New Study Finds Spanish Language Media Thriving

Suddenly it seems like every publisher and their mamá has decided to court the emerging Latino market.  Recently, The Huffington Post announced a new section, "Latino Voices," and Fox News Launched Fox News Latino.  I guess they too read the census.  It is notable that the bulk of the new non-Latino-owned mega-sites are emerging in English - an obvious evolution given that bilingual and English-dominant Hispanics are more digitally plugged in than Spanish-dominant Hispanics.   But while various new enterprises clamor for this readership online, there's also something interesting happening off-line: Spanish-language outlets are tending to do better overall than their mainstream English-language peers. 

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, many Spanish-language outlets are growing.  Univision, the largest Spanish-language network is now performing competitively with the three major English-language broadcast networks.  According to the study: "In the 2010-2011 television season, Univision was the only major U.S. TV network to grow average primetime audience among 18-49 year olds-up 8% versus the season before. For the same demographic group, among the English-language networks, Fox lost 4%, CBS lost 8%, ABC lost 9% and NBC lost 14% over the same period."  In addition, the number of Spanish-language radio stations increased, magazines demonstrated year-over-year growth in ad spending, and while Hispanic newspapers saw a dip in their circulation, they still fared better than their English-language peers. 

The growth of Spanish-language media may surprise some.  Read one way, all signs point away from Spanish-language media: Latinos are increasingly young and American born, and a majority is bilingual.  Adios Español, hello Ingles. Right?   Not so fast.  That assumption belies the experience of most young Latinos who, regardless of their default tongue, move seamlessly between English and Spanish-dominant worlds.  Even I who grew up in an English-only home watched Sabado Gigante and rode a school bus where we only listened to La Mega 97.9 and Amor 93.1.  It should be no surprise that Latinos continue to consume Spanish-language media.

Beyond language, there are additional unique strengths of the Spanish-language press.  While local newspapers continue to shut their doors, the structure of the Spanish-language print press in local and regional clusters makes them some of the only outlets that still offer local news.   That offers Latinos a way to access their local news, and it allows businesses a way to access local Latinos.  Consider this:

Local ad revenue makes up a much larger slice of the advertising pie for Hispanic newspapers than does national ad revenue. In 2010, local ads accounted for 78% of all Hispanic newspaper ad revenue, or $554 million, according to Latino Print Network. National ad revenue accounted for 21% ($151 million); online web advertising represented only 1% of ad revenue ($7.2 million).

As more Latinos gain digital access, these numbers will shift yet again - but in which direction?  Will Spanish-language media begin to turn that offline interest into online readership?  Will they begin to expand their coverage to include English?  Will more English-language online sites decide they too need a tilde in the title?  Could it be that while the traditional "cross-over" has meant Spanish to English that some of these sites will ultimately expand to Spanish?  And most importantly, even with all the translators in the world, will any of these Jose's come lately be able to deliver for a Latino audience when their outlets are neither Latino owner nor operated?