harding, though he said the Hispanic audience in the U.S. is substantial. “I think the allure has always been a big market that is underserved. The carrot out there is that it is a huge, growing and dominant audience in some states.”

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