Cultural Relevance Brings Hispanic Population to the Web

Hispanic Internet users in the U.S. seek out culturally relevant content and tools, and have multi-language usage habits. The “AOL Latino 2006 Hispanic Cyberstudy,” conducted by Synovate for AOL, looks at how this demographic segment uses the Internet.

Within the U.S., the online Hispanic population numbers over 16 million, or 55 percent of the total Hispanic population. Among those 16 million, 77 percent have broadband access.

“Last year, we saw the audience was already attaining critical mass in online penetration,” said Mark Lopez, publisher of AOL Latino. “We found that broadband penetration and overall usage was still growing faster than the general market.”

Internet usage within the Latino community is characterized by habit and cultural relevancy. The study finds three distinct acculturation patterns, or user adoption of cultural traits or social behaviors of another group. In terms of acculturation, 81 percent of online Hispanics are mostly or partially adoptive of general available content. Nineteen percent measurably tend to look for content catering to the Latino audience. Though over 80 percent are interested in all the content the Web has to offer and read English-language sites, 40 percent also find Spanish-language content appealing. Even the “unacculturated” group seeks out sites in multiple languages, 37 percent prefer content in both languages, and 15 percent stick with Spanish-only sites.

“We try to offer them tools in both languages, English and Spanish, so then the user has a choice what language they want to use, and what language they want to communicate with,” said Lopez.

Hispanics use social networking tools to communicate with friends and family. Sixty-eight percent use instant messaging; 63 percent share photos online; 52 percent read or post to blogs; 43 percent visit social networking sites; and 40 percent use VoIP (define) or other Internet-based phone service.

From a content perspective, this market segment uses the Web for news (48 percent) and map sites (43 percent) heavily. The group also regularly checks out music, weather, health, and travel sites.

Dual use of language for this market segment is important to marketers. “Historically, when marketers have looked at the Hispanic market, they’ve looked at a Spanish-only world,” said Lopez. “Really the Internet is the only medium that allows you to follow that segment as they move across both languages.”

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