MIAMI (AP) Indie rocker Eric Monterrosa checks his ElHood.com Web page at least three times a day, answering fans, surfing for other new Latin artists and keeping in touch with friends from his native Colombia.
ElHood is sort of a bilingual MySpace promoting the latest in Latin music, and for Miami-based Monterrosa, it has become a personal and professional lifeline. It is also the latest in a wave of Hispanic social-networking sites building links across the U.S., Latin America and Spain, all hoping to capture coveted advertising dollars.
”A lot of Latin artists are plugged in,” Monterrosa said. ”So if you want to find them it’s easy. If you go to sites like MySpace, you have to go through all sorts of genres, types of music, and languages.”
About 56 percent of Hispanics in the United States use the Internet, compared with 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But the number of Hispanics online jumps to 67 percent among 18- to 27-year-olds _ the group most likely to visit social-networking sites and one coveted by advertisers.
The online gathering spots allow users to post profiles and keep in touch with friends, as well as expand their circle of acquaintances. Ads and partnerships that help spread new music keep the sites afloat.
ElHood’s easy-to-use tools make it a breeze for first-time surfers _ artists and fans _ who often mix Spanish and English in their profiles.
Other Hispanic sites to pop up in the last year or so include the entertainment-oriented Quepasa.com, the mostly English MiGente.com, and a Spanish version of the global networking site Hi5.com.
This week, News Corp.’s MySpace announced it’s jumping into the market with a new Spanish-language site for U.S. Hispanics and a pan-regional site for Latin Americans.
Another site, Vostu.com, presents itself as an alternative to Facebook.com, where students post profiles of themselves visible to a mini-network of their college or high school classmates. A group of mostly Hispanic Harvard business students launched Vostu in February, targeting prep schools and universities across the Spanish-speaking world.
Dan Kafie, the 24-year-old Honduran native who co-founded Vostu, believes his site can compete with the larger ones because it’s specially tailored to the needs of a relatively small but affluent group.
”There’s similar types of sites, but they don’t capture the cultural subtleties,” Kafie said. ”We thought there’s an opportunity.”