U.S. Hispanics Are Biggest Share of Spanish Speakers Online

The U.S. Hispanic online population continues to surge, after lagging behind in Internet adoption for years, according to new research.

ComScore Media Metrix, a Reston, Va.-based Web research and measurement firm, reported on Monday that U.S. Hispanic Internet users outnumber those of any Spanish-speaking country.

According to the researcher’s statistics, in January 2003 12.4 million Hispanics — about one third of all Hispanics — had Internet access from home, work or school. This makes U.S. Hispanics outrank the Internet population of Spain by 11 percent and Mexico by 73 percent. In fact, the U.S. Hispanic online population outnumbers that of Mexico, Argentina and Colombia combined.

While the Hispanic Internet penetration continues to lag behind the overall population, marketers have begun to eye it as a fertile opportunity. In January, the U.S. Census Bureau released population estimates that showed for the first time Hispanics outnumbered blacks in the United States. With 37 million people, Hispanics ranked as the top minority in the country. Hispanic consumers are estimated to have a combined annual purchasing power of $450 billion, according to DRI/McGraw Hill.

Unsurprisingly, comScore found Hispanic Internet users more affluent than Hispanics without Net access, with nearly 60 percent living in households with income above $40,000 versus 47 percent for non-Internet users.

ComScore’s data, based on a panel of 50,000 U.S Internet users identifying themselves as Hispanic, shows the U.S. Hispanic Internet audience behaving mostly the same as the general population, in terms of online activity.

On average, Hispanics spent 85.9 minutes online per day versus 86.4 minutes for the overall Internet population. Likewise, Hispanics viewed an average of 122.6 pages per day, while the general population viewed 120.6.

The findings differ somewhat from another recent study on U.S. Hispanic Internet use done by AOL and pollster RoperASW. That study found Hispanics spending appreciably more time online than the overall Internet population.

Mirroring their general profile, online Hispanics tend to be younger than the overall U.S. population: 83 percent are under 45 versus 69 percent for all Net users. Also, Hispanic Internet users tend to live in larger households, with 18 percent reporting five or more persons in their house. Just 18 percent of the overall Internet population report that many in their households.

“Since Hispanic Web users tend to be younger and live in larger households, they are likely to be more comfortable with technology and exercise influence over other family members for purchases and other key decisions,” said Richard Israel, vice president of Hispanic marketing solutions at comScore.

One challenge for marketers has been how to address the diverse Hispanic audience, which is a catchall term for people from a variety of countries. For example, comScore found 51 percent of Hispanics preferring English at home, versus 21 percent using Spanish and 27 percent reporting equal use of English and Spanish.

For Spanish-preferred Hispanic Web users, comScore found the top 10 Web sites in that category have a 91 percent reach. For that reason, many of those sites have begun to thrive. Univision, for example, reported adding 70 advertisers last year, as its ad revenue nearly doubled.

A variety of marketers have sought to target Hispanics online. Office Depot in January opened a Spanish-language site to cater to the more than 2 million Hispanic-owned small businesses. Automakers have long been keen to tap into the market: Toyota launched a Spanish-language site back in September 2001. Ford and General Motor have plans to follow suit.

ComScore launched its Hispanic measurement unit last October, signing on clients like Yahoo! en Espanol, Terra Networks and AOL.

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