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    U.S. Media Fails to Deliver Spanish News Online

    i-91396c93971e4458aba4891f13102f43-Jennifer Woodard headshot.jpg

    Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Tagged: language new media
    • David

      univision.com has plenty of noticias and deportes as well… targeting Spanish speaking consumers. Not all over there is about gossip and telenovelas…

    • Carlos Jose

      What seems even more surprising to me is that other media outlets have not started covering events that are important to the Hispanic community. There are more viewers in this country of Mexican Soccer than NHL. When will USA Today cover Mexican Soccer? Or how about the attacks in Los Angeles by the police? This was covered by Univision.com, but did other outlets give it the coverage it deserved? I think online and traditional media companies need to look at this overlooked market segment. Most people I know who watch Univision and Telemundo also get news in English, not to mention visit web sites from Latin America.

    • Jennifer, congrats on this new role. I can’t resist leaving a comment. I agree with you that there isn’t much Hispanic news in English or Spanish online (surprised? even though I have collected almost 25,000 English stories in two years, I still think I am only scratching the surface) but I am now not sure if this isn’t at least partial because of an ongoing media evolution within Hispanic media.

      We both know there are many, many local Hispanic newspapers both in Spanish and English across the country. It is my belief that the majority haven’t grabbed the bull by the horns yet and simply have poor or no web presences. They are probably in the same state that small town papers were in the late 90’s. Either way without aggregation sources like Google News, VivirLatino or my own HispanicTips the “news” is lost within the depths of the jungle that is the Internet so only the bigger media players get the attention of the readers and advertisers. Of course, both are needed for most media endeavors to “survive.”

      My concern regardless of language is that knowledge is power and if we aren’t informed we have less power. Case in point, Hispanic’s current political power compared to population. A knowledgeable population, I believe, would lead to more political power. But now this is getting “deep” for a mere comment.

      Once again, congrats and pardon my typos.

      Tomas

    • I am one of Tomas’ subscribers and I want to take this oportunity to commend him for his hard work!

      Soy una de las lectoras de Toms y quiero tomar esta oportunidad para darle las gracias por su ardua labor.

      Martha Crdenas – M.Ed – San Diego, CA
      Mar-Kardenas @ GrupoAmikema.org

    • Perry

      There’s so much to comment about this article I don’t know where to start. On one hand, separating news viewers into language groups could be much like separating orange juice into orange types. The fact is that when we go to the store to buy orange juice, we don’t care what variety of oranges they used to make it. Much the same, if someone is looking for news, language will be almost secondary.

      Now, if people are looking for news as entertainment, to just sit for a while and watch what is going on in the news, maybe language options are more critical there. What I have to say to that is that’s why we have the SAP (Secondary Audio Programming) button, isn’t it? So ANY channel can have their programming in ANY language, not just English or Spanish. I also think there is a huge opportunity being missed in not making the Closed Captioning available in multiple languages separate from the audio language.

      Imagine how many English-speaking people would watch Spanish channels if they could get the subtitles in English??? A whole un-developed market segment there, don’t you think?

      Watching Media in AZ.

    • Mike Wood

      Maybe that will serve as an initiative to learn english, just as the earlier imigrants were required to. I can see no real reason to kowtow to hispanics.

    • paula gonzalez

      Sadly, but true, we are seeing how Telemundo is breaking down affiliates and grouping them together in one specific state.
      I work for Telemundo Network, and on Friday we got the news that Noticiero telemundo fin de semana will be replaced by a 1/2 version of Al Rojo Vivo with anchor Candela Ferrera… at the same time slot that Noticiero fin de semana airs. This obviously is a seriously blow to our community, they sell it as a strategy to compete with Univision, but I see it as a loss for our community.. We are in a very intense year with immigration reform, with a wave of communities becoming anti-immigrant, raids and so on..

      what can I tell you? we move one way take one step foward, but here I felt like we took 3 or more steps back.

    • Eduardo

      Is there any plan for US Public Radio and TV in Spanish language? As a native Spanish speaker and social communicator, I have been amazed by how poor is the quality of Spanish radio, TV and press in US. I just do not consume US Spanish media for this reason…

    • Thank you all for your comments.

      Eduardo: there is, in fact, an initiative to offer public television content in Spanish on the horizon. It’s called V-Me and is available in certain areas through PBS affiliates and on cable:

      http://www.v-me.tv/

    • Antonieta

      Jennifer

      Muchas gracias por este artculo. Comparto la opinin de algunos de los lectores de que no hay mucha oferta de medios en espaol por internet que sean producidos en Estados Unidos. Quiz por la idea (errnea por cierto) de que la gente de habla hispana no lee. Pero lo cierto es que el tamao de la poblacin hispana en Estados Unidos la convierte en el cuarto pas hispano en el mundo. Creo que la situacin est cambiando y va a haber ms oferta de medios en espaol en la web, sobre todo ahora con la convergencia de diversos medios en Internet, como el video, la palabra escrita y el audio. Y creo que si las fuerzas del nacionalismo americano presionan a los hispanos a que deben olvidar el espaol, estos acudirn al internet para practicarlo. As como los migrantes de antao publicaron peridicos de circulacin local, que en muchos casos se hicieron transnacionales al ser fuentes de informacin importantes en las comunidades de origen y destino de estos migrantes (para muestra existe el peridico El Oaxaqueo, publicado en Los Angeles y distribuido en diversas ciudades del Sur de California, as como en Oaxaca tambin. Hay mucho por hacer ciertamente, y la calidad que hace falta en medios en espaol en internet producidos en Estados Unidos, hace de este un mercado potencial nada desdeable. Gracias por el tip de la televisin pblica en espaol.

      Saludos

      Antonieta Mercado

    • Muchas gracias por el comentario, Antonieta. Comparto tu punto de vista sobre el hecho de que internet vaya a ser lo que fueron hace aos los primeros peridicos en espaol de EEUU. Lo curioso sigue siendo por qu no se ve el potencial en EUA, pues el peridico El Pas (de Espaa) est apostando por ser un “peridico global” online, ya que ha visto el potencial que hay en Amrica Latina y el inters que hay en aquella regin por las noticias online. Por qu no lo ha hecho ningn medio de EEUU?

      Un cordial saludo

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