IQ News: Luminant, i-Latina Team to Build News Portal

Luminant Worldwide Corp., a Dallas-based Internet advertising agency, and i-Latina, a New York-based marketing company, have teamed to build a comprehensive financial and political news portal targeting both U.S. nationals and Latin American business executives.
With a scheduled Sept. 25 launch date, the $40 million Spanish, Portuguese and English-language portal is owned by Grupo de Diarios America, a nine-year-old Miami-based association designed to grant U.S. and European advertisers easier access to its nine Latin American newspaper members, including La Nacion, Argentina; Zero Hora, Brazil; O Globo, Brazil; El Mercurio, Chile; El Tiempo, Columbia; El Comercio, Ecuador; El Universal, Mexico; El Comercio, Peru; El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico; El Pais, Uruguay; and El Nacional, Venezuela.
With the majority of content slated to originate from the aforementioned dailies, the ad-supported portal will focus in part on news, market information, stock prices, commercial real estate, insurance, interest rate comparisons, online banking opportunities, taxes and financial planning in addition to offering personalized home pages, chat rooms, e-mail and surveys, according to Miguel Sebastia, president of i-Latina.
“[This is an opportunity] to create the brand for the Latin American equivalent of CNNfn,” said Sebastia.
According to New York-based Jupiter Communications, the Latin American Internet user base is growing 40 percent per year and is expected to surpass 43 million by 2004. The e-commerce market in Latin America is expected to grow from $240 million in 1998 to $8 billion by 2003.
Despite the projected growth, the plethora of competitors, including New York-based StarMedia and Waltham, Mass.-based Terra/Lycos, leads some experts to believe the South American interactive space is becoming congested and convoluted.
“It’s really overcrowded,” said Ekaterina Walsh, a senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. “But what it’s overcrowded with are generic, broadbased portals.”
Walsh said site developers have to stop treating the Internet as a one-stop shop, which she believes only applies to brick-and-mortar establishments.
“When you go to these sites, you see the same exact channels trying to cover everything but the kitchen sink,” she said. “That’s not what the Internet is about. Advertisers and marketers should look at this medium as an abundance of specialized sites where neither site alone is able to attract a mass market or huge numbers of consumers. Instead, [advertisers] should be able to reach a much more targeted audience.”
But can a special niche site survive economically? Walsh thinks so.
“The way to do it is to be like a network, where one company owns a variety of specialized sites,” she said. “As a result, the company has the reach of a network in terms of the number of people that go to the aggregated sites that it owns. Each site is compelling and attracts users based on their individual interests.”
The GDA portal will focus in the beginning only on financial news and analysis, according to Brian Methvin, a principal with Luminant. “We want to offer perspective and insight versus a couple paragraphs from a Reuters wire report,” he said. n