In the world of information technology, Hispanic innovators and risk-takers are at the frontier of some of the Web's most dynamic business ventures. They are forging new marketing models and redefining business-to-business relationships in the vanguard of tomorrow's business environment. Hispanic Business magazine recently caught up with three online entrepreneurs who are leading the way.
Connecting Advertisers to the Hispanic Market
Alicia Morga, founder, chairman and CEO of Consorte Media, a digital marketing company is helping advertisers connect with a predominately young, and increasingly tech-savvy, segment of the Hispanic market.
"It's very targeted," says Ms. Morga, whose arsenal includes everything from texting and e-mails, to banner ads and video clips. The latter is aimed squarely at a new generation of fervent Hispanic video watchers.
She says her company is leveraging the popularity of YouTube and other sites showing video clips to create video adverts, which can be smoothly slotted in before or after clips people are watching.
Consorte is providing clients -- including household names like Best Buy and Advance Auto Parts -- with the high-tech tools to pinpoint potential customers, utilizing a creative mix of brand, display, and direct marketing.
The cutting-edge service involves using the latest technology to track responses to advertisements, essentially showing advertisers how much digital bang they're getting for their buck.
"Online advertising is a very measurable media," said Ms. Morga. The company's special software packages analyze the effectiveness of key words, text, graphics, colors and every other nuance Consorte puts out there.
The company also factors in feedback from advertisers in its efforts to improve future service. "We can find the best combination of message and means of delivery," she said. "It can get really granular."
Ms. Morga started her San Francisco business in 2005, running the fledgling enterprise from her apartment for the first six months. Since then, Consorte has grown to 30 people and attracted $10 million in venture capital.
She says small-to medium-sized businesses are just waking up to the possibilities of digital marketing. "Many were slow to recognize the online potential ... they didn't think Hispanics were online, but that's changing now."
Knowing When to Pull the Trigger
Peter Rojas, 33, was a self-described unemployed technology writer when he moved to New York seven years ago and "fell into blogging."
Since 2002, he's started, and then sold or parted company with six tech blogs devoted to analysis and comment on the latest electronic and computer hardware, including laptops, cameras and games.
Currently he's preparing to launch a new consumer electronics site called gdgt, which already has begun broadcasting weekly podcasts. And just over a year ago he founded RCRD LBL, a free music site working with close to 1,000 emerging artists and bands, mostly from the U.S. and Europe.
"A band can put out a song today and we'll have it tomorrow," says Mr. Rojas. "Our one rule is that we're not going to do something a certain way just because that's how it's always been done."
He oversees three fulltime staff plus a team of contributors who are in touch with the world of independent music. "We work with people close to the ground," he says. "Our goal is to make music discovery an easy process."
Most of the site's income comes from what Mr. Rojas calls "blue chip lifestyle" advertisers, such as Levis, Nikon, Puma, BMW, T-Mobile and Virgin America. He says there's no special secret -- or easy way -- to attract online advertisers. "It helps to have a good product but it also involves a lot of legwork. We network like crazy."
Mr. Rojas says the ease of starting a Web site also presents one of the major challenges. There comes a point when you have to give up on other things and just focus on one idea. "Knowing when you pull the trigger. That's the big challenge."
'Hispanictips' Experiment Takes Off
"Hispanictips is technically a blog," said Tomás Custer, based in Columbia, Missouri, who created it three years ago. "But it's much more than that. It's also a news service. My site is unique."
Around 120,000 unique visitors per month visit Hispanictips -- more than one million unique visitors a year -- according to Mr. Custer.
Working on his own, the 39-year-old, a self-described "aggregation master," selects, scans, categorizes, tags and headlines stories and press releases that he believes will interest Hispanic readers.
He has been averaging about 30 daily over more than three years, amassing a database of around 45,000 stories. "You really have to dedicate yourself to something like this." he said. "I could automate the whole thing but then I wouldn't get the relevancy."
He looks for stories about Hispanics or well-written stories by Hispanics. "This is the most relevant, comprehensive and useful news service entirely dedicated to Hispanics," he said. "I wish more Hispanics would stay informed because knowledge is power."
Mr. Custer says a major obstacle is that many people mistakenly think Spanish-language media is the only way to target Hispanics. He points out that more than 33 million Hispanics speak only English or are bilingual and speak English well.
He also concedes the site has been slower than expected to develop as a business, but believes his site's sharp focus will actually appeal to more advertisers in these lean economic times.
These Web-savvy Hispanic entrepreneurs are breaking new ground in their own way and their businesses show promise despite the stuttering economy. As with all innovators, time will tell whether their efforts will ultimately serve as models for those who follow.
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