In honor of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), Business Wire and their LatinoWire media partner Impremedia, are hosting a panel discussion on The Latinx Media Landscape in 2023.
Webinar moderator, Jessica Retis, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the School of Journalism and Director of the Bilingual Journalism Program at the University of Arizona, will share her experience as a former journalist. She will also provide her expertise as a published researcher in Latino/a/x/s and the news media in North America, Europe, and Asia; journalism education (including bilingual journalism); Latin American diasporas; and transnational communities.
Dr. Retis' report, Hispanic Media Today: Serving Bilingual and Bicultural Audiences in the Digital Age, is written in five parts and explores the history of Spanish-language media outlets (newspapers and broadcast) in the United States, provides a rundown of the challenges facing Hispanic/Latinx media in the digital era, and evaluates current trends and news media practices.
Highlights from Hispanic Media Today
- The arrival of immigrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Spain in the early twentieth century led to the launch of over 200 newspapers, a dozen of them circulating daily. Among the Spanish-language papers founded were La Prensa in El Paso in 1913 (ceased in 1963), La Opinión in Los Angeles in 1926, El Diario de Nueva York in 1947, and Diario las Américas in 1953. Most of them are still published today.
- The mid-1990s to early 2000s saw a dramatic increase of Hispanic newspaper production, a reflection of the significant Hispanic population growth during this time. Circulation of Spanish-language newspapers more than tripled, whereas English-language newspapers experienced an 11 percent decline.
- Like the larger news media industry, the Spanish-language press has faced the transition to the digital era, while simultaneously experiencing the consolidation of news media conglomerates. A recent study assessing the performance of Spanish-language digital news highlighted the many difficulties Spanish-language and bilingual media encountered when reporting, producing, and disseminating news online such as offering no search function, mobile app, newsletter, and/or social media presence.
- Spanish-language radio programming began in the late 1920s in Texas and California, as San Antonio’s KONO and Los Angeles’s KFWB started the brokerage system that allowed radio announcers, often Hispanic immigrants, to purchase blocks of radio time and resell them to other announcers and performers.
- Some early Spanish-language programming on U.S. radio stations provided not only entertainment but also information and political advocacy, which was particularly important for temporary agricultural immigrants who crossed the border on a regular basis and started building transnational life experiences.
- In the 1960s, the popularity of Spanish-language radio increased. Advertisers realized the potential of Hispanic consumers. Several corporations started investing in, and reaping the benefits of, narrowcasting to the influential market of native and/or bilingual Spanish speakers.
- Like its English-language counterparts, Spanish-language commercial radio has faced consolidation. During the 1970s, seven station groups owned Spanish-language radio stations throughout the U.S. The largest of these, the National Spanish Language Network, owned 26 stations. As of 2015, five radio groups own the nation’s commercial Spanish-language stations, with the largest, Univision, owning 74 stations.
- A 2013 report found that radio listenership is higher among Hispanic consumers than among any other ethnic group. On average, ninety-five percent of U.S. Hispanic consumers tune in every week. Among Spanish speakers, the top five most popular formats are all music, led by Mexican Regional and Spanish contemporary, while news/talk is the fourth most popular format among English speakers.
- Over the past 50 years, Hispanic television has undergone a profound transformation from its origins as a U.S. minority media to its competitive niche in the general U.S. TV market. Hispanic TV has become a space of self-representation, providing information on Latinx communities’ interest in issues such as immigration, politics, health, education, and culture.
- Similar to Spanish-language radio, growing Latinx audiences during the late 1980s and the 1990s resulted in increased investment in Latinx television, particularly as the overall Spanish-language TV audience surpassed that of the U.S. mainstream media. In 2010, for example, the number of U.S. Latinx households with TV sets increased by 3.1 percent, three times more than all households in the U.S. general market, and television advertising grew 10 percent.
- The expansion of Spanish-language television in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries wasn’t limited to Univision and Telemundo. Smaller independent Hispanic television networks emerged during this time including HTV, LATV, LAT TV, and Mexicanal.
- Digital and social media have created space for new formats and platforms for Hispanic media producers. Remezcla, a site devoted to new Latin art and culture, was launched in 2008. Mitú, a site devoted to what they call “‘the 200%’ - youth who are 100% American and 100% Latino,” first launched on YouTube in 2012.
- The growing presence of Latinx-oriented media online reflects the changing use of media among U.S. Hispanics. A 2016 study found that more than 90 percent of Hispanics under 50 use the Internet, compared to 67 percent for those 50 to 64 and 42 percent for those 65 and over. Ninety-four percent of U.S. Latinxs who speak primarily English use the Internet, compared to 86 percent of those who are bilingual and 74 percent of those who speak primarily Spanish. And U.S.-born Latinxs are more likely to use the Internet than foreign-born Latinxs.
- As more Hispanic Americans become bilingual, Spanish-language media companies are increasing their English-language offerings, while English-language media offer Spanish-language content.
As Dr. Retis notes in her report, the story of Hispanic media in America is not a simple, linear story, and there are enormous opportunities to invest in this space and elevate the work of Hispanic/Latinx journalists. She recommends that philanthropic funders and investors continue to provide critical operating resources to Spanish-language media and help them develop and design new revenue models.
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