Earlier this year, we saw the closure of two major efforts by the mainstream media to connect with Hispanics in the U.S.
CNN launched “CNN Latino” last year. The goal of the cable news network was to build an audience around syndicated news and entertainment shows in Spanish. Broadcast TV stations in several markets with large Hispanic populations – including WDFL in Miami and KBEH in Los Angeles – carried the programming.
Over at NBC, the broadcast network went with an online model called “NBCLatino.” The website featured news stories written in English with a Latino focus.
Both lasted about one year.
Struggling to find an audience
Executives of the Atlanta-based cable network made it clear why it closed: “CNN Latino was not able to fulfill our business expectations,” according to a statement. Translation: CNN Latino was not getting the ratings that would impel advertisers to invest in the programming.
Over at NBC, a spokesman said in a statement that the closure “will allow its content to reach a much larger audience and it will further enhance NBC News’s commitment and ability to cover news and issues that matter to the Latino community.”
A look at the traffic to the website showed it was struggling relative to the English equivalent NBCNews.com. Weekly visits to NBC Latino fluctuated from a low of 65,000 in September to a high of 180,000 in October compared to more than 20 million weekly visits for NBCNews.com
The disconnect was confirmed by an ex-NBCLatino staffer, who wrote, “One of those weaknesses is a failure, at times, to grasp what people care about on the internet, how we organize ourselves and our media now.”
What the closures have in common
What we can learn from CNN and NBC is that even in a new media age, an old adage holds: Know your audience. And this is true whether you’re offering news content to a specific population or targeting a brand to a key demographic segment.
CNN and NBC took their well-known names and added “Latino” to them. Simply adding this word onto a recognized media brand – or an advertising campaign – does not instantly produce a Hispanic audience.
Further, this approach may be perceived as condescending to some, especially Hispanics who are fluent in English. Imagine if there was a "Black NBC" or "White CNN.” Adding a word like “Latino” – or some other label in an attempt to target a specific audience – sets that group apart. The message may be interpreted as: I’m different and not good enough for the main brand.
NBC’s online Latino venture was filled with recycled stories from its English language website – with a Latino twist. This was augmented with some original content on issues deemed important to Hispanics. In the end, it could not find an audience. It can be said that English-preferring Latinos simply want content on NBC News that resonates with them, not a separate site that makes them feel separate.
Over at CNN, the long-time news network translated tried-and-true American television shows into Spanish. It then syndicated them to low-power broadcast stations, with plenty of separation from its anchor cable channel. It went with a traditional approach at a time when more and more people are consuming content in non-traditional ways.
The experiences of CNN and NBC show us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to connecting with today’s audience. And that 20th century models do not necessarily work with a 21st century audience.