Jul 24, 2014

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NBCLatino.com Shut Down: Does it Foreshadow a Major Shift in Latino-Targeted Media?

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NBCLatino Shutdown

After 16 months, NBCLatino.com is shutting down and will reportedly move its coverage to NBCNews.com.  NBCLatino is one of the many Latino-themed news and digital media platforms that proliferated after the 2010 U.S. census data unveiled Latinos as the fastest growing population, with 50 million in 2010 and an expected annual increase of one million.

NBCLatino has not publicly shared the reasons for this unexpected closure, leaving many (including myself) mourning the loss of a news platform that offered smart, relevant and content-rich news coverage for bicultural Latinos.  In a short period of time, NBCLatino managed to brand itself as a positive, educational and socially minded platform, and avoided gratuitous sensationalism or fanfare, typical of other Latino-themed media platforms.  I, along with many other progressive Latinas, will miss Kristina Puga’s weekly column “Latina Leaders,” which celebrated trailblazing Latinas who are making a mark in this country.

This sudden announcement leaves us pondering on a few important questions:  Is NBCLatino’s shut down the beginning of a major shift in Latino-themed media?  Has media segregation (based on Latino identity) proven to be a bad business model?

Fusion, a news cable network channel and a joint venture between ABC and Univision, launched one month ago.  Fusion’s original vision was to create the first English-language cable network for younger Latino viewers who, by and large, consume over 25 hours a week of television and social media.  However, focus groups with young Latinos revealed that millennium Latinos have absolutely no interest in a television channel focused exclusively on Latinos.  Consequently, Fusion launched on October 28th with a broadened target market: a channel for millenniums of all ethnic/racial backgrounds, with a “wink on Hispanics,” according to Catherine Sullivan, senior VP-ABC News Sales.

Fusion is a perfect case study that exemplifies the problem with utilizing a narrow lens to target U.S. Latinos.  Linear marketing models based solely on ethnic identity are, quite frankly, limited.  The truth is, Latino identity is not the best proxy for consumer behavior; and, in media, this is even more the case.

As a bilingual, bicultural woman, I avidly consume a myriad of media sources.  I browse through Forbes.com for thoughtful articles on career and success; I frequently click through Inc.com to read the latest entrepreneurial advice; I get my general news on the Huffington Post (and admit I hardly ever read the Latino Voices vertical); and I enjoy reading thought-provoking articles on the New York Times (online and print).  I watch CNN and Fox News on television, and get my local news from local television channels.  I even (enthusiastically) watch Sabado Gigante when I visit my mother on the weekends.  The point is, I rarely consume Latino-themed media/news platforms.  Yet, although I didn’t regularly visit NBCLatino.com, I really enjoyed reading the NBCLatino articles shared via social media.  I enjoyed the articles not because they were focused on Latinos, but because the platform was about something I am very passionate about:  empowering and elevating the Latino community through decent and smart content.

I Am Latina, but I Prefer Mainstream Media

If you are reading this article and you happen to be a media marketer or publisher, I have something important to tell you.  Write this down:  As a Latina born in this country (and I am sure this applies to Latinos raised in this country), mainstream media is MY media of preference.  Do I want to see Latina/o faces on CNN, The View or the Today Show?  Absolutely.  But I want to see hosts, co-hosts and actors on mainstream television who happen to be Latinos. A media platform or channel constructed around one aspect of my multifaceted life does not appeal to me, at all.

Wake up call to media marketers:  Bicultural/millenium Latinos are not only immersed in mainstream culture and media, but are actually a dominating force and influence in what America is becoming. To take us out of that equation by continuously segregating our news and stories in Latino-themed platforms (and verticals) is futile.

Targeting the Latino Market:  Beyond Ethnic Identity

Big brands and big media marketers have spent the last three years (since the 2010 US Census data) trying to figure out how to effectively target the Latino 1.5 trillion dollar consumer market.  Unfortunately, their lack of understanding and simplistic view of U.S. Latinos is proving to be quite costly.  Their blatant eyes-on-the-prize model has created a silent, but powerful, brand cynicism among Latino consumers.  If, back in 2010, media companies had taken the time to get to know us, and build an authentic relationship with the Latino community, they would had found the golden coin.  First, they would have learned that Latino self-identity is less relevant in predicting Latino consumer behavior, than passion, interests, aspirations, core values and a need to connect with like-minded people.  And how do you learn about a community’s passion, dreams and interests?  Simple:  By having a genuine relationship with that community and being immersed in it.  Sounds like a lot of work?  You bet.  But short cuts are often the culprit of failure.

The shift is inevitable.  A more robust marketing model, anchored on a socio-cultural understanding of who Latinos are, and what matters to them is key.  Passions and interests are more important than ethnic labels.  Long-term investment in the Latino community will yield much better return.  Finally, integration of Latino news and Latino-relevant content within mainstream media outlets is not only logical, but bottom-line smart.  Unfortunately, the integration of Latino-focused news and content in mainstream media will continue to be challenged by the bias and resistance of non-Hispanic American media consumers and top media executives.

Show me a media platform with smart content; that addresses those issues that I’m passionate about; that reports on interests and issues that matter to me; and is written and produced by a group of diverse and talented individuals, including Latinos – and I’ll sign up immediately.  Brand loyalty will be a bonus.

 

 

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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Comments

  1. ESOESOESO!!! Also, stop centering so much on the younger crowd- nosotros, the bilingual born/raised in the US BabyBoomers are living longer and appreciating what age and living here has brought us. Now’s OUR turn to spend on US and the niceties of life. Brands- estamos watching. BB2U

  2. Susana Baumann says:

    Hi, Angelica! As much as I agree with you in general terms, two reflections come to mind. First, mainstream media does not make room for Latinos/as because there is still a sense of “otherness” among the American white population regarding minorities. So despite that you look for your news in mainstream media, you will seldom see a Latino/a included in capital discussions such as health or education or poverty. Have you noticed that they only include us when the discussion is about immigration reform, as if we didn’t have an opinion on those other issues?
    The second reflection is on our own Latino community, which in its eagerness to “belong,” fails to support good efforts such as NBCLatino.com. I, as you know, happen to write for several Latino-oriented online publications. I have never encountered resistance from Latino leaders to be portrayed on any of them. However, many publications struggle to survive, and keep bringing good coverage and role model stories about our own people. You mentioned you favorite Latina Leaders read, for instance. I believe it is time to evaluate our role in conquering new spaces in media -mainstream or alternative- and not letting those opportunities be lost. In my view, we need to gain and sustain every inch of “stage” we can, talk about our issues and preferences and be seen as an integral part of this American community.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Susana, thank you for your comment. I agree with you — that there is huge resistance from mainstream media to cover relevant Latino issues. I am not against Latino-themed media platforms (as you can see, I really enjoyed NBCLatino.com), but I do see a problem with our stories and news being exclusively written in Latino-focused media outlets or verticals. Ideally, we should have both. But, what ends up happening is that our dialogue stays within the confined of these smaller, Latino-oriented media platforms. It’s like having a table in the school cafeteria assigned to Latinos, and the rest of the school can sit anywhere else. You know what I mean? I want to have the Latino table AND the ability to move around the cafeteria, and make sure everyone knows who I am.

  3. YES! Thank you for voicing this in the manner of which you did. Your solutions are simple and clear but very obviously overlooked (relationship and getting to know us) by mainstream media channels and clients.

    I have been saying this more than usual lately when speaking to prospects, clients, colleagues, etc.: “A Latino in the U.S., lives in and inhabits your (non-Latino white) world on a day to day basis. However, it’s unlikely that you live in and inhabit their world.” Get to know us a little better. Especially if you want to make money off of us.

    btw- I also like the lunch table analogy you made.

  4. This means Latinos don’t need to be sectioned off to another website just for them. That implies we only occupy one small section. We are the new mainstream now. We will be the ones speaking the NBC news now. This isn’t a marketing problem for NBC this is failing to recognize a big paradigm shift.

  5. The cafeteria analogy is SPOT ON Angelica!
    Susana, you’re correct that “mainstream media does not make room for Latinos/as because there is still a sense of “otherness” among the American white population regarding minorities. ” The longer our biggest media platforms are encouraged to practice apartheid -style segregation of content, the more this will continue.

    I said this elsewhere but I want to state it here: The point is that Latinos ARE the mainstream, fully integrated into American society. Segregated ethnic media platforms are designed to benefit advertisers….PERIOD. I don’t want Kristina Puga’s excellent article about the physicist and professor who happens to be a Latina segregated at NBC Latino; I want ALL NBC readers/viewers in America to see her story, because if they don’t see her and many like her, then they can go on believing the tired, old, false stereotypes. Yet there are many people in Hispanic advertising and marketing attempting to perpetuate the lie that brands must spend advertising money on Spanish media or with segregated media platforms to reach Latinos. It’s a lie that’s convenient to believe and makes it easy to market whatever products with a stereotypical dancing taco, thinking you’re actually reaching the community. It’s how brands can keep it simple, be lazy, not segment and not spend the time/energy to truly understand the multicultural, multilingual, multiracial complexity that makes up our community.

    But when that campaign fails because we’re NOT consuming that segregated media as Angelica points out in this piece (because she and I are reading the Wall Street Journal), the lie begins to crumble. THAT’S largely what we’re seeing here. I think it’s FABULOUS that inclusion is being forced on these platforms – because I want the “otherness” to STOP. As a military veteran, I’m especially irritated that after having left the inclusive, all-American military, it’s back to that feeling of “otherness” in regular civilian society. Enough already!!

    Here’s another example of what’s wrong: Did you know that I submitted what was clearly a business article to the Huffington Post BUSINESS vertical but the editorial staff ignored that fact and stuck it in the Latino Voices section? Why? Because the business event I was writing about that took place at Google was called “Latinas Think Big…” Like Latinas can’t think big about business? I was furious. It took some work and direct connection with editors but I got them to move it to the business section. That way, readers of THAT section could be made aware that Latinas Leaders were hosted at a Fortune 100 company campus for a leadership event. I want to shatter those “otherness” images so deeply ingrained in general audience minds who have been fed poison and negativity for decades. It’s why I write the books I do, books that showcase Latino contributions in the USA and put them into mainstream, general market distribution, K-12, etc. We must force the “otherness” to go away, a little each day, and inclusion is the only way.

    It’s about to get really really messy as we enter the upcoming political campaigns. Those who attempt to keep our stories separated for the convenience of the advertisers will not be rewarded with our loyalty.
    Bravo for an excellent, perfectly – articulated piece Angelica!

    Graciela Tiscareno-Sato
    Author of “Latinnovating” and “Good Night Captain Mama”

  6. “Show me a media platform with smart content; that addresses those issues that I’m passionate about; that reports on interests and issues that matter to me; and is written and produced by a group of diverse and talented individuals, including Latinos – and I’ll sign up immediately.” But that was NBCLatino and you said you weren’t interested???

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      David, I did say I was interested in NBCLatino.com. I made that point twice. Why? Not necessarily because ALL the news focused on Latinos, but rather because it addresses one of my passions and interests: smart and empowering content about Latinos. How many other Latino-oriented news platform can you find that do that?

      Listen, I am NOT advocating for all these platforms to go away. BUT, having ALL our news niched into special platforms makes me feel quite uncomfortable. That practice does not allow full integration into mainstream news.

      In an earlier comment, I used the school cafeteria analogy. Would you like it if your children’s school or your job had lunch tables assigned ONLY for Latinos, while everyone else can sit anywhere they want? No. Not really, right? You would want to have the choice of both. BUT, not with a big sign saying “Latinos Table.”

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