Monday, July 9, 2012

Más change in America II:
The media learns Spanish


THAT SLOW-MOVING, slow-turning ocean liner we call the mainstream media has been changing course in recent years, as media orgs have begun to discover the Latino American experience. Between now and the election, and even shortly after that, several new media players will have emerged, begat from their deep-pocketed American parent companies and Latino broadcasters with singular insights into the audience. Major American mainstream media is bulking up on the Latino market, and in the process redefining the whole notion of what “mainstream” is.

NBC News has finally dropped a long-hovering shoe on July 3, with the launch of NBCLatino.com, a newsgathering venture that will include indigenous reporting and a blend of news and lifestyle content from other NBC properties.

“It’s important for NBC News to look for growth opportunities outside of broadcast news, and to continue to develop these targeted ventures that help us reach new audiences and are also a natural extension of how we operate,” said NBC News President Steve Capus, to The Hollywood Reporter. “We see NBC Latino as a huge advantage to the overall news network because of our ability to tap into and share their story pipeline with our other programs and properties.”

“The goal of NBC Latino is to take Hispanic news beyond the usual conversation, toward something more inspired, empowered and energized; to tell and reflect the Hispanic-American story with authentic voices, and make NBC the brand of choice for Hispanics across mobile, online and TV," said executive editor Chris Peña, to The Hollywood Reporter. The new channel will team up with NBC News reporters Natalie Morales, Tom Llamas and Miguel Almaguer, among others, for a variety of special projects. Content from NBC’s “Today” show and the “Nightly News” will be part of the package, as well as reporting from NBC sister MSNBC.

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For NBC, it’s about time: The network has long had assets that targeted the Hispanic community; it acquired Telemundo Communications for $2.7 billion in October 2001, in the process becoming the first major American television network to enter the lucrative domestic Latino television market. With that acquisition, NBC also acquired mun2, Telemundo’s sister channel aimed at a younger demographic.

All due props for NBC’s bold (and practical) move, but you have to ask why it took the network a full 10 years, and then some, to act on its initial investment and get to this level of content integration in order to reach what was for years the fastest-growing segment of the American population. What were they waiting for?

It’s not as if there hasn’t been a successful precedent. NBC previously showed its ability to capitalize on a niche audience when it acquired control of the African American-themed news website theGrio.com, in 2009. Since then, writers and editors for theGrio have been steadily weaved into news content for NBC and for MSNBC.

But while NBC is late in one regard, they’re early (or at least on time) in another. As the presidential campaign cranks up to full crescendo, the impact of Hispanics as a voting bloc will stay front and center in the national media discourse, and the national conversation. With vast resources and association with a flagship news brand, NBC Latino should be well poised to capitalize on that emergence.

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Last week, Peggy Randall, associate publisher of the left-leaning The Nation, sent an e-mail blast to “Friends” of the 147-year-old magazine announcing the launch of The Nation En Español.

“Each week, we’ll be translating an editorial, column or feature article from print into Spanish and publishing it at TheNation.com, where we’ll make it widely available to both the Spanish-speaking US audience as well as to numerous daily newspapers in Latin American cities like Buenos Aires, Caracas, Montevideo, Mexico City, Santiago, Quito, Lima and Bogota.

“With the help of Claudio Iván Remeseira, an Argentinian journalist and founder of the blog Hispanic New York, we hope to expand this program, perhaps eventually even publishing a Spanish-language edition of the magazine,” Randall wrote. The magazine conducted a trial run of the content translation project in March.

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OTHER NEWS outlets have made similar pivots, or announced plans to do so. In May, ABC News got the jump on NBC's big reveal when it disclosed plans to start a 24-hour English-language news network with former Telemundo rival Univision Communications. The channel, forecast to launch in early 2013, taks its first steps this summer with a Web site and social-media content focused on the election, the Los Angeles Times reported in May.

ABC’s gambit serves two purposes: it allies the network with another news entity, one with vast knowledge of a nascent American social and political demographic, and it gives ABC News a foothold in the cable space — territory ABC has long been absent from, in every language.

“The math is profound,” said Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, to The Times. “That huge population surge is already happening, and we get it. It's happening in California, and it's happening in the rest of the country. We've got to figure out a way to deliver culturally relevant programming in English to this rapidly growing and very influential population.

And in January, News Corporation announced that it would launch the Spanish-language MundoFox broadcast network this year, in a 50/50 joint venture with RCN Television Group SA, based in Colombia. The network, headquartered in Los Angeles, is set to begin programming in mid-August, with big rollouts planned for media markets in California, Florida and Texas.

All these corporate moves, of course, merely formalize the obvious: that the U.S. Latino experience is very much a central force in the new American mainstream. In March, Time magazine went so far as say that the outcome of the election could well pivot on the Hispanic vote in November; its March 5 cover made that clear.

For the players in the national campaign, and the media players following the national campaign, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Image credits: NBC logo, NBCLatino logo: © 2012 NBC News. The Nation logo: © 2012 The Nation. MundoFox logo: © 2012 News Corporation/RCN Television Group SA. Time magazine: © 2012 Time Inc. Fair disclosure: I worked for MSNBC.com for six years and wrote freelance stories for theGrio.com.

1 comment:

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