AOL Time Warner Launches AOL Latino

On Tuesday, chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc.'s media and communications group Don Logan said that the media giant's online unit is "committed to double-digit growth" in 2004. Today, the company launched one of its biggest initiatives to date - AOL Latino.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference, Logan said that for the first time in three years, advertising revenue at the online unit should increase in 2004, and judging by the scope of the Latino initiative, it will certainly play a part in the turnaround.

Launched today after many years in the making, AOL Latino is a new Spanish language Internet service for U.S. Hispanics - a demographic the latest U.S. Census numbers place in the 8.4 million range and growing fast. According to comScore, 12.5 million Hispanics are online - a 25% increase from 2000. It makes sense that AOL launch a service geared specifically to their Hispanic users, since it's already the #1 Internet service provider for U.S. Hispanics with a 45% share, according to Simmons.

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But AOL Latino is not simply the familiar U.S. version of AOL translated into Spanish, nor is it an adaptation of AOL's existing services in Mexico, Argentina and Puerto Rico to the U.S. market, company officials say. Instead, AOL Latino will offer features and functionality in Spanish in addition to the entire existing English language product set offered in the new AOL 9.0 Optimized.

Peter Blacker, VP Interactive Marketing for AOL Latino, says the new service offers all the benefits of the U.S. service, plus the Latino components. Some of AOL Latino's services are not even offered in Mexico, South America or Europe, but the product "does not ignore the fact that we have international divisions," he says. The features Unique to AOL Latino are five new original programming areas: News, Sports, Entertainment, Music and Lifestyle, specifically geared to the U.S. Latino population.

According to Blacker, advertisers have already embraced the new service. The Latino service is launching with 25 advertisers on board, including the likes of Heineken and Coca-Cola, all of which are running original campaigns, created, placed and run by U.S. Hispanic marketing specialists. Starting in Q1 of 2004, AOL Latino will start selling category exclusive sponsorships as well.

"Hispanics are an incredibly complex market," says Blacker, explaining that the internet, and specifically AOL Latino will be one of the few platforms available to advertisers interested in reaching Hispanics to target their messages to different levels of Spanish and English knowledge, as well as test their campaigns and services. What's also unique about AOL Latino is that it provides a perfect gateway into existing Hispanic portals already in the U.S. cyber landscape, Blacker says.

While he could not comment on the specifics, AOL Latino is planning on kicking off a multi-million dollar advertising campaign promoting the new service on television, radio and in print in November, along with "a heavy online media campaign that will run on AOL and other Spanish portals," Blacker said.

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