Spanish-language social networking sites flourishing

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Apr 24 14:30:40 UTC 2007


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Article published Apr 23, 2007
  *
**Spanish-language social networking sites flourishing

**BY LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
*
  **   ** **<http://www.ocala.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070423/NEWS/204230320/1368/googlesitemapnews&template=printpicart#>
*Demian Bellumio, of Hoodiny Inc., develops Web sites for top artists such
as Mexican rockers Mana, Miami-based rapper Pitbull and Ricky Martin. *
J. PAT CARTER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  Purchase Star-Banner photo
reprints<http://photos.ocala.com/> MIAMI
- Indie rocker Eric Monterrosa checks his ElHood.com Web site at least three
times a day, answering fans, surfing for other new Latin artists and keeping
in touch with friends from his native Colombia.

Elhood is sort of a bilingual MySpace page mixed with the latest in Latin
music, and for Monterrosa it has become a personal and professional
lifeline. It is also the latest in a wave of Hispanic social networking
sites building connections across the U.S., Latin America and Spain, all
hoping that they can capture a slice of the millions of dollars in
advertising being purchased.

"If you go to sites like MySpace, you have to go through all sorts of
genres, types of music and languages," Monterrosa said. "It's cool that we
can break the boundaries and reach out to other countries and have so many
people sharing music and talking across international borders."

About 56 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. use the Internet, compared to 71
percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks,
according to study released last month by the D.C.-based Pew Internet and
American Life Project. But the number of Hispanics online jumps to 67
percent for 18 to 27 year olds, who also happen to be the group most likely
to visit social networking sites and a plum advertising demographic.

Elhood's easy-to-use tools make it a breeze for first-time surfers - artists
and fans - who often mix Spanish and English in their profiles. It is among
nearly a dozen Hispanic-oriented social networks to have sprung up,
including the entertainment-oriented Quepasa.com, the matchmaking
migente.com and a Spanish version of the global networking site Hi5.com.

Charlene Li, vice president and principal analyst for the marketing focused
Forrester Research Inc., believes the Hispanic social networking sites can
compete.

"Can they take on a MySpace? Probably not," she said. "Can they succeed as a
business? Yes, because whenever you have people grouped together, they
become a target for marketing purposes."

Li believes Hispanic users have been slower to go online in part because of
economics and in part because existing programs have not targeted them.

And Elhood co-founder, Argentinean-born wunderkind Demien Bellumio, is among
those out to change that. The 29-year-old, bicultural, tech-savvy hipster
represents exactly the demographic his site targets.

Bellumio talks in rapid-fire - English or Spanish, you choose - about his
company, Hoodiny Inc., which owns the site. Thanks to a deal with the Warner
Latin America label, Hoodiny also offers complete artist catalogues online
and develops Web sites for top artists such as Mexican rockers Mana,
Miami-based rapper Pitbull and Ricky Martin.

To Bellumio, it makes sense the social networking sites would be among the
first Internet sites to successfully market to Hispanics.

"Music is a huge part of our culture. And people are looking for a way to
come together," Bellumio said.

Rocker Monterrosa, who performs under the name MonteRosa, believes the need
for the online Latin community is only growing.

"More young people come to this country and don't have a family. They are
here to strive or to study and they need contacts. They don't have money to
go to shows or clubs, but they can reach out to people who also like the
same things," he said.

Whether these sites succeed in the long term, they will need to meet the
expectations of a new breed of Hispanic Internet users, said Richard
Chabran, head of the nonprofit "California Community, Technology Policy
Group" who has studied Hispanic use of the Internet.

"The youth, they want it to be fast. They want it to be hip, and they want
to see themselves in it - but not just themselves," he said. "People who are
serious about the Hispanic market realize that if you put up a site in
Spanish and it's not done well, they're going to get you."




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