'DIGITAL DIVIDE' CLOSING FOR MINORITIES

Net Use by Blacks Increases Nearly 100%

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CLEVELAND (AdAge.com) -- A major surge of black and Hispanic Americans onto the Internet has significantly narrowed the "digital divide,"
according to two executives addressing a multicultural marketing session of the American Advertising Federation today.

Scott Mills, executive vice president-COO of BET.com, characterized the recent spike in household online access among African Americans as huge. He said the household penetration by that group on the Internet has increased nearly 100% in the past year, from about 23% to 44%. That compares with about 54% Internet access penetration by white households, according to Jupiter Communications.

Mr. Mills cited declining prices for personal computer and a growing understanding by black consumers of the value of Internet usage in areas such as automobile purchases -- understanding fed in part by increased discussion of Internet usage by urban radio personalities.

Meanwhile, growth in the Hispanic

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population is also creating a force to be reckoned with, said Lisa Quiroz, publisher of AOL Time Warner's People En Espanol. While the rapid increase in the Hispanic population shown in the 2000 census caught the attention of marketers, the population's youth presages even greater economic and cultural power than the raw numbers suggest, she said, noting that 40% of U.S. Hispanics are under 20.

Like baby boomers
"I like to think of Hispanics today as being like the baby boomers of the 1960s," Ms. Quiroz said. "If you think of the tremendous influence that baby boomers had not just on the economy but on politics and on society and culture in general, this is the kind of influence that we're anticipating the Hispanic population will have. When you think of the median age of 26, it means most families are buying houses for the first time, cars for the first time and starting to get involved in their communities politically."

That youth, combined with above-average brand loyalty, makes targeting young Hispanics especially important for marketers, she said.

Ms. Quiroz said that People En Espanol's own research shows that when asked whether plans to purchase the same brand of automobile as the brand they currently own, 68% of Hispanics said they would, compared to 23.9% of non-Hispanic whites.

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