Net jumps on Spanish language digital-content bandwagon

From English-language websites aimed at Latino cultural concerns to Spanish-language sites repurposing news first gathered in English, TV networks are looking for ways to tap into the 50.5 million-strong U.S. Hispanic population — the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. — a group that not only watches TV but also embraces the Internet and smart phones.

NBC News is the latest to jump on the digital-content bandwagon, with plans to launch NBCLatino.com, a Hispanic-centric English-language news and general-interest website in February.

It follows the likes of CNNEspanol.com and CNN’s Latino in America blog, which both bowed in early November. Fox News Latino debuted in October 2010, and Spanish-lingo Univision has been posting English-language news stories on the blogging site Tumblr, where the upcoming NBCLatino.com has already made a soft launch.

“The site will be in English and work closely with Telemundo but it won’t be a mirror version of Telemundo’s Spanish-language site,” says NBC News prexy Steve Capus, who points out that 88% of U.S.-born Hispanics speak fluent English, according to the latest census findings.

Notes Chris Pena, NBC Latino managing editor, “We’re aiming for the bilingual acculturated Latinos.”

NBC has also been inspired by the success of the Grio, its African-American-centric site, now the third-most popular African-American website after just two years.

Hispanic online initiatives from mainstream networks had an early start in 2004 when TV producer/journo David Puente launched ABCNews.com/exclusiva while a producer at ABC’s “20/20.” His was the first online weekly news program aimed at the Hispanic market; the show aired on ABC News Now, the network’s digital news channel that transmits over the Internet and via wi-fi.

Puente now combines his current job as a producer of CNN’s “AC360″ with editing “Latino in America,” part of CNN’s “In America” docu unit. The English-language Latino in America blog focuses on the issue of identity; on what it means to be Latino in the U.S.

“We’re centering on under-reported stories and tapping CNN’s global resources in the process,” Puente says.

Meanwhile, CNNEspanol.com is a Spanish-language site that taps CNN’s 24-hour breaking news capability and key bureaus in Latin America to deliver mainly video reports on issues and news of interest to Latinos.

“I think news organizations are positioning themselves now in anticipation of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections,” says Juan Andres Munoz, CNNEspanol senior interactive producer. Given the growing political clout of the U.S. Hispanic population and financial clout of the market, it makes perfect sense.

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