¡HOLA! A window on the world since 1944

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez (PADE ’20) is the editor-in-chief of ¡HOLA!, Spain’s first society magazine and a pioneer in premier photojournalism. In this article, he shares the history of this pathbreaking publication, founded by his grandparents in 1944.

The origins of ¡HOLA! can be traced back to the love story between my grandparents, Antonio Sánchez Gómez and Mercedes Junco Calderón. As my grandfather always said, he launched the magazine in order to spend more time with my grandmother.

Back then, his job as a journalist and editor of an evening newspaper meant his afternoons were free, so he suggested they work together on a new venture. Published in Barcelona on September 8, 1944, the first edition of ¡HOLA! was eight pages long and cost two pesetas, a little more than a cent in today’s euros.

On the magazine’s first covers, the “o” in ¡HOLA! is a globe donning a top hat and greeting the world, an image that perfectly captured my grandfather’s vision: opening a window to see the world beyond Spain’s borders.

The Catalan illustrator Emilio Ferrer created the first cover images, depicting everyday events in Barcelona. After five issues, the magazine had to do away with the costly artwork, which proved to be a watershed decision.

My grandparents “turned lemons into lemonade” by replacing the expensive illustrations with photographs of celebrities and other high-profile personalities.

My grandfather was friends with various movie theater owners in Barcelona, who became the magazine’s first advertisers. In those days, they would extract images from movie reels and use them for billboards. He asked them to send him the images for the covers of ¡HOLA!, which was an enormous hit. The first issue with a Hollywood star – in this case, Clark Gable – sold out in no time.

Clear DNA from the start

My grandfather was a brilliant and highly intuitive journalist. He was also a visionary business leader: he saw a market niche for a society magazine and recognized the power of high-quality images. My grandparents were pioneers in both photojournalism and celebrity media in Spain, where there were no other magazines like ¡HOLA! at the time.

Both of my grandparents were closely involved in the project, with my grandmother in charge of giving fashion advice. ¡HOLA! was the first magazine to include a fashion supplement, which my grandmother supervised until her death in 2018 at 98. She was the world’s longest-lived fashion editor!

The history of ¡HOLA! has been shaped by pivotal global events and celebrity exclusives. The magazine featured news from abroad and society pages of balls, galas, weddings and baptisms. One story from the early days was in 1956 when my grandfather chartered a small plane to bring back pictures of Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Faithful to our values

Despite economic crises and market shifts, the magazine has never missed its weekly appointment with our readers. We have remained faithful to our readership and appreciated their unflagging loyalty, which is a tremendous source of pride. We have also always remained committed to our core values: quality and truthfulness.

From the very first issue, the essence of ¡HOLA! has never wavered: to make the world a better and more positive, united and friendlier place.

My grandfather was very clear about the magazine’s mission from the start: in his words, “A publication that helps us dream and distracts our mind, always elegant, always in good taste, the effervescence of life.” ¡HOLA! is the bearer of good tidings. We are committed to respectful and humane journalism.

Those who followed in his footsteps – both my father and I – have done our best to stay true to his original formula.

A family of entrepreneurs

Our family definitely has an entrepreneurial spirit. Since the founding of ¡HOLA!, each generation has played a unique role in enhancing its original vision and expanding its reach.

The magazine’s first issue hit the newsstands in 1944, a year after the birth of my father, Eduardo Sánchez Junco. He always said ¡HOLA! was like a little sister, since it had always been around! The magazine was a frequent topic of discussion during family lunches and dinners, and when we were little, the tiny newsroom extended into our dining room.

Growing up, it wasn’t usual for me to come home from school, walk into the living room and find someone famous waiting for a meeting. With the spheres of family and business totally enmeshed, my father treated everyone with a special touch, like members of the family. In my view, this kindheartedness and closeness have always been key threads in the tapestry of ¡HOLA!

We have been faithful to our readership and appreciated their staunch loyalty, which is a tremendous source of pride. We have also always remained faithful to our core values: quality and truthfulness.

My father had three children – my two sisters and me – and another singular progeny: the British edition HELLO!, which he established in 1988 without speaking English!

The idea came to him on a family trip to London. We went to Harrods and saw our magazine displayed on the newsstand. As we looked on, we saw two women approach the kiosk and buy the Spanish-language ¡HOLA!, which that week featured Lady Diana on the cover. It was the only magazine on display with her image on the cover! These customers didn’t mind that the magazine was in Spanish, they simply wanted to see the pictures.

The first issue of HELLO! included a cover image and an exclusive interview with Princess Anne of England at Buckingham Palace. Our magazine helped the United Kingdom discover another type of society journalism, one grounded in kindness and respect.

Journalists at heart and by trade

I earned an undergraduate degree in journalism, followed by an MBA. Shortly after I joined the company in 2000, Hola.com was launched.

A year later, Spain’s Asociación de Revistas de Información (Association of Informational Magazines) recognized ¡HOLA! as the “Best Interactive Magazine” and my father as the “Best Editor of the Year.” Accepting the award together is a moment I will never forget!

I always say that I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I studied at CEU San Pablo University, which in the early 1990s was already a notably digitalized institution. The school had an Internet classroom and professors who also served as the heads of their newspapers’ digital editions.

One day, I remember one of them telling us that paper was on its way out. After class, I made a beeline for my father and told him we needed to build a website as quickly as possible, and he immediately gave me all the necessary resources to make it a reality.

Our family has an entrepreneurial spirit. Since the founding of ¡HOLA!, each generation has uniquely contributed to enhance and expand its original vision.

With the help of Javier Junco (PDG’99 IESE), we launched the digital platform Hola.com, where Javier presides as CEO to guide the magazine’s digital transformation.

Seeing the growth of the magazine’s digital presence was a really exciting time, which I combined with my new role as the editor of HELLO! England.

This period also coincided with our efforts to expand our global footprint, which led to the distribution of ¡HOLA! and HELLO! in over 30 countries and 11 languages every week. This determination has led to our brand’s renown in the most important international markets and opened doors to digital business on a worldwide scale.

Looking ahead

We are proud to be among the handful of magazines to have successfully transformed our business during the digital age since we never conceived Hola.com as an online duplicate of the printed edition.

From the start, it was created as a standalone digital product, while integrating the same DNA as the printed version. Today, our websites are globally recognized, with Hola.com recognized as the industry leader in Spain, England and other countries.

¡HOLA! and HELLO! combined have 80 million unique readers every month according to Comscore, making us one of Spain’s largest media groups in terms of a worldwide audience.

Our core offering is complemented by Hola TV, a leading cable television channel in Latin America that reaches 22 million households. We also launched a television production company that makes and sells web-based documentaries to third parties. One of our latest creations is a documentary on HRH Princess Leonor, available on Amazon Prime.

We continue to innovate while remaining committed to our print magazine, which still takes up most of my time. While the importance of digital is undeniable, we are still very committed to the paper business. We are firm believers in its strength and staying power, despite the earlier predictions of my college professor.

Looking ahead, our challenge resides in maintaining our global leadership and reinforcing our brands as benchmarks of outstanding and high-quality journalism.