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PSS Winter '12

Translating Media

by Jeanne Nagle

Javier Saralegui

Javier Saralegui ’81 at home in New York City

Javier Saralegui ’81 seems to have a genetic predisposition for success.

“I come from a very entrepreneurial family where thinking out of the box was always stressed,” says Saralegui. And it’s hard to argue with the clan’s track record.

One brother is a movie producer whose films include Speed and Independence Day, while another has served as publisher of Sports Illustrated. Another sibling founded a private satellite company, runs a public relations firm and operates a handful of restaurants in New York City. His aunt, Christina Saralegui, is one of Latin America’s most famous talk show hosts.

Like his family, Saralegui has made a major name for himself.

As a college graduate entering a difficult job market in 1981, Saralegui found himself veering from his intended career path in environmental economics to accept a position as ad sales director for Medico Interamericano, a magazine for Spanish- speaking physicians. Within two years, they sold the magazine. The experience opened his eyes to new business possibilities.

“I thought ‘I’ve got a knack for this media thing,’” Saralegui recalls. “And the second thing I thought was that the Hispanic niche was only going to get bigger.”

After working in ad sales, he tried his hand at electronic media sales with Spanish International Network—now Univision—the first Spanish-language television network in the United States. It was at Univision that Saralegui learned that he was more successful when he simply marketed the network on its merits, rather than emphasizing how different it was because of its Latin emphasis.

“It taught me to play by the buyer’s rules,” he says. “Play by the buyer’s rules and good things happen. It’s a lesson that I’ve tried to apply ever since.”

Saralegui has parlayed that lesson, along with his understanding of Hispanic culture, into a number of successful management positions within Latin media outlets, including tenure as president of Univision-subsidiary Galavisión. He resigned from Galavisión in 2000 to focus on Univision Online, which he developed from the ground up.

With Univision.com, Saralegui realized that he could take some of what worked in television and apply it to the Internet, pulling from his past experiences to create a unique product tailored to the Hispanic audience.

Designed around a preference for strong visuals that he recognized from his days in print media, the site featured plenty of images. Univision.com also featured what Saralegui terms a “Latino-centric sports focus” in addition to Latin-American news and entertainment stories, another proven tactic Saralegui borrowed from his days at Galavisión.

Univision.com has proved remarkably successful, as has Univision Movil, a mobile products and services division. “We had a lot of vision and tried a lot of different things,” Saralegui says of his team at Univision.

In 2009, Saralegui was persuaded by fellow Hobart alumnus Christopher Henderson ’82 to join mobile marketing platform company JAGTAG as a business development partner. JAGTAG technology enables the users of most cell phones— not just smartphones—to easily access information contained in QR codes without downloading a scanner. (QR codes are bar codes that provide multimedia marketing information.)

JAGTAG was sold to Augme Technologies in July 2011. Since then, Saralegui has been hard at work developing “a Hispanic digital incubator.” His new company, formed with his brother Alvaro, helps promote digital startups that serve Latin audiences. Their first client is a Spanish-language search engine called Ya Sabe (“You Know”).

Saralegui stresses that he did not reach his level of success alone; he always works with others to refine his ideas.

“If you have an idea, you have to bounce it off people,” he says. “I’ve always looked for confirmation of ideas, and I usually try to get it from experts. To put all that together, you have to be blessed with relationships, a strong network and hopefully good instincts. And a little luck doesn’t hurt either.”