Commentary

Catching Up With Latinos Online

Yep, you guessed it. Latinos are one of the fastest-growing demographics online.

According to the PEW Hispanic Center/PEW Internet and American Life Study:

  • 56% of Latinos in the U.S. (about 43 million) use the Internet.

  • Latinos are less likely than non-Hispanics to have an Internet connection at home.

  • Some Latinos who do not use the Internet are connecting via mobile phone.

    So what does this mean to us? We need to take a look at what seems to be a generation gap. The study revealed that 75% of U.S.-born Hispanics were online, as opposed to 43% that were born outside the U.S. One key to predicting online usage seems to be language: Those who speak English fluently tend to go online, while only a third of Latinos who just speak Spanish go online.

    The younger U.S.-born Latinos tend to really embrace the Web and all it has to offer. They consume and embrace online video and audio, mobile applications, and forms of social media. Sites like QuePasa.com and MiGente.com have remained popular and shifted with the times to provide users with a more modern approach. QuePasa offers bilingual content. Both seek "members." Go on to either, and it looks something like a MySpace or Facebook hybrid with a Latin twist.

    Of course the 800-pound gorillas AOL, MSN and Yahoo have Spanish versions, whereas Terra.com and Starmedia.com have both been around for 10 or so years. Now we are seeing new sites like Barrio305.com and Voy TV. Both play in the broadband video space. Users can build profiles, chat and post messages online, upload personal videos... the list goes on. I encourage you to go to the sites and check them out for yourself if you haven't already. Within five minutes, you'll see how this demographic represents everything new and hot online.

    These newer sites seem to focus their content in English, as they are geared to second- or third-generation Latinos. For years, specialists in Hispanic marketing told us only to advertise and market to this audience in Spanish. This study shows us that times have changed. The younger generation speaks English fluently online and offline.

    My guess is that we'll see a lot of the big agencies finally embracing Latino marketing and advertising online. I think it's still safe to stick with the Latino sites and TV spinoff properties that have led the pack for years now. However, I'd encourage you to test some of these newer English-only sites against MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and YouTube.

    Besides the fact that Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., they are an attractive demographic for another reason. EMarketer estimated greater growth for Hispanic online ad spending (32%) than general-market online ad spending (25%) in 2006.

    "Even though many Hispanic Internet users speak English, they still want advertising and online content that speaks to them in a culturally relevant way," said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson in reference to a recent eMarketer paid report. "Marketers will reach some Hispanic people by advertising on general-market sites, but they should also consider sites that are in English but are specifically aimed at the Hispanic population."

    The bottom line, according to eMarketer, is that when targeting Latinos on the Internet, we must seek environments that are in line with their culture and values. It might not be a bad thing to consider those sites that offer bilingual content as well. What do you think? Post to the Spin blog and share with us. Gracias.

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