Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The promise of the English-speaking Latino audience

English-language content directed at Latinos is on the rise, especially as media companies go digital.
English-language content directed at Latinos is on the rise, especially as media companies go digital.
Photo by Jerry Bunkers/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The official announcement yesterday that the Disney-owned ABC News has teamed with Univision to launch a 24-hour cable news channel for English-speaking Latinos next year is just the latest in a series of similar announcements from media companies.

In the past two years, we've seen English-language ventures aimed at a Latino audience that include Fox News LatinoHuffPost Latino Voices and Patch Latino.

There has also been the more recent launch of Voxxi, a English-language website for “acculturated Latinos” headed by a former editor from Spain’s EFE news agency, and a new bilingual YouTube content network, MiTu. And while we're on ventures with creative names, let's not forget mun2, the Telemundo-affiliated cable network for young Latinos with content in English and Spanish.

Not long ago, most content directed at Latinos, on air and in print, was in Spanish. Why the language shift, especially as media companies focus more on digital content? Back in February, when news of the Disney-Univision partnership first came to light, I posted a Q&A with Giovanni Rodriguez, a social-technology and marketing expert with Deloitte Consulting who studies and writes about the Latino media market. Here's a bit of what Rodriguez had to say about the power of content en inglés, and why marketers and media execs seem to be discovering it now:

True, it does feel like the interest in English has come all of a sudden. But in fact, the market has been moving in this direction over the last few years. Fox launched its English-language site Fox News Latino back in 2010, just weeks before the mid-term congressional elections. And there were several, though less visible, experiments in English-language content before that.

Still, there is a new development that’s worth noting. The most recent launches – by Univision, Disney and NBC – are in part the outcome of the new attention that Latino digital is enjoying by digital influencers. The big marketing trade publications are all following the emerging power of Latinos online and media companies are taking notice.

As to the appeal, we know we can speak to each other in English. Whatever can’t do in Spanish, we will do in English. It’s easier to connect. You can speak Spanish sometimes, but you speak English so you can connect with the larger world. There are a lot of Latinos who want to connect with the larger world and on the Internet, that larger world is in English. They can play in the larger world and still remain Latino.

There's more: Data from the 2010 census that in the last year has been making its way into corporate strategies points to a major shift in the nation's Latino population, which is that the bulk of the growth in this population is no longer coming from immigrants. It is now coming from their children, i.e. U.S.-born Latinos who will grow up speaking English.

Recent studies have also indicated that net migration from Mexico, which in the latter half of the 20th century fueled the nation's Latino population growth and provided the U.S. with the majority of its new immigrants, has essentially reached net zero as fewer Mexicans choose to come north, and more choose to return south.

Around the country, census data points to a slowdown in the growth of foreign-born populations in most U.S. states. And a recent University of Southern California study that zeroed in on California's future population projected a state in which foreign-born first generation immigrants will make up an increasingly small part of the working-age population.

Meanwhile, what growth is seen in California's working-age population – 98 percent of it, in fact – is expected to come from the U.S.-born children of immigrants.

And these children of immigrants have disposable income. In a Multi-American Q&A last year, USC sociologist Jody Agius Vallejo discussed her research for a forthcoming book about Los Angeles' Mexican American middle class; she sampled respondents with household incomes over $100,000 a year, 70 percent of whom said they grew up in disadvantaged communities.

A recent article in Adweek titled "The Truth About Hispanic Consumers" addressed commonly held myths about income and language. From the piece:

Myth: Upscale brands shouldn’t bother with Hispanics

Reality: The upscale Hispanic household is one of the fastest growing Latino segments

In its report Upscale Latino Consumers in the U.S., the market research firm Packaged Facts reports that, in the past decade, upscale Hispanic households (defined as having an annual income of $75,000 or more) have more than doubled, to roughly three million. Their members account for a quarter of all Hispanic consumers and they generate 51 percent of Hispanic aggregate income. Their buying power will be worth $680 billion by the middle of this decade....

Myth: Spanish-language campaigns are enough

Reality: There’s more to reaching Hispanic consumers than just Español

Right now, it’s common for marketers to take the easy path—run equivalent Spanish-language campaigns alongside their English efforts. There’s even data to back that up. According to the Experian Simmons Summer 2011 National Hispanic Consumer Study, 56 percent of Spanish-dominant Hispanics agree that, “When I hear a company advertise in Spanish, it makes me feel like they respect my heritage and want my business.” Similarly, 54 percent of Spanish-dominant Hispanics are “much more loyal to companies that show appreciation of our culture by advertising in Spanish.”

The problem is, those numbers drop nearly in half for English-dominant Hispanics. And English-dominants may be the future of the American Hispanic population: As new generations of Hispanic consumers feel removed from their forebears’ countries of origins, many no longer speak Spanish.

So there you have it.

The new ABC-Univision venture still doesn't have a name, but plans are for the network to launch during the first half of 2013. "This is a recognition of the new American reality," Univision Networks president Cesar Conde told the Los Angeles Times.

On that note, check out Univision's "The New American Reality" video, which spells it out. My favorite line: "I live at the intersection of my two cultures. I take from each what I choose."