Waiting at the doctor’s office, heading out of the gym, or sitting down at a restaurant, you’ve probably come across plenty of free magazines. You know the type: stacked in a bin at the front door and jam-packed with advertisements, so many ads, in fact, that you can’t find any articles.
You might look at it for a minute or two if you’re bored. More likely, you’ll toss it into the nearest trash bin and forget you ever picked it up.
The poor quality of these magazines caught the attention of two Colombian immigrants living in Suffolk County who, amid a stale industry, saw opportunity.
In May 2010, Jesus Riaño and Victor Vega launched Mujer Actual (Modern Woman), a free Spanish-language magazine geared toward Latinas living on Long Island. Unlike other advertorial magazines—publications where the content of articles is directly influenced by advertisers—Mujer Actual offers a high content-to-ad ratio, so that it reads more like a magazine you would find on the newsstand, and less like a glossy version of a newspaper classified section.
At the heart of each issue is the “Mujer Actual” of the month – a Long Island Latina who has risen to a position of success, overcoming challenges along the way. Bankers, doctors, and lawyers have all been featured, including Long Island Wins community organizer Margarita Espada, who was lauded in the September issue for her work in the arts.
“We want to inspire our readers; we want stories that can inspire Latin readers,” says Riaño, the chief financial and operating officer. “We want to show them that women from any country can have the chance to do what they want.”
Aside from the centerpiece profile pieces, the rest of the content in the magazine is produced working in conjunction with advertisers.
For an article about plastic surgery, Vega, who edits the magazine, might consult a surgeon advertiser and ask about the latest trends and techniques in the field. The result is a more in-depth magazine that is more likely to find its way to the “mesas de noche,” or “nightstands,” of readers, he says.
Even if stories are guided by advertisers, the content still conforms to the themes and tone of the magazine. “There are never stories that show women in a negative light,” Riaño says.
Victor Vega (left) and Jesus Riaño in the magazine’s Bay Shore office.
At present, 5,000-6,000 copies of Mujer Actual circulate each month across Long Island, but Riaño and Vega, who live in Bay Shore and Islip, respectively, would like to expand. That could mean a wider circulation, but for now they’re focusing on their web presence: you can find a complete virtual copy of the magazine online and they have an active Facebook page.
For Riaño, the main goal is reaching a specific target audience, regardless of circulation:
“We’re most interested in having the amount we print in the right hands.”
So far, that seems to be happening. At a dinner hosted by the magazine in December, the mix of advertisers and Suffolk Latina leaders in attendance raved about the undertaking.
“When I first learned about the magazine, I thought it was a great idea to highlight the different women who have contributed to the community,” says Vivian Hart, the executive director of Pronto, a non-profit community outreach center based in Bay Shore. The magazine featured Hart and several Pronto colleagues in its August issue.
“Not only their careers, but their histories, and how they got to that point, showing their hardships,” she said. “It’s inspiring.”
See photos from the December 2010 Mujer Actual awards dinner below: