In a sharp contrast to the changes occurring in traditional US media, Spanish-language publications and TV stations are not only growing in size and scope, but actively reaching the core demographic of Spanish speakers who live in the US.
An August 3 story by The Associated Press reported that stations like Spanish-language WXTV, a Univision affiliate in Paterson, NJ, and its 6pm newscast, are leading with viewers who are younger than 49 years old, compared to English-speaking ABC-, CBS-, and NBC-affiliate stations.
In early July, Univision also re-ported that KMEX, an LA affiliate, was the number one station in the US for adults, ages 18 to 49, during April, May, and June. And, simply based on numbers, the Hispanic population has risen from 35 million in 2000 to 44 million in 2006, according to the US Census Bureau.
"Univision is growing at the expense of the general market," says Manny Ruiz, president of PR Newswire's multicultural services and Hispanic PR Wire. "Not only is Univision growing, others are growing."
Ruiz adds that for every 50,000 Hispanics in a community, there are at least two publications. In "new frontier" communities, like North and South Carolina and Las Vegas, the growing population of Hispanic residents has created a need for new media outlets, he says.
"The DNA of multicultural media is not just language, but culture," Ruiz notes. "[Ethnic media] has to be advocates for [the] community. It's different than traditional American journalism."
While the Spanish media market has become more efficient in terms of hard news coverage in the past five years, Ruiz notes that the advocate role that ethnic media has played for those communities will not change. In fact, it is reminiscent of the changes that have happened in mainstream media, with bloggers and some journalists taking a more opinionated stance in their writing.
"It's a tradition that goes back to Latin America," he says. In the same way, Spanish-speaking viewers tend to view media outlets as part of a community dialogue, calling up news stations with crime tips and watching for news from their home country.
The community emphasis is a main reason for the new growth in the Hispanic media market, according to Roxana Lissa, CEO and founder of LA-based RL Public Relations.
"There's a relationship with the viewer that is different," she says. "It's a community sort of relationship. It's not just the numbers, not just the content."
In Los Angeles alone, the sheer quantity of Spanish-speaking media outlets has increased in the past four years, which subsequently changed the type of news - less features and more hard news - and how competitive it is to get a story placed.
"It's more sophisticated," Lissa says. But, Spanish-speaking media retains much of its role as a service to the community, especially for new immigrants. As for agency clients, Lissa notes that some companies still do not, surprisingly, advertise in, or craft PR campaigns targeted at, Hispanic media outlets.
In the past, the lag time between pitches and coverage in ethnic media was much more prevalent and could take up to a week or a month, Ruiz explains. But Hispanic media has been quick to embrace the change in recent years and now generates news quicker, while still retaining the voice that has made it different from traditional US media.
"Traditional media is on its head," Ruiz says. "Now, it's 'I gathered this. I gathered that. You know what I think?'"