Latinos Use Mobile and Social Networking More Than the Average American, So Why is There a Lack of Hispanic News Coverage?
Because they are often bilingual, Hispanics differ from other American news consumers, getting their headlines from a fragmented combination of print, TV and web sources that include hard news, opinion, blogs and satire. But lately, CNN Latino, the Spanish-language programming which aired in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and other top Hispanic markets has failed to meet "business expectations" and will close later this month along with the demise of both the English-language NBC Latino news website as well as ABC's experiment with an English language website targeting Hispanics. The closure of these Latino sites questions the strategy and viability of targeting Hispanics with their own sites compared to reading English language or general market news sources. Considering that Hispanics are such a large and growing market of United States media consumers, what went wrong?
The Pew Hispanic Center for research has just completed several studies showing that larger and a growing portion of Hispanics get their news in English. Univision took first place among broadcast networks for pulling in Hispanics viewers in two highly sought-after demographic ranges of 18 to 49 year olds and 18 to 34 year olds. "Because Hispanics are such a fast growing part of the U.S. population, the number who speak Spanish and who watch television in Spanish has risen even as the share who get their news in Spanish has declined," wrote Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Hispanic Center.
This points to a trend in which Hispanics do in fact watch more Spanish language television but are increasingly receiving their news from English sources, traditional or otherwise. This explains the rise of Spanish-language programming in concert with English-language news. "Since Hispanics tend to be bilingual, it's easy to imagine households where the news is consumed in English but the channel is changed for culture-specific entertainment like Don Francisco's jigglefest 'Sabado Gigante,' steamy telenovelas like 'Mentir Para Vivir' ('Lie So You Can Live') and specials like the Univision Hispanic Youth Awards, which won July's sweeps," explained one Hispanic columnist for Sentinel & Enterprise.
What exactly does the Hispanic media consumer landscape look like? According to a joint study between Unilever, media planning agency Mindshare, and California-based social media platform ShareThis, Hispanic consumers are more social and influential online than non-Hispanic consumers. The data from 42 million users and 70 million shares found that Hispanic consumers are twice as likely to either share content or click on shared content than Americans in general. Hispanic consumers share five times more often than non-Hispanics and content shared by Hispanic consumers is 35 percent more likely to be clicked on than content shared by non-Hispanic consumers. Hispanic consumers are also -- and more importantly -- twice as likely to purchase the products they share.
"Arts and entertainment, family and sports are the most searched and viewed content categories, followed by politics and government, food and drink, health and fitness, style and beauty, technology, home and gardens, business, travel and leisure, education and automotive," reported MediaPost. Hispanics are less likely to use Pinterest or Twitter and twice as likely to use email and 50 percent more likely to use Tumblr and Blogger. Hispanic consumers read more content on mobile devices than non-Hispanic consumers: nearly 20 percent of Hispanic consumers consume mobile content and younger Hispanic consumers are more likely to share on mobile devices and index with Twitter and Pinterest as strongly as non-Hispanics.
It seems that the problem with original strategy of targeting major Hispanics demographics with Spanish language news was two-fold. First of all, there was not enough marketing or visibility; Hispanics who are bilingual did not see a reason to read a third party Spanish language news site when they could just as easily access the English language counterpart or mainstream news sources. That ties into the second problem, which is that Spanish language specific news targeting Hispanics is often of poorer quality than English language news, or contains things that news directors think Hispanics are interested in but are actually wrong.
Other critics point out that it is more likely that Hispanic audiences were turned off by being bombarded with streams of recipes, model minority features, celebrity gossip and immigration-focused articles. "After wading through the umpteenth story about Sofia Vergara's or Shakira's curves and the obligatory 'Evil Republican' item, yes, you'll find some excellent news and commentary about important issues affecting Hispanics. But there's a lot of tabloid fluff to wade through, and if readers wanted a celebrity gossip site, they'd go straight to one in the first place," says columnist Esther Cepada. Ultimately, the media's approach is wrong because all Hispanics want if they are going to read Hispanic-focused news is that it covers the Hispanic issues in a respectful, fair and consistent manner without all the extras that are not truly relevant to their news experience.
This is not to say that media companies will give up on targeting the Hispanic marketplace, which is all too large to pass up. Univision, an American Spanish language broadcast television network that is owned by Univision Communications, has launched a new studio to create Hispanic-focused content. "We know our audience better than anybody else and believe we are better positioned than any third party to build brands and create content for Hispanics, regardless of language. We are looking at leveraging our understanding of our audience and the digital space as well as creating partnerships like Variety Latino. We will have a dedicated team for each of the digital brands developed and a fully-staffed NYC studio. The majority of the staff will be dedicated to producing content. We will also develop a partner network throughout the US and Latin America. La Fabrica UCI will also serve as a testing lab for new formats and content for the broader Univision properties," said Boris Gartner, Vice President and General Manager of La Fabrica UCI.
Christian Gonzalez, Chief Revenue Officer of Moguldom Media Group offers a similar note: "There is a lack of information for US-based Latinos/Hispanics, but more so in the useful/factual information arena -- Information people can use in their day-to-day lives."
Daniel Villaroel, Director of Multiethnic Marketing at Maybelline New York and Garnier says that "for the general market, there continues to be a growth trajectory for digital content. In comparison to the Hispanic market, some content produced in English is meeting the needs of some Latinas. However, I think more content that's of better quality is necessary for Latinas in both English and Spanish. I'm seeing a huge appetite for Spanish language/bilingual content."
The problem seems to also be that very few websites targeting bicultural Hispanics update their content often enough compared to general market sites, a move which is key to getting viewership. Good quality and frequently updated content will ultimately lead to advertising dollars which will help to keep these entities afloat. Frequent updating requires resources and a staff that can to what is current and trending daily if not hourly. At this point, Hispanics still prefer English language general market sites for most categories of news but it will be interesting to see if media start-ups that exclusively target acculturated Hispanics can eventually come to stake their claim to a part of the pie.
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