What does the explosion of digital news, social networks and mobile connectivity mean for native Spanish speakers and bilingual English and Spanish speakers in the United States? And how can investigative news organizations such as Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting make sure that our stories reach those audiences?

Over the past 12 months, we have mulled over these questions and have undertaken a series of experiments to reach native Spanish speakers and bilingual audiences in the U.S. We’re sharing what we’ve learned in this report.

Highlights from the report include:

  • There are 55 million Hispanic people living in the U.S., and among that population, 62 percent speak mainly English or are bilingual (Pew 2016).
  • Spanish-dominant and bilingual speakers trust Spanish-language media more than English-language media.
  • Spanish-language media in the U.S. are overwhelmingly commercial (as opposed to nonprofit).
  • The vast majority of Spanish-language programming, both on TV and for radio, is entertainment.

We also have some main findings from our bilingual experiment that, while quite obvious, are worth repeating here.

  1. Reporting should happen in both English and Spanish.

It’s vital to have reporters and producers who can work in English and Spanish and who understand both cultures. Interviews with bilingual sources can be done in the same sitting in both languages, allowing the production to be extremely efficient and providing sound bites and stories in both languages.

  1. As with any media product, successful distribution and engagement requires sophisticated audience development.

For example, the production of a high-quality Spanish program also requires audio engineers and editors who can operate in both languages.

  1. Existing Spanish-language outlets need a partner to help them figure out long-form audio.

Content partnerships can be fruitful for both parties. CIR has partnered with Spanish-language media outlets to reach their audiences, and these organizations benefit from CIR’s expertise in investigative reporting and producing long-form podcasts. Furthermore, these media outlets’ brands will be strengthened in the eyes of their audiences through the high-quality content.

  1. . There is huge opportunity for Spanish-language and bilingual media.

Native Spanish-speaking and bilingual audiences in the U.S. are consuming Spanish-language media content at increasing rates. As these audiences look for news and information in the digital space, big Spanish-language media outlets are hustling to fill the gap. But there’s opportunity, especially in the audio space, for more Spanish-language content. And while the assumption used to be that English-only and English-dominant audiences in the U.S. would not read subtitles, scripted shows such as “Narcos” (Netflix) and Jane the Virgin” (The CW) are proving that there are new possibilities for truly bilingual content, especially among younger audiences.

Lindsay Green-Barber

Green-Barber is the director of strategic research at The Center for Investigative reporting. She works to identify, assess and rigorously test areas of programmatic work where CIR can have catalytic impact through its content distribution and engagement. She leads research and analysis and serves as an expert both internally and for external partnerships.
Previously, Green-Barber was an American Council for Learned Societies public fellow and served as media impact analyst at CIR. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her doctoral research, conducted from 2011 through 2013 in Ecuador, focused on indigenous organizations’ use of new information and communications technologies for social mobilization. She also taught political science courses at Hunter College.