Do you speak Spanglish?: Producing content for Latino audiences

byJenny Manrique
Apr 18, 2016 in Miscellaneous

How should news organizations target the diverse Latino audiences in the U.S.? Editors who create content for U.S. Hispanics shared some tips during Hispanicize, the largest annual event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in digital content creation, that took place last week in Miami.

“It’s important to understand that Spanish-language media is not going anywhere,” said Hugo Balta, senior director of multicultural content at ESPN. “Immigration from Latin America continues and Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the country.”

Knowing this, here are some tips we gathered from the event:

Identify the audience you want to reach

English, Spanish or bilingual? The language preference of the vast Latino population in the U.S. (almost 56 million, according to the most recent census data) depends on variables such as country of origin, arrival date, the states where they live and age, as well as the different generations found in Latino homes.

“It is almost impossible to produce content that is going to be relevant for all Latinos, as much as we are portrayed as a uniform group,” said Douglas Rojas Sosa, online editor at elNuevoHerald.com. “If you are a second- or third-generation Latino, you will prefer English, while first generations still look for information in Spanish and from their countries of origin.”

However, media like Fox News Latino took a different path, deciding to eliminate content in Spanish three years ago.

“We couldn’t compete with publications in Spanish like The Miami Herald or La Opinion en Los Angeles,” said Alex Vros, deputy editor at FoxNewsLatino.com. “Instead, we saw that bringing a Latino focus to global topics and publishing them in English will give us a specific audience, like the Dreamers, who are very present in our stories.”

Offer analysis about Latin America

Those who migrated from Latin America generally look for information about their countries in their local newspapers’ digital version. Still, a big audience for these stories goes to sites as El País from Spain or NYTimes America, which paradoxically are not based in the region.

With this diagnosis in hand, the Latin American Network of Young Journalists started boosting collaborative platforms like Distintas Latitudes to practice “a journalism that crosses borders with an improved regional perspective,” said coordinator Jordy Meléndez.

The network helps create long-form narratives and investigative pieces, publishing 200 freelancers in 17 countries since 2009.

U.S. editors curate content from the region, taking into account that the Latino experience in America is very different from their home countries, although still relevant to their identities.

“Although all of our content is in English, every time we have a story linked with a Latin American country, we do the effort of translating it, noticing that if it is original content, it could go viral,” said Cindy Rodriguez, editor of CafeMedia, whose main targets are Latina women.

Make your newsroom as diverse as your audience

Diversity and inclusion are a challenge for many newsrooms in America, and this reality not only affects Latino reporters. According to the American Society of News Editors’ 2015 census, the percentage of minority journalists “has hovered between 12 and 14 percent for more than a decade.”

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has been working with English-language media to improve the recruitment of Latino reporters and editors, fostering a corporate culture that both attracts and retains them. “We need to be reflective of the audience we are serving and it begins with authenticity and authoritative voices,” said Balta, former NAHJ president and current adviser to its board.

Don't be afraid of Spanglish

Good writers are very exquisite with grammar; their audiences’ bicultural component forces them to speak like their readers. This is a real subculture in the U.S. that doesn’t exist in other countries.

“Content on social media should be organic. If people don’t talk like that, they won't share it. If your sources speak Spanglish, you should reflect that experience,” said Rodriguez from CafeMedia.

With this in mind, ESPN launched One Nacion after finding out that more than 8 million of its viewers are bilingual. “They didn’t have a space for certain sports, so they go to ‘Deportes’ for soccer and boxing, but that was not a comfortable experience,” Balta said. “Sometimes we use subtitles, sometimes anchors interact with their guests switching languages; we live in both worlds.”

This switch has been also noticeable in recent presidential debates, when questions to candidates are asked in both languages and Latino voters go to social media to share their impressions.

“I have an audience that is 50/50, so I publish in both languages. But my suggestion is to try what works. Measuring views, comments and retweets is easier than ever,” said Mariana Atencio, an anchor at Fusion TV, referring to Univision’s Daily Brief in English initiative. “We Latinos become like a commodity that everybody wants, so the best thing is to spread our authentic voices.”

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Sacramento BBB.