Publisher learned from his mistakes and is celebrating nearly two decades in business, which now includes a montly newspaper, a weekly radio show, consulting and more
By Stefan Yablonski
Mistakes were made. Hugo Acosta almost quit — almost.
Acosta, the owner-publisher of CNY Latino was born in Venezuela and came to America in the early 1980s.
“In 1992, I started a local internet consulting business called H.A. Technical Services, which I sold when I began my publishing venture with CNY Latino,” he said. H. A. stands for Hugo Acosta.
After going through some rough times in his personal life at the beginning of 2003; after carefully reconsidering his current career conditions, and after consulting with some close friends, “I decided to embark myself into a new business venture that would directly link to my native cultural roots,” he explained.
He has a computer science background and had another business that he was running with his ex-wife.
Then “things happened … things happen in life, you know. So I had to let it go,” he said. “Besides losing the business, I kind of lost my culture.”
“Mi vida es como una telenovela [My life is like a soap opera],” he continued in Spanish. “I took what happened very personally — it was something that impacted me emotionally.”
He wanted to get back in touch with his cultural roots.
“I realized that there wasn’t any publication for Latinos. I am a very outgoing guy and I said I’m going to try,” he explained. “I hoped I could make it work in two or three years, something like that.”
He made some phone calls, checked some figures on the internet, spoke with local business people, researched other issues, met with some newspaper people for advice and decided to start a Hispanic newspaper for the Central New York area.
Acosta said he started CNY Latino in 2004 as a venture with the intentions of providing “a general interest publication to the Hispanic community in Central New York,” and at the same time, to provide a method for communication to this ethnic group.
He started with a personal investment as a trial to see how the local readership would respond. At the start, the whole development for the publication was done entirely in his home, Acosta said.
Because of limited financial resources, the paper started to be printed with only 24 to 28 pages — mostly in black and white.
Within three years of starting, it established itself in downtown Syracuse.
With an increased demand for more distribution, wider coverage and more frequency, it has become a highly sought-after reading material to the 84% of the Latino population in Central New York, according to the paper’s website.
“To be honest with you, I never was able to calculate how much I invested for the business back in 2004,” he said. “When I decided to do this, I got an idea of how much will I need to start with the basics — but additional non-calculated or unknown expenses popped up here and there — that in some instances increased the final number and in other instances decreased it.”
Separate to the business, “I refinanced my house and put aside what I thought would be enough to live with my daughters for a couple of years, pay standard expenses and see how this newspaper venture will go for at least one year,” he added.
“Not that I want to reveal these numbers; but, these days, to publish a newspaper similar to mine, it’s between $900 and $1,200 and, no, I never had investors. But I had — and still do have — the best partner to work with, my editor-in-chief and radio podcast producer Marisol Hernandez,” he said.
Life changing meeting
A meeting with the publisher of the Syracuse New Times changed his life.
“I met Art Zimmer and he took me under his wing. He taught me the ins and outs not only of publishing newspaper but also how to treat people, things like that,” Acosta said. “So that helped me a lot.”
“My first and second editions had a lot of mistakes and some people were making fun of me,” he continued. “I went back to Art Zimmer and told him, ‘I appreciate your help — but I don’t think this is going to work.’ I was trying, but making mistakes.
“He took me to a room where he had a whole bunch of awards and prizes for the newspaper. He showed me one of the first editions of the New Times. It had mistakes, too, and that really touched me. That made me go for it and try harder — and that’s what I did!”
“When did I realize that we were successful? I don’t know, maybe after two or three years,” he said. “It’s funny because learning the industry I was also told that if you start making money after four or five years, you’re doing really, really good. I started making money after two years!”
But he admits they have had their share of ups and downs, “just like any other publication in the newspaper industry for the last, you know what, 10 or 15 years.”
They currently have a staff of paid consultants, freelancers, contributors and volunteers “that are all trying very hard to put together the content and production of the paper,” Acosta said. “Just about all the interns I’ve had have been Latino.”
He has a new intern “who is trying to convince me to do what they call a YouTube channel. We are considering that. Young kids today, millennials are so into social media and things like that; not me,” he quipped.
One intern, a girl from LeMoyne College, was helping him with the radio and now she is doing really good in Buffalo, he said.
“We had our very first issue on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004. I have also received generous contributions from local organizations and dedicated individuals that are always interested to assist and help in projects related to this ethnic group,” he said.
Acosta also has a Spanish-language radio show.
“It started in 2006, I think, a couple years after the paper. It’s doing good,” he said.
It started with one hour, now it’s two hours every Wednesday from 5 to 7 — it’s also online.
Radio Show in Spanish..! (Programa de Radio en Español..!) is the only Hispanic-oriented commercial radio show in Central New York, according to Acosta. It reaches everyone in the Central New York area with the strong signal of the WVOA Radio networks, using one clear powerful FM station (87.7) covering a large portion of Central New York.
And, even larger broadcast with the global coverage of the internet, by listening live from the media website at www.WVOARadio.com.
“We tried to partner with a couple of local TV networks to create a TV show,” he said. “Tried — didn’t work out; think it was only two years maybe 18 months.”
Only Latino Paper in CNY
“The newspaper is what started it all,” he explained. “I wanted to create a simple publication that would serve the Latino community of Syracuse.”
He started publication February 2004, after postponing it for three months.
Acosta credits his longevity to careful financial management, making several good business strategies, the growth of his culture in CNY and effective partnerships with clients and vendors, he said.
“And, the fact that we are the only Latino newspaper in Central New York. Our culture still uses newspapers as part of their informational resources,” he added. “They like to have something tangible to read.”
For the first three months circulation was 2,000 in the Syracuse area only.
Then 4,000 for about 14 months, then 5,000 until 2006, he said.
“And then — 8,000 from October through May and 10,000 from June through September,” Acosta said. “Then we reduced this during the pandemic to 6,000 from October through May and 8,000 from June through September.”
The newspaper was created in tabloid format to provide plenty of room for reading material of any type. It presents the articles and ads in both English and Spanish, making this bilingual publication welcoming to both the Spanish and non-Spanish reader — and covering more that just the Latino market, according to Acosta.
He gathered a small team of Hispanic volunteers to develop the content and production of the paper. Most were immigrants with dreams to grow in the American society and to be productive citizens of the United States of America, he added.
“We used to be eight staff until 2020, and then — again, because of the pandemic — just four now — one is pregnant now,” he said, chuckling.
The paper covers all the towns and public locations between Rochester and Albany as well as between Watertown and Binghamton, including the cities of Cortland, Ithaca, Geneva, Canandaigua, Sodus, Fulton, Oswego, Pulaski, Oneida, Rome-Utica, Verona, and (mostly) Syracuse.
CNY LATINO Media
Publisher of the CNY Latino newspapers
Producer of the CNY Latino Radio Shows
Providers of certified translation services
4465 E. Genesee St. – #249
DeWitt, NY 13214-2242
Phone: (315) 415-8593
Fax: (315) 445-2288
Owner Publisher: Hugo Acosta
Editor in Chief: Marisol Hernandez