Maturity And Diversity For Hispanic Radio.-A changed Hispanic radio marketplace reveals two different audiences, a mature crowd for Mexican Regional and a diverse one for Spanish Contemporary, according to Arbitron’s latest Radio Today report.

The wide-ranging report released by Arbitron last week offers a snapshot of the U.S. radio market and it includes some interesting findings from the Hispanic sector. It examined several Latino formats including Mexican Regional and Spanish Contemporary/Spanish Hot AC, the latter of which were combined for the first time.

While U.S. Hispanic radio certainly has much more to offer than those two formats, a look at the pair quickly reveals two very different audiences, reinforcing the notion that it’s important for media executives and advertisers to realize how diverse the medium can be.

Growth Plateau For The Leader.- With more than 14 million weekly listeners age 12 and older through 326 rated AM, FM, HD Radio and streamed stations, Mexican Regional remains the most popular Hispanic radio format in the U.S., though its growth has slowed and its audience is aging.

The format delivered a 2.9 percent audience share in Spring 2012, according to the Radio Today report, down a bit from 3.0 percent in Fall 2011 and Fall 2010.

That share makes it easily the most popular Latino format, and tied for No. 13 overall with Contemporary Christian.

The main thing to keep and eye on with the Mexican Regional format is the fact that its audience is maturing – the format’s percentage of listeners age 18-34 has dropped from 52 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in Spring 2012, while listeners 35-54 have grown from 32 percent to 41 percent.

“It’s not as if all of a sudden older people started listening,” says Monica Narvaez, Hispanic broadcaster account specialist at Arbitron. “It’s the fact that those listeners that were there five or 10 years ago still have the passion for Mexican Regional, but that generation became older.”

Also, of the 22 formats Arbitron looked at for the study, Mexican Regional has the seventh highest proportion of male versus female listeners, 59 percent to 41 percent. That said, the percentage of male listeners has declined slightly since Fall 2010.

Spanish Contemporary: The Most Diverse.- While Mexican Regional has an older and decidedly more male audience, Spanish Contemporary/Spanish Hot AC attracts a very wide demographic.

In fact, the two formats – combined in the latest Radio Today report for the first time – were the only to claim at least 6 percent of its audience from each age group examined. That includes listeners 12-17 (6.4 percent), 18-24 (11.0 percent), 25-34 (23.8 percent), 35-44 (22.2 percent), 45-54 (17.1 percent), 55-64 (10.4 percent) and 65-plus (9.0 percent).

With such a diverse demographic, more and more Spanish Contemporary stations have been testing the waters of mainstream English-language music as well.

“What the stations have done is primarily Spanish music, such as reggaetón or bachata, but they’ve also started to add English artists and music into their libraries,” Narvaez notes. “You also have a lot of crossover artists, like Shakira, Ricky Martin and Pitbull.”

That said, 94.9 percent of the format’s listeners are Hispanic, No. 2 by a large margin and behind only Mexican Regional.

Still Plenty Of Room For Growth.- It’s no secret that the Latino population continues to grow at a brisk pace in the U.S., and that has helped Hispanic radio formats grow over the years as well.

But the influx of Hispanic listeners, particularly younger U.S. Latinos, has also benefited non-Hispanic radio formats.

“Formats including Top 40 and also Rhythmic CHR have specifically benefited,” Narvaez observes. “For example, in markets such as Houston, Los Angeles and Miami, stations are now catering to English-dominant Hispanics, and also younger Spanish speakers.”

And with the Latino population booming, there’s perhaps no better time for advertisers to target them via radio.

“When you have the non-Hispanic population growing by about 5 percent and Hispanics growing by double digits, I really don’t see that slowing down,” says Narvaez. “A big part of the message is the time is now.

Advertising categories that are already strong in using radio to target U.S. Latinos include telecommunications, electronics, grocery, home improvement, furniture and automotive.

The spending power of the U.S. Hispanic segment should encourage other categories to step up as well. Studies put Latino spending power at $1.3 trillion, which would make it the ninth-largest economy in the world.

“It’s the best time to get into particular segment of the population,” Narvaez insists “because you’re starting to brand at a younger age.”

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