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The Browning of Media on the Internet: A Step Forward or Back?

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With the advent of new media and advances in access to technology the internet is supplementing, complimenting and slowly siphoning viewers from television. While the delivery mechanisms for viewing video are changing, mainstream content providers remain frustratingly rooted in a world which ignores the demographic changes our country is experiencing. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the lack of representation of Hispanics on television.

The reality is the countries demographic changes are starting to influence how everyone interacts with video content from mainstream television on the web. While a majority of people still watch T.V. on a television a growing number of viewers supplement their T.V. viewing with video content on the internet. Hispanic's are actually leading this trend. Hispanic video viewers are 68 percent more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet. This change is beginning to foster a analogous growth in representation of Hispanics on the internet. This raises several important questions: how do content providers better define and reach English language Hispanic consumers. Does more segmentation and micro targeting on the internet let television off the hook for years of under-representing Hispanics? In 2012 does it even make sense to have a token Hispanic character on a mainstream T.V. show when they could have their own web series?

To be clear, micro targeting a Hispanic audience does not solve the problem of how to best integrate the unique experiences of the fastest growing segment of our population to a wider audeince. If anything the segmentation runs the risk of further separating Hispanic content from a larger audience. Conversely giving Hispanics a foothold to provide a more complex view of society allows for far more exposure for this unique viewpoint then currently available in mainstream media.

Galina Espinoza former editorial director of Latina Media Ventures puts it this way: "While Latinos make up 16% of the U.S. population and number 50 million strong, only three Latinos star in the top 10 prime-time television network shows." According to Espinoza the solution to this problem is not the further segregation of content, but rather to be better about integrating Hispanic sensibilities into mainstream media. Espinoza is half right. Traditional television is here to stay, but the segmentation in how the general public engages media is as much a product of changing technology as it is in the changing demography of our country.

Cable companies embracing diversity is certainly one way to gain more exposure for Hispanic voices in mainstream media. In embracing different forms of content delivery the question of what a mainstream audience looks like is blurring. Streampix, HBOGO, WatchESPN and video streaming on the Xbox 360 are but a few ways in which cable is trying to diversify its content delivery for the segmentation of our media viewing. The thirst for video content is such that some cable organizations are going so far as to allow certain customers up to 300 GB of usage allotment. 300 GB of usage is an obscene amount of data usage. Yet with so much demand allowing higher usage only makes sense in the short term.

The industry is also launching boutique channels that target Hispanic viewers. Robert Rodriguez is launching El Rey, which will be: "an action-packed general entertainment network for Latino and general audiences." While this is a welcome change, boutique channels do not change the fact that mainstream content providers are incapable of integrating the Hispanic experience into media aimed at a general audience.

The constructs of this debate are in many ways encumbered by the fact that it is occurring within the confines of television vs. internet. While the data highlighted in this article shows that the silos between these two entities are dissolving, T.V. is still the way in which most Americans engage video content. The best television has always embraced the complexity of our changing society. Our country is irrevocably becoming more Hispanic. If Hispanics are to break down the silos between niche and mainstream media we must negotiate how this is represented in our media better, segmentation is not a final solution, but perhaps it is a step in the right direction.