The Sky is the limit: Mobile phone users demand sophisticated “Latin” content

In the rapidly growing wireless communications industry, marketing opportunities abound; and new research indicates that the Hispanic market is one of the most promising out there. As Juan Jose Nuñez of Starmedia sees it, “The Hispanic market has a huge potential and that is why many content providers and telecommunications companies already have some of their content in Spanish.”

Companies currently developing more content for Hispanic cell phone users include Batanga, Barrio Mobile, Logia and ESPN Deportes among others.

With the rapidly growing mobile content industry constantly producing new premium features, Hispanics are likely to make up an even greater market- segment for such features. According to the trade magazine Frecuencia, the Latin American mobile content business is worth $100 million this year and is projected to grow by 200% annually. And as more Latin Americans come to the United States, content providers will have to keep pace with their mobile content needs that they are accustomed to in their home countries.

As Juan José Nuñez of StarMedia and puts it, “Sending SMS’s (Text messages from computer to mobile phone) is a very common practice among young Latin Americans and it is just developing in the U.S. Hispanic market, since these young Hispanics try to live in the US with many of the customs they had in their countries of origin.”

Music to their ears…

Another trend that is gaining momentum is offering ever more sophisticated content such as Latino ring-tones and other features. Batanga, an online destination for Hispanics, recently signed a deal with Barrio Mobile to offer its Latin news, music reviews and interviews through BMs mobile platform. Barrio Mobile, which is currently distributed through Sprint/ Nextel, T-Mobile, Cingular Wireless and others, already offers an array of Latino ring-tones and wallpapers to its customers. The ring-tones offered represent the most popular music in the Hispanic market including Reggaeton, Latin Hip-hop, Latin Rock, etc.                      

Also getting in on the action is iLoop Mobile Inc., the mobile application service provider, who recently signed an exclusive deal with Upstairs Records, a record label and artist management company that features Hispanic artists with an urban slant, such as Li´l Rob and NB Ridaz.

and sports…

SportsYA!, the producer and distributor of multimedia sports content in Spanish has teamed up with the Mexican company Medio Tiempo to offer news about Mexican soccer on the phones of Cingular, Verizon, and AT&T customers. To access the service, the user sends a text message with the word “gol,” and is automatically registered for the SportsYA! mobile service. The cost is 30 cents per message, and once registered the user can personalize his information and elect to receive updates on his favorite teams.

The company Logia recently announced plans to offer mobile content about the World Cup to service providers around the world. They have signed a deal with Starhome to be supported on the company’s “Roaming Mate” service, which provides tourists and travelers with information about their current location, which includes a city guide, map, currency converter, and other features. The World Cup service will will include live tournament updates, statistics, gossip, game analysis, schedule information, history, and trivia, and is tailored to soccer enthusiasts who are traveling during the tournament.

ESPN Deportes has also announced a number of mobile content initiatives. “MobiTV” is an extension of the company’s video channel and is currently offered on Sprint TV en Vivo. Cingular is slated to pick up the channel next month, bringing the combined potential reach to 600 thousand video handsets by the end of 2006. The company is also launching “Al Instante” to Cingular, Sprint and Verizon customers. The service will offer scrolling sports scores like those seen on the bottom of the screen on ESPN. The service will reach a combined 145 million subscribers. In addition, the company is rolling out ESPN Deportes vCast on Verizon phones, featuring 3 or 4 daily soccer-related video clips, player interviews, and SportsCenter reports.

User types…

Starmedia’s Juan José Nuñez identifies the three categories of cell phone users and what distinguishes them:

“The Basic user is someone that has ringtones that did not come with the phone and sends occasional SMS messages. The Intermediate user uses the same features as the basic user, but also opts for what we call ‘infotainment’ – or content such as games, news alerts, song downloading, etc. The Advanced user does all of the above, but alsouses very sophisticated services such as geolocalization and whose cell phone is a very important tool in his professional and personal life.” Nuñez says that the majority of users fall into the basic user category, though Hispanics trend more toward the intermediate category. He believes that basic users won’t spend more than $10 a month on additional features, whereas intermediate and advanced users are ready to spend anywhere from $20-50 a month on additional services.

Advertising on the horizon…

One possibility that so far has not been fully explored is the potential for advertising to cell phone customers. However, many belive that this area will be explored more fully in the months and years to come. The main advantage of this truly direct marketing is that it is delivered straight to the consumer’s handset. Additionally such marketing can reach millions of consumers at a very low cost, particularly when measured against other direct marketing campaigns.

According to Nuñez, newspaper publishers should also be looking into how they can penetrate this medium. “There is a clear trend indicating that Hispanics will buy fewer newspapers and rely more on digital media to satisfy their need for information. If newspapers can find a way to keep these users informed at a reasonable price, we will see a rapid take-off on these services.”

Alex Andrews

Very cell-phone friendly

According to a study released late 2004 by Forrester Research, 70%-75% of Hispanics live in major US cities and 86% of Hispanic teenagers in New York and Los Angeles own mobile phones. US Hispanics use premium mobile features like Bluetooth headsets and high-end camera phones 12% more than Whites. They also spend 10% more on their mobile phone bills than the general market. Media Audit President Bob Jordan also cites a trend toward “cell-only” households among Blacks and Latinos. A new report by Telephia underscores these realities with some telling statistics.

According to the study, African Americans accounted for the largest number of minutes used in Q3 2005; however Hispanics posted the biggest growth figures. In addition, Hispanic cell phone use grew by approximately 35% more than that of whites in the same period.