What We Can Learn From The Failures Of NBC Latino And CNN Latino

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.

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2 comments about "What We Can Learn From The Failures Of NBC Latino And CNN Latino".
  1. Christopher Blair from SynCom Media Group, Inc. , May 8, 2014 at 10:05 a.m.
    The only way these networks survive is to have over-the-air coverage, otherwise they miss 25-30% of their intended audience. It is common knowledge that Hispanic OTA viewers are Spanish-dominant.
  2. Denise Neal from Culture International , June 17, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.
    I think that Mr. Blair has a point--many Latino people of the Boomer generation and Gen -X are still stuck on Analog or 20th Century mode and are accustomed to the Small Screen and maybe even still Radio--more of Gen "Y" grew up in the age of computer technology although many are living in areas with little or no internet access and do not possess technological tools or do not believe in their usefulness for personal or even religious reasons in some cases (I believe it is called the Technological Divide in these zones, and it affects African Americans as well). Much of the Boomer/Gen-X content must be in Spanish for those who do not or cannot learn or keep up with English very well. It must also be remembered that due to socioeconomic circumstances in much of the Latino Monolingual Spanish world (and SPECIFICALLY Mexico from personal knowledge obtained by living and studying there for 3 years), there is still a large population of "analfabetos" who, due to circumstances beyond their control, were never able to complete free education up to 6th grade, dropping out by 3rd grade on average, to work and help the family make money, usually in the fields but possibly in other industries also. Lots of these individuals don't even read in Spanish, let alone English (or they come from Indian tribes south of the border and speak languages such as those of the Nahualtl, Tarahumara or other groups further south). As a result, they are unable to help their own children academically which, once they cross the U.S. border, will still impact the quality of education for any Gen-X or Gen-Y Latinos that were never able to catch up by intervention in U.S. public school Bilingual or ESL and English Immersion programs (many of which were rendered ineffective and useless due to bureaucracy and other red tape and system flaws). So, yeah--OTA is audiovisual and more attainable for those who can't comprehend English or higher level Spanish and even those who can ONLY see and understand visual messages (standard universal type images) or only hear in Spanish with a greater chance of hearing and understanding a higher level of spoken vocabulary because they are heavily dependent on their auditory skills (unless they are like Hellen Keller and need or have a modern-day Annie Sullivan Miracle Worker to teach and decipher everything until they learn to fully understand). Like someone had previously mentioned-- you must KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!! Denise Cecilia Neal Spanish Interpreter Spanish Instructor/Tutor