A Q&A with LION member Marisa Treviño, publisher of Latina Lista.
1. When did your site launch, what geography does it cover and why was it founded?
My current news site grew from a blog I created in 2004. I was frustrated that there were not more stories that dealt with the Latina perspective. Initially, I covered issues of interest to Latinas – education, health, parenting. But in 2005, I was alerted by some lawyers, doing pro bono work at a local detention facility, about the substandard conditions the detainees and their children were being subjected to. Those initial reports began my immigration and political coverage, which rounded out the growing editorial my readers were requesting.
Latina Lista has never covered a specific geographical area. Rather, because it’s always been a niche site, that in and of itself makes it seem like a hyperlocal site.
2. What was your background before becoming an independent local news publisher?
I had been a career journalist working at local city magazines and doing freelance on the side. In the mid-90s, I created a bilingual family news website, but we were ahead of our time, and after about a year, I shut it down.
Throughout this time I was freelance writing, working as a public radio commentator and working part-time for an organization that tracked global news trends. It was at that last job where I saw the rise in citizen journalism and learned about blogs.
With blogs, I saw it as my opportunity to get back into online publishing and create the kind of content I wanted to see. Plus, blogs had a much lower price entry point than creating a full-blown web site.
3. How would you describe your operation and business model?
After 10 years of being a one-woman operation, I joined forces last year with the publisher of Hispanic News Online. Together, we’re creating new publications, bolstering the content of our current ones, forming partnerships with tech companies here in the U.S. and South America and are focused on moving our sites to be primarily accessed via mobile.
For the time being, we’re relying on the traditional business model of using advertising, native advertisements and sponsorships for revenue.
4. What do you consider your competition as a local news or information source?
Because it’s a niche publication, our competition is any news source that targets the English-speaking Latino audience.
Over the last few years, that has meant more national “corporate brands” that figured out English-speaking Latinos were their readers and have allocated seemingly bottomless coffers to address our audience.
5. What makes your site unique?
What sets us apart from our competitors is that we still have strong ties to our communities and have created long-lasting partnerships with Latino content creators and are still creating these kinds of partnerships.
Because our voice is genuinely of the community and we understand those issues that are of interest to our readers, our site remains a standout from the competition.
6. What is something you wish you had known when you were starting out or would do differently now that could perhaps serve as advice for others?
When I started out there was no social media like there is today. Today’s journalism just cannot be practiced solely on one platform. There must be a strong social media component to any distribution strategy. Otherwise, a news business will be obsolete before it starts.
The one piece of advice I have is don’t think that if you build it people will automatically come. Your site must have the content people want to read and you must have the distribution plan in place to constantly grow your audience.
7. What about your operation is your biggest source of pride right now?
My biggest source of pride is that even without publicizing stories on social media, readers from all over still find us and they still send emails thanking us for our work in keeping them informed from the Latino perspective.
8. What do you struggle with the most?
I struggle with remaining innovative. To me, innovation is the key to keeping any business relevant these days. In the news business, that innovation is essential to standing out in a crowded field.
9. What are some of your future goals for the site?
My future goals are to build more in-depth news coverage of Central and Latin America; create more of a connection among Latino communities across the country via finding and putting local stories on Latina Lista and Hispanic News Online’s national platforms and feature more call-to-action stories to get readers engaged and participating in issues that have an impact on the future.
10. Why are you a member of LION Publishers?
I’m a member of LION Publishers because this can be a lonely business. Only other online publishers can understand the frustration and exhaustion that comes with doing a job that is built on a passion for informing people.
It’s nice to learn of others’ experiences and how they either made it easier for themselves or learned how to cope with it all.
But perhaps the most important reason for me to be a member of LION Publishers is that it validates my existence as a business and it reassures me that I’m not traveling this journey all on my own.
Adding more staff isn’t the only way to lessen your workload
Four insights we took away from analyzing 100 Sustainability Audits from independent news businesses.
Meet LION’s Fall 2023 Community Ambassadors
These independent news leaders will connect with other independent publishers across the U.S.
Introducing LION’s Stages of Sustainability
Our data-informed maturity model maps the growth path of independent news businesses.