Study Probes Online Power of Hispanic Consumers

- Mark Dolliver, Adweek

Not so long ago, a report on Hispanic Americans' Internet usage would likely have been focusing on a "digital divide," with Hispanic and other minorities lagging far behind the general population in online access and activity. The title of a Scarborough Research report released today, "The Power of the Hispanic Consumer Online," gives a quick hint at how times have changed. The report finds Hispanic Internet users to be "avid downloaders of digital content," thanks in part to a broadband adoption rate mirroring that of the nation's overall online population.

Scarborough says 54 percent of Hispanic adults are online, vs. 69 percent of total U.S. adults. (If anything, the gap is likely to be narrower now, as the national data for the report were gathered between February 2007 and March 2008.) Among Hispanics who are online, 68 percent have a broadband connection in their household, as do 71 percent of U.S. Internet users in general.

In Scarborough's polling, 42 percent of Hispanic Internet users (vs. 35 percent of Internet users in general) reported downloading some sort of digital content in the 30 days before being questioned. And what have they been downloading? As with the total online population, Hispanic Internet users are most likely to be latching onto music. Thirty-two percent of wired Hispanics reported having done so in the previous 30 days, vs. 24 percent of Internet users in general. Seventeen percent of online Hispanics (and 14 percent of all wired respondents) reported downloading something in the catchall "other video" category within that period.

Fewer Hispanic respondents said they'd downloaded audio clips (11 percent), movies (9 percent), TV programs (8 percent), video games (6 percent) or podcasts (3 percent) within that 30-day period. Aside from podcasts, the incidence of downloading in each category was slightly lower among Internet users in general than it was for the study's Hispanic respondents. Scarborough (a joint venture between Arbitron and AdweekMedia parent The Nielsen Co.) notes that younger Hispanic adults were, as you'd expect, more likely than their elders to have downloaded digital content in the previous 30 days, with 51 percent of the 18-34-year-olds saying they'd done so.

Another section of the report notes that mobile devices are "an important point of Internet entry" for Hispanic adults. Among Hispanic cell-phone subscribers, 55 percent use it for text messaging, 28 percent for picture messaging, 22 percent for instant messaging, 15 percent for downloading video games, 15 percent for e-mail and 11 percent for "other" Internet usage. Here again, the polling finds Hispanic respondents more likely than cell-phone users in general to use the device in these ways.

When it comes to buying online, Scarborough found Hispanic Internet users lagging behind the total online population -- but not by much. Sixty-two percent of online Hispanic adults reported having made at least one online purchase in the previous 12 months, vs. 70 percent of Internet users in general. Among those who did make such purchases, the average spent in the previous 12 months was $762 for Hispanic respondents and $861 for Internet users generally.

The report also took a look at some metro areas that have disproportionate numbers of Hispanic adults. Among the findings about these markets: The incidence of broadband access among online Hispanics was particularly high in Miami (76 percent), San Francisco (75 percent) and New York (72 percent). The incidence of past-30-day downloading among Hispanic Internet users was highest in Phoenix (60 percent). The average amount of online spending, among Hispanics who'd made any online purchase in the prior 12 months, was highest in New York (at $883), San Francisco ($879) and Phoenix ($831).

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