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.