MIAMI (Billboard) - Hispanic radio is showing new interest in reaching a bilingual and bicultural population.
After the 2004 surge -- and subsequent decline -- of Latin "hurban" formats that played predominantly reggaeton and hip-hop and targeted a bilingual, Hispanic youth audience, some stations are testing those waters again, with variants.
In August, Liberman Media switched KZZA-FM Dallas from a Latin urban format with little spoken Spanish to a mix that targets second- and third-generation Hispanics. KZAA now plays an even mix of English- and Spanish-language music and features bilingual DJs. The twist? All artists played on the station, even those singing in English, are Hispanic, reflecting a concerted effort to attract a Hispanic audience.
"We tried many common denominators, and we found that you can't put all Latins in the same basket," Liberman programming vice president Eddie Leon said, explaining why the station shied away from labels like "Latino" or "Hispanic" or even "hurban" or "urban."
But the one thing that everyone had in common, he said, was Spanglish.
"We're trying to target a second-generation Hispanic, and we're trying to make sure that what we play is representative of that audience," Leon said. "These are people that speak English and Spanish."
KZAA's core acts include Frankie J and Toby Love, both bilingual; Wisin & Yandel and Daddy Yankee, who sing in Spanish; and Colby O'Donis and Prima J, who sing in English.
KVIB-FM (95.1 Latino Vibe) Phoenix is doing something similar. The Arizona station morphed from a hurban format into a mix of Spanish and English (approximately 70 percent/30 percent) that includes everything from Spanish pop to reggaeton, cumbias, bachata and crossover hits by Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown.
Program director Bobby Ramos, who comes from KLOL (La Mega) Houston, said that Latino Vibe "specifically targets bilingual, bicultural Latinos living in the United States" but programs specifically for the region -- in this case, one that's heavily Mexican.
Between 2004 and 2005, some 30 stations launched or flipped to hurban formats. Some stations have remained stable, like KXOL-FM (Latino 96.3 FM) Los Angeles, which switched to a hurban, bilingual format in 2005 and maintains a playlist that tilts heavily toward reggaeton and hip-hop.
But many switched formats, driven by the decline in reggaeton sales and by the fact that their young-skewing stations could not attract certain advertisers, like liquor companies.
But the format is enticing, particularly when taking into account that 24 percent of the U.S. population younger than 5 is Hispanic, according to 2007 U.S. Census numbers. And the average age of Hispanics in the United States is 27.6, lower than the 36.6 of the population as a whole, according to 2007 Census numbers.
By expanding the playlist for Latino Vibe, Ramos was able to better target his regional audience and, in the process, attract a slightly older audience -- those in the 18-34 age group rather than the 18-24 demographic.
"When we made these adjustments, we discovered that our demos actually went higher and we were able for the first time to become compliant with bringing in alcohol advertisers," he said.
Latino Vibe is owned by Sun City Communications and is the company's first Spanish-language station.
"My understanding is they plan on going countrywide," Ramos said. "This is the model of what they would like to do in the Spanish world."