I’m happy to introduce a new associate editor for MediaShift, Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, who will be writing a weekly blog post here and doing research and reporting as well. She is a San Francisco-based writer, blogger and marketer, who covers Latino marketing at Latin-Know.com and Latino cultural issues at VivirLatino. Please join me in welcoming her to our MediaShift community.
— Mark Glaser
Here in the United States, with over 31 million Spanish speakers, you would think Spanish would be our second language online. And you would think that content for the Spanish-speaking community would be not only available, but also rich and varied, if only for the value it represents to marketers. But that isn’t the case.
While television and radio have scrambled in recent years to create content for Spanish-speaking consumers to satisfy marketers’ need to reach this group, Internet media has lagged, largely because of the misconception that Spanish speakers in the U.S. are not heavy Internet users. Though studies have shown otherwise, many still equate a lack of English skills with a lack of education and a reluctance to adopt technology. In the United States, there are only a handful of Spanish media outlets with a decent online presence. That’s surprising, considering that 19% of the nearly 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. are monolingual Spanish speakers, and more than half bilingual, many of whom are fluent in English but choose to consume media in Spanish.
In spite of consistent data over the past few years showing that U.S. Spanish speakers are online en masse, the mainstream media has been slow to satisfy the need for Spanish content online. The big guys in U.S. online Spanish media are the same people who first brought Spanish language TV programming to the U.S. some 40 years ago: Univision. I wouldn’t call them visionaries, but back in 2000 they were quick to understand the Internet’s potential not only as a platform to regurgitate some of their television content, but also as an efficient advertising vehicle. This would not have happened had they not had faith in the Spanish-speaking community’s willingness to consume content online, which it has.
Others in the media business apparently do not share that faith. Aside from Univision.com (a site with content that appeals to those with insatiable appetites for gossip and addictions to telenovela message boards), youd be hard pressed to find another large outlet other than rival TV network Telemundo.com (and a few local Spanish-language papers with websites, such as L.A.‘s La Opinion) making a concerted effort to provide fresh information to Spanish speakers in this country.
Local TV News Goes Online
One particularly bad sign for Spanish-language media in general hit the San Francisco Bay Area recently, when NBC-owned Telemundo made the unpopular decision to fire most of its local news team, ending a long history of Spanish local television news altogether. When faith is lost in the traditional media arena in such a large and heavily Hispanic market, what can one expect for new media?
Ironically (or not) the writers, reporters and producers left without jobs because of the decision to do away with Telemundo 48 News decided to take their talents elsewhere: to the web. Whether their decision was influenced by a true belief in the potential of the Internet or just the need for an economically accessible platform for their goods is anyone’s guess. But, using open source software and the same wildly popular anchorman that headed up the news desk for so many years, they’ve taken their newscast online with an independent site called Version Latina. This shift in media from traditional to new was born out of necessity rather than vision.
While some mom-and-pop Spanish-language newspapers are surviving buyouts and, through consolidation, taking some of their content online, there is still not much to choose from for the Spanish-speaking media consumer. Even as politicians (for whom the Latino vote is vital) show faith in Spanish speakers’ ability to use technology — as recently evidenced by messages recorded in Spanish by presidential hopefuls and uploaded to YouTube — outreach to this community online is sporadic and haphazard. Spanish may be this country’s second language, but it isn’t the second language of the U.S. Internet.
Interestingly, this lag hasn’t just been with online media in Spanish. Media targeting Latinos in English has also been noticeably absent and is only now beginning to pick up speed, mainly in the form of sites supporting larger media projects such as Telemundo’s Mun2. But even these initiatives are shortsighted, as most of the media is created for the 18-34 demographic (the largest segment of the U.S. Latino population, which has marketers salivating), completely ignoring the rest of the community. If mom or granddad are looking online for media that’s relevant to them — and who says they aren’t? — they are out of luck.
While Hispanic marketing has been a favored buzzword in recent years, the question remains whether Spanish-speaking Internet users in the U.S. will ever see quality online content created for them, or whether they will continue to have to look to international media for their news.
What do you think? Should American media companies be catering more to a Spanish speaking audience? What U.S.-based Spanish news sites or blogs do you follow and like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Correction: A previous version of this blog post stated that Mun2 was owned by MTV. It is actually run by Telemundo, which is owned by NBC Universal.