February 27, 2014
By Alan Gomez
American firms trying to tap into the fast-growing Hispanic market, particularly those in the news business, are receiving a very clear message: Good luck.
The lights are going out at CNN Latino, a year-old experiment by the news network to reach America's 53 million Hispanics with Spanish-language programming. That comes three months after the shutdown of NBCLatino.com, an English-language attempt that targeted the same demographic.
The closures do not indicate any slowdown in the growth of the Hispanic population — it remains the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. and is expected to increase from 17% of the population to 26% by 2050, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
The trouble is, the Hispanic population is so varied and its interests so diverse that it's difficult to cater to it. That's especially true when it comes to crafting news coverage, with outlets not even sure which language to use.
It doesn't take long for Hispanics living in America to learn English. Only 18% of first-generation Hispanic immigrants speak English very well, but 93% of their American-born children do, according to "Latinos in the New Millennium: An Almanac of Opinion, Behavior and Policy Preference." That means many Hispanics looking for news on U.S. politics or events across the country can easily tune in to established English-language news outlets.
Most Hispanics hold onto their Spanish, though, so if they want to catch up on the protests in Venezuela, the capture of a drug cartel leader in Mexico or economic turmoil in Argentina, they can go straight to established Spanish-language networks like Univision or Telemundo.
And they're savvy enough to find more personal accounts of news events through social media. In fact, Hispanics are the most active group of Americans on Facebook, Twitter and the like, with 80% using social media compared with 75% of African Americans and 70% of white Americans.
Officials at Fusion, a joint venture between ABC and Univision that debuted last year, learned that complicated lesson before they went on air. Fusion CEO Isaac Lee said the team spoke with thousands of young Hispanics and learned that they weren't interested in programming that would appeal only to them.
"Young Hispanics do not want us to have a separate dialogue with them just because they are Hispanic. They want a broader conversation that acknowledges they are in the room and that speaks to their values," Lee said. "Something we have talked a lot about is winking at Hispanics, focusing on the cultural nuances that a Hispanic consumer will certainly recognize, but a non-Hispanic might not see at all."
The ability to weave among different kinds of media makes the Hispanic demographic hard to pin down. But it isn't stopping American businesses from trying.
A 2012 Nielsen study estimated the buying power of Hispanics in the U.S. at $1 trillion, increasing to $1.5 trillion by 2015. The number of Hispanic households earning more than $50,000 a year is growing at a faster rate than the general population, the report found, meaning the Hispanic population is "no longer a sub-segment of the economy."
Computing behemoth IBM and professional services powerhouse Deloitte have snatched up the emerging ".UNO" Internet domain names that cater to Spanish-language readers. GoDaddy, a company that registers web domains for users, is already selling domain names with the .UNO suffix.
In 2011, American companies spent $5.7 billion on ads targeting Hispanic viewers, according to the Nielsen study.
Those trends will only increase as the Hispanic population continues gaining in numbers, buying power and political influence. But given the wide variety of ways that Hispanics consume news, the companies may already be reaching Hispanics and not even know it.
Source: USA Today