As the Hispanic population grows in the US, newswires are modifying their services. Sara Calabro looks at how their approaches vary in reaching this diverse audience.According to Strategy Research Corporation's 2002 US Hispanic Market Report, 13.4% of the US population is made up of Hispanics. The largest minority in the US, Hispanics account for $428.3 billion of buying power. This strong presence has made disseminating information to the community a necessity rather than just a competitive advantage. As the number of Hispanics who read, watch, and listen to mainstream media outlets continues to increase, so does the number of Hispanic media outlets. Both of these trends have created tremendous opportunities for newswire services. Being familiar with and catering to the needs of the Hispanic community is key when newswires are developing their offerings. "Mainstream publications often take for granted that readers know how life in the US is," says Manny Ruiz, president and CEO of Hispanic PR Wire. "But for Hispanics, the media is often an introduction to this country. The news needs to bridge Hispanic and Latin American mentalities with the US way of doing things." Ruiz points to the example of this past summer's soccer World Cup to illustrate how important it is for distributors to understand the Hispanic audience. "In most US publications, World Cup coverage gets buried on the back pages, despite how monumental the event is to Hispanics," he explains. That, opines Ruiz, is not acceptable, given the substantial percentage of Hispanics that make up outlets' readership. Hispanic PR Wire became the first company dedicated solely to US Hispanic distribution when it launched three years ago. "We saw a major gap between what the major wire services were doing for mainstream markets, and what was available for the US Hispanic markets," says Ruiz. Responding to a need Noting that approximately 50% of US Hispanic media outlets were still receiving news via fax as recently as two years ago, Ruiz says the community was greatly in need of a specialized distributor. "It wasn't cutting it for them to be working with a mainstream newswire that was operating mostly through satellite feeds and e-mail because our audience didn't have those capabilities yet." Since then, technology at US Hispanic, Latin American, and Caribbean media outlets has improved, as has the general newswire companies' ability to reach them. Over the past two years, all of the major wires have launched services that specifically cater to one or more of these markets in some way. PR Newswire's (PRN) Latin American e-mail and wire distribution reaches more than 3,000 media outlets in 17 countries. With working bureaus in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil, its industry-specific news lines - hi-tech, business and finance, healthcare, automotive, energy, and entertainment - cater to Latin American trade publications as well as the general media. PRN broke into the US Hispanic market in March of this year through a partnership with EFE News Agency, a Spanish-language news agency. Until recently, it was not common practice for Latin American or US Hispanic media to receive segmented releases by sector over the major wires in the same way mainstream media outlets did. Hispanic PR Wire offered 14 categories of news distribution at its inception, and Ruiz now commends his competitors for acknowledging segmentation as a necessity. "In the same way, you have to go to an ethnic market instead of a big grocery store to get unique ingredients," Ruiz says, adding that clients want to know that their news disseminator offers specialized distribution for key audiences. Internet Wire currently distributes to several major US Hispanic media outlets, and has plans to roll out its Latin American offerings in the first quarter of 2003. Similarly, US Newswire's Hispanic distribution includes mainstream media in heavily Hispanic-populated areas, such as Miami, Los Angeles, and San Antonio, TX, in addition to specialized Hispanic media outlets. Translation into Spanish is offered on all releases, if desired, although Brian Taylor, US Newswire's director of sales and marketing, reveals, "We've found most of the larger Hispanic news outlets prefer to get untranslated information so they can translate it themselves in their editorial use." Moving toward translation In conjunction with increasing reach to US Hispanic and Latin American markets, some newswires have begun offering their existing services in Spanish to keep up with the astounding rates at which Hispanic audiences continue to grow. In April, PRN translated its entire Online MEDIAtlas (OMA) database, and added thousands of Hispanic and Latin American media contacts. OMA en Espanol gives visitors access to all journalists and media outlets in the database in Spanish, and they can also download training workbooks and data guides in the language. A Spanish-speaking support staff was installed when the new service launched as well. Business Wire did something similar last month with its joint internet venture with Medialink, Newstream.com. Based on a recent study by comScore Networks that found the US Hispanic internet population had grown 19% between the first quarters of 2001 and 2002, the two companies launched the Spanish version of Newstream. The new site distributes downloadable multimedia news content in Spanish to registered online journalists. It also posts Spanish-language stories with video, audio, and graphics for journalists and the general public to access. "The number of Hispanics on the web grew at a rate more than three times the rate of non-Hispanics," reports Les Blatt, managing editor of Newstream. "They now make up 11% of the total US online population, and that number continues to grow. American corporations and organizations are eager to reach this expanding audience." Last month, Hispanic PR Wire expanded its offerings to include a monitoring service. LatinClips tracks online Latin American and Caribbean media sources, in addition to the usual US Hispanic outlets that the company has traditionally focused on. Other Latin American tracking services have emerged from non-newswire organizations as well, creating a new point of competition. Different in its nonexclusive focus on online outlets, The Jeffrey Group launched PubTracker this October. Headquartered in the US, PubTracker operates as its own company by the 40 contracted employees that currently run The Jeffrey Group in Latin America. The service provides clients with digital images of hard-copy clips. "Many Latin American publications are not available online," explains Jeffrey Sharlach, president and CEO of The Jeffrey Group and PubTracker. "And there also aren't as many key media outlets as there are in the US, so placement becomes very important. It is necessary for our clients to see an actual copy of where they appeared." PRN's version is L-Watch. It is a web-based, in-language clipping service, created through an agreement with Reporte Informativo, a Latin American clipping service. L-Watch enables clients to receive electronic clips via e-mail from 350 Hispanic print and online publications in the US, and 600 outlets in Spanish and Portuguese from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. From all this, Ruiz notes a trend: allocating separate funds for US Hispanic versus Latin American and Caribbean markets, which he predicts will become more prevalent in the near future. Ninety-five percent of Hispanic PR Wire's distribution services focus on US Hispanic markets only, while approximately 50% of LatinClips' offerings are geared exclusively toward Latin America and the Caribbean. "The two used to always be lumped together, but now companies are catching on to the need to keep them separate," explains Ruiz. Citing different laws, governments, and traditions, he concludes, "They are two different monsters."