Young Hispanics’ Media Habits Differ From Peers’

Influenced by strong cultural ties, young Hispanics are spending their leisure time and using media differently than other youth groups. According to MTV Networks’ sixth annual Study of Media, Entertainment and Leisure Time, compiled with research from Data Development Corp., Hispanics ages 12-24 watch a little less television, listen to more radio, read more magazines and are greater adopters of computer-related gadgets such as MP3 players than their non-Hispanic peers.

The initial focus of the MTV study was fairly broad: 4,000 people ages 4-70 from various backgrounds took part. Because it has been forecast that one of every five youths will be Hispanic within 10 years, MTV looked more closely at the Hispanic sample. Building on the “media actives,” a term coined last year by MTV’s research team to describe young, media-savvy Americans, the team, led by evp Betsy Frank, named this group “mediofilos dinámicos.”

Participants filled out questionnaires and, for the first time, 24-hour diaries. Young Hispanics spend about the same amount of time, 6.6 hours, on leisure as African American youths (6.6 hours) and Caucasians (6.1 hours) but more time (2.6 hours) on nonmedia leisure—socializing, shopping, movies—than their non-Hispanic peers.

Additionally, young Hispanics devote a similar amount of time, 4 hours, to media consumption as other groups, but they watch the least TV (2 hours) compared with African-Americans (2.7 hours) and Caucasians (2.4 hours). Rather, Hispanics rate a little higher on reading, radio and computer use.

“Everyone is trying to crack the code because of [young Hispanics’] purchasing power,” said John Rash, svp/director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun.

Of the 72 Hispanics ages 12-24 polled, 86 percent read magazines in the past month, and 94 percent listened to the radio. “Music is more significant to young Hispanics not only because of the message of the words, which is important to all teens, but because their culture is steeped in music and dance,” said Stacey Lynn Koerner, evp, global research integration, Initiative Media, which publishes an annual study on Hispanic media use.

According to David Perez, chairman of the demographic-research organization Cultural Access Group, the powerful pull of American culture, combined with a strong attachment to Latin roots, creates a greater degree of biculturalism in Hispanic youth than in other ethnic groups. Much of it has to do with their families, which tend to be bigger and more close-knit than those of other groups. At school they speak English and listen to hip-hop. At home they tend to speak Spanish with the grandmother who lives with them and listen to mariachi music.

“They are new-generation Latino,” Perez said, noting that Hispanics are demographically younger than any other ethnic group in the U.S. According to Census data, 22.5 percent, or 7.8 million, of the 34 million Hispanics in the U.S. are 12-24.

Language is a factor when it comes to Hispanics’ media use because there are more Spanish-language options in radio and print than on TV. Hispanic homes tend to subscribe to satellite services more than other ethnic groups and sample fewer TV channels, the MTV study found.

At a Hispanic marketing conference last week in San Diego, Perez said a major focus there was Hispanic youth as drivers of technology. Internet use was one of the highlights of the MTV study as well. Of the 216 Hispanics age 12 and above surveyed, 165 owned a computer. According to the MTV study, Hispanics also spend the most time online (2.7 hours per day) compared with African-Americans (2.6) and Caucasians (1.9). “These young people will take their habits into adulthood,” said MTV’s Frank.

The Spanish-language upfront hit about $1 billion this year and is expected to grow as the population does. “More and more, Hispanics will influence the overall culture in the U.S. We will see more Latin characters on TV and so on,” said Initiative’s Koerner. “It will be easier to reach them with a mass-market approach.”