What Media Matters for Latinx Americans?
Mapping media consumption across TV, the internet, and the news
Digital media and cultural content have exploded over the last decade leaving advocates and organizers guessing about who is where. Creating coherent communication strategies to engage any specific audience in the U.S. is challenging by itself. But developing smart, focused strategies for distinct subpopulations, like the Latinx population, requires a nuanced understanding. In this critical time, we need to know more about where Latinx audiences spend their time consuming news and information both online and offline so we can create a more sophisticated set of approaches to reach and engage them. That is why Equis Research partnered with Harmony Labs and PredictWise to better understand the media consumption habits of America’s fastest growing part of the population. The result is a comprehensive view of Latinx media consumption that we are excited to make publicly available in this new report.
Why? While television is a critical medium to continue reaching certain subsegments of the Latinx population, we know that a growing share of the community engages with news and entertainment content online. According to The Pew Research Center, on a typical weekday, three-quarters of U.S. Latinos get their news from internet sources, nearly equal to the share who do so from television. And among the younger Latinx community, there are a growing number of cord-cutters with a preference for getting information online. As increasing amounts of investment go toward digital media, knowing where and how Latinx people are online presents many opportunities to reach Latinx voters where they are.
The internet is not just for young people: This research looked at users’ desktop behavior and, overall, Latinx audiences are active on social media. But, they differ from the national population in the platforms where we can reach them with ads. YouTube and Google are more important digital ad platforms than Facebook. YouTube is especially important. Latinx audiences spend twice as much time there than do Non-Latinx adults.
Importantly, however, there are three very different types of Latinx internet users. Younger people spend a lot of time making and consuming video, especially e-sports. Slightly older users, especially women, connect with others through sites like Facebook. Busy families use the web to bank, shop, work, and learn.
On television, to reach Latinx audiences, reach beyond the news. News makes up a small proportion of TV consumption for everyone. For Latinx audiences, this proportion is even smaller (~11%) as they turn to TV for entertainment vs. information.
When they are watching TV news, they often tune into Spanish-language programming. Even among Latinx adults who prefer entertainment content, talk shows like Despierta America and mainstream media like CNN Newsroom have substantial reach.
For news online, it’s all about the mainstream media. Online and on TV, favorite English-speaking news sources include mainstream news from outlets like Yahoo, CNN, ABC, and MSNBC.
Latinx TV audiences vary with respect to language preference and focus on news. There are four very different TV audiences within the Latinx community. Older Spanish-speaking Latinx adults watch news, telenovelas, and talk shows. Spanish-speaking families watch some news and a lot of kids programming. Older English-speaking Latinx adults watch a lot of news, but the largest and youngest audience watches English- language drama, film, and sitcoms, not news.
Putting This into Practice
At Equis our work is rooted in the needs of state and national partners, with whom we work to ensure our research and learnings can improve the efficacy of engagement tactics to reach and engage Latinx voters and increase civic participation. Here is how we imagine the insights from this report might be applied to real world engagement and targeting efforts:
1. Build a digital advertising strategy with YouTube, Facebook, and Google Search Ads as cornerstones.
Latinx audiences use more social media overall than non-Latinx audiences. For all three distinct audience segments, the top sites by far were Google, YouTube, then Facebook. Since all three platforms permit digital advertising, they should form the core of any Latinx digital advertising strategy. But the three platforms serve different audiences and require different approaches to targeting.
Center YouTube. Latinx adults overall spend about twice as much time on YouTube as on Facebook. Younger Latinx adults (30% of adults under 30 are high YouTube users) in particular tend to spend a huge amount of time on the platform. Although YouTube doesn’t offer precise targeting based on third-party individual-level audience data, it is a cornerstone of the Latinx online engagement given the propensity of Latinx people who engage with the platform regularly.
Find precision on Facebook. Facebook still dominates online time for one segment of Latinx — adults who use the internet primarily to connect with other people. Those folks will, presumably, be even more engaged with social platforms during the COVID crisis, and Facebook allows us to use lists of individuals for super-precise targeting.
Get reach with Google Ads. 41% of Latinx adults don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube or Facebook. They are using the internet to do their banking, work from home, get support for their families, and learn. To reach this group, we can use Google Ads, especially in Spanish, to reach them during their search experience.
2. Explore a cultural strategy for young Latinx voters that centers e-sports and e-gaming.
Segmenting by consumption behavior rather than demographics revealed new places of opportunity. Twitch, Roblox (live streaming platforms for gamers) and e-sports platforms are extremely popular with the same segment of the young Latinx audience that spends a huge amount of time on YouTube. Activating young voters in this cycle means not just mobilizing them through GOTV but persuading them that their civic engagement is important. Reaching this young audience where they are, especially in the online gaming and e-sports world — may be a rich medium for that critical culture changing work.
3. Build a TV and press strategy with a focus on entertainment
Most of the TV content Latinx audiences consume is entertainment. 41% of Latinx adults are most effectively reached during English-language programming like drama, sitcoms, and film rather than news. Even the preferred online and TV news sources for Latinx audiences tend to be lighter in tone and more centrist than what non-Latinx audiences are consuming. Latinx audiences spend proportionally less time than non-Latinx audiences watching news from Fox News, for instance, and more on Univision’s Despierta America and local news from ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates. Online, they are more likely to be found on Yahoo, CNN, and MSNBC than the Washington Post. Latinx audiences expect and prefer their news to contain lifestyle content as well as newsy information. As we are shaping our content creation strategies, we can use the tones of these preferred channels to make content engaging, entertaining, and informative.
Our hope is that these insights, and the others contained in the full report, can provide a helpful map of the Latinx audience from which many others can draw their own impactful routes to engagement and activation. In short, we hope it brings a little more clarity and guidance to possible approaches in what are certainly unclear times.
If you are interested in learning more about this report or have ideas for leveraging the findings in your work, we encourage you to get in touch and start a conversation.
Survey-based approaches to collecting media consumption information are inadequate. Self-reported survey data about personal media consumption habits continue to yield unreliable estimates on media consumption patterns, as demonstrated by recent research spearheaded by PredictWise. Instead, in this study we relied on novel behavioral data: two opt-in consumer panels that passively track real-time desktop browsing and TV watching patterns of thousands of Latinx adults without the bias of traditional self-reported surveys. We explored television and online consumption habits including time spent on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. We dug into consumption by program/station, website, social media platform, and, where possible, we broke down Latinx consumption by age, gender, education, and region/state.
Panelists on both panels volunteer for data collection just like survey panelists do, and the data we analyzed were anonymized. The 2019 television-viewing panel includes monthly individual-level consumption data of 90,000 Americans in approximately 50,000 households. We analyzed data only for adults, of whom about 11,500 self-report Latinx ethnicity. To create the television consumption data, panelists’ televisions track the name of the program and station being watched on a minute-by-minute basis, for both live and digitally recorded, or “TIVoed,” national television (i.e., excluding local programming).
The 2019 internet data include monthly web use data (desktop only) of about 65,000 adult users nationwide, about 8,000 of whom self-identify as Latinx. Panelists’ web browsers track, on a second-by-second basis, the URL being visited; the duration and metadata of each pageview is recorded. In multi-person households, panelists manually record who is browsing.
About Equis Research
Equis Research was started with the vision of creating a better understanding of Latinx communities, investing in innovative approaches to engage them (specifically using digital, data and tech tools).
About Harmony Labs
Harmony Labs builds communities and tools to reform and transform media systems. Our mission is to create a world where media systems support healthy, democratic culture and healthy, happy people. We’re organizing partners and publics to identify and gain consensus on the mechanics of media influence, and the values and design principles that underlie beneficial media. And, we’re building solid, sustainable interventions and innovations that start moving us in the direction of media that can serve the public good.
PredictWise provides audience solutions for our digital first information environment. Our audiences are generated from massive survey and mobile device data collected over years, and provide individual-level targets that are completely tailored to any campaign. PredictWise ID resolution technology allows our clients to reach top targets instantaneously, no matter where they are, guaranteeing more yield on all relevant metrics. Our core ethos is to help our clients serve the right message to the right individual.