How this publisher lost…and then built a Central American media giant

Here, he explains to FIPP contributor Jon Watkins about how he started out in publishing, lost everything and moved countries to start again, and how things have developed since. He also talks about media consumption habits in Central American in general, and how B2B in particular differs from these markets compared to larger counterparts.

Burman will be one of more than 60 international speakers at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Canada (13-15 October 2015). See the provisional programme and more speaker names here.

Tell us a little about your own background and how you came to set up Grupo Cerca.

I started in the publishing industry in 1994, launching my own company in Argentina, where I am originally from. I started with one title and grew the business to nine titles. I also became president of the specialist magazines association in Argentina in 2000. So all was going very well.

Then, when we suffered the financial crisis in Argentina in 2001, it cost me everything and I lost my business. I decided to move my family to another country and that year we moved to Costa Rica. For a while I worked with a local company in publishing, but following that, in 2004, I set up my own company again with some partners, which was Grupo Cerca.

Why did you choose Costa Rica as your base?

I believe that Central America is the land of opportunity. I believe it offers great opportunities in this industry and that is why I chose to work here and to settle here with my family. Costa Rica is a great base from which to operate across Central America.

How have you grown Grupo Cerca since you launched in 2004 and what has been the basis for your success?

When we started in 2004, we had just the one magazine, which was a magazine for the construction industry. We started with 13 people in the company – six in the main office and one person in each of the seven other Central American countries in which we wanted to operate. Each year we have set about launching a new magazine and today we have five B2B titles, three consumer titles and complete digital platforms for content and events. We are now around 170 people and we operate in eight countries. That’s the result of our belief in this region.

Given the pace of change that we have seen across the industry globally, has this been replicated in Central America? Have you seen the same changes and at the same pace?

I think we are seeing the same changes but maybe at a slightly different pace. We face the same challenges, but we are maybe a few years behind the rest of the world. What’s good about that for us, is that we can watch how the rest of the world responds – and try to react accordingly. As a result we are currently moving away from print-only products and we are providing all platforms, otherwise we would have no business. That’s why events such as the FIPP Congress are so important to us – they allow us to learn what is happening elsewhere and to react quickly when the change reaches us.

Your business has a strong focus on B2B. What is the appetite like for that in Central America?

We are operating in countries that are small, so it is important that our titles are not too specific, instead focusing on industries generally. As an example, in Argentina I produced a magazine about the cooling industry. In Central America, however, that magazine must be a construction magazine in general. It is impossible to be too segmented. Instead we have a construction magazine and an agricultural magazine. If you can get your head around the fact that applications must be quite generalised, then there is lots of opportunity to launch new titles.

Are you seeing the same changes in Central America around who has the rights to produce content? Are audiences more willing to receive content from brands, for example, as they are now elsewhere in the world?

Yes, but we are seeing this as another opportunity. We are in a position to produce content for brands and for clients, and it is our heritage, so we are best placed to do it. Therefore, I do not see this as a threat, but as an opportunity. For sure, there are more players in the market now. But those who are best at content are those for whom it is their heritage.

What are you looking forward to discussing at the FIPP Congress later in the year?

Clearly, we will be talking about the future of this industry and in particular the opportunities for growing in the B2B market. And in more general terms, I think it will be interesting to hear how publishers are going about their day-to-day business while also planning for the future and change.

Burman is a member of the FIPP management board. More about him here.

About Burman’s session at the FIPP World Congress

Burman will be part of a B2B panel at the FIPP World Congress that also includes Michael Friedenberg, CEO of Worldwide IDG Communications, USA, Natasha Christie-Miller, CEO of Emap, UK and Yuko Tanaka, business development manager, Nikkei International, Japan. Stephan Scherzer, CEO of VDZ (the German Publishers Association) and an IDG alumnus, will host the panel. See the provisional programme and more speaker names here.

In case you missed it, earlier FIPPCongress Q&As

Peter Kreisky: How to adapt to the new media order, and win

This is how Kadokawa Corp. gears itself for the future

De- and reconstructing a specialist media group for change

There are more posts on the Congress blog here. Check in regularly for more Q&As to come as we built up to the FIPP World Congress.

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x