By Andrea Siedsma April 2001 - The online advertising drought hasn’t completely drained all Hispanic Web sites, but it’s going to be a long, dry summer. On the longer-term horizon, the Hispanic sector of cyberspace has some structural problems, ranging from how to track Hispanic Web users to the battle for legitimacy with advertisers. Figures reveal that at least some Hispanic Web sites are faring well in the unsettled online market. For example, Latino.com, which cut its staff to just two employees in January, grabbed 45.3 million impressions during the same month, according to AdZone Interactive, a New York-based Internet research company. Other top ad revenue generators for January were Starmedia.com/shopping, Zonai.com, and Latinolink.com (see table). Total estimated ad spending on U.S. Hispanic Web sites in January tallied to more than $9.6 million. AdZone also reports that despite dot-com layoffs over the last year, overall online advertising grew 5 percent between December 2000 and January 2001. The company uses its proprietary NetGet technology to monitor more than 2,000 international Web sites, charging a fee for the resultant data. The automated system uses seven large computers that simultaneously track ad revenues on the Web by advertiser, brand, industry, date range, impressions, geographic location, and expenditures. The data are used by advertisers, ad agencies, Web sites, Wall Street analysts, and marketing consultants. The NetGet technology, which debuted two years ago, picks up all forms of online advertising, including banners, pop-ups, hover text, text ads, and audio and video blurbs, according to John Cardona, president and CFO of AdZone. In the future, the company plans to experiment with culling advertising data from the wireless Internet. Although the number of impressions reported by AdZone is straight from the computer, the ad revenues involve estimating what advertisers pay, raising some concerns among industry skeptics. “They don’t know how much the advertisers actually paid. A lot of those ads can be free,” says Felipe Korzenny, principal and co-founder of Cheskin Research. “The only thing you can do is have the companies report [the figures] themselves.” Mr. Korzenny, for example, questions the monthly ad revenues Latino.com generates. “I doubt two or three people are bringing in half a million [advertising] dollars a month,” he says (see table). “We use a rate-card methodology because that is the fairest way to compare brand A to brand B,” explains Mr. Cardona, who runs AdZone with his brother Charles, the CEO. “Nobody out there knows what discount you get or I get.” Gene Bryan, CEO of New York-based HispanicAd.com, affirms that the Hispanic Internet market doesn’t have an accurate and established tracking system like television’s Nielsen ratings. “There still is no research on the Hispanic market that can really define the deliverables of a Hispanic Internet site,” he maintains, adding that HispanicAd.com, an advertising and media news site, is solely supported by ad revenues. More time must pass, Mr. Bryan says, before Hispanic Web sites gain their fair share of the multibillion-dollar advertising pie. “I think the Hispanic industry as a whole created an expectation on their deliverables,” he says. “The deliverables could not occur in the time span expected. Those sales expectations are very difficult to attain when you’re dealing with a marketplace such as the U.S. Hispanic market, which traditionally has been conservative and has used traditional advertising like radio, TV, and print.”
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