Latest Addition to BabyCenter Family: Site for Latino Market

Top Parenting Portal in U.S. Uses Venture to Test Out Mobile Strategy and Develop Ties to Latin America

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After expanding around the world, including a China launch in June, the leading U.S. parenting website, BabyCenter, will enter the U.S. Hispanic market in mid-September with BabyCenter en Español. The company will use the Hispanic launch to try out its first mobile strategy.
The BabyCenter website draw more than 4 million monthly unique visitors.
The BabyCenter website draw more than 4 million monthly unique visitors.

"Latins really overindex in use and adoption of mobile technology, so this is a great way for us to test it in this market and then take it back to the U.S. (general market) and to the rest of the world, where mobile usage is higher," said BabyCenter Chairman Tina Sharkey.

The test will begin later this month with the launch of a mobile site and outbound text products, which could include timely reminders for things such as immunizations or a mobile program for baby names, useful when expectant parents are out socializing and chatting about possible names.

Wide audience
BabyCenter reaches 78% of online new mothers and pregnant women in the U.S. and has more than 4 million monthly unique visitors, Ms. Sharkey said. Visitors can sign up for weekly e-mails that tell them what to expect during each week of their pregnancies. BabyCenter sends out about 60 million e-mails a month tailored to women at different stages of pregnancy or childrearing, she said.

"As we looked around the world and rated each market, the U.S. Hispanic market, for size, growth and priority with big advertisers, was very obviously up there along with the U.K. and China," said Jon Stross, general manager-international, BabyCenter.

The plan is to use the Spanish-language site as a hub to expand into Latin America next year with localized content for different countries, probably starting with Mexico.

Big sponsors
BabyCenter is owned by Johnson & Johnson, whose baby division is the U.S. Hispanic launch sponsor. In addition to Johnson & Johnson, the site's advertisers include General Motors Corp., JC Penney, Nestlé, State Farm, Target and Unilever, all major advertisers in the Hispanic market.

"It's all about gaining traffic and getting people signed up. Then we'll go to existing advertisers and say, 'Do you want to go into our Spanish-language site?'" Mr. Stross said.

The Spanish-language site will be promoted on the main site and in materials distributed at doctors' offices. Ads for Johnson's baby products will refer consumers to the site for more information, he said.
BabyCenter Chairman Tina Sharkey
BabyCenter Chairman Tina Sharkey

Mr. Stross said he'll be very happy if BabyCenter en Español gets to 100,000 unique visitors by the end of the year. The company expects a lot of women to go back and forth between the more comprehensive English-language site and new content in Spanish created with Latinas in mind. For instance, an article on caffeine intake covers highly caffeinated café cubano and the yerba mate tea favored by Argentines.

Helping Latina moms
"The average Latina has three kids, has her first child at 23, may not have insurance and has a more extended family," said Isidra Mencos, BabyCenter en Español's editorial director.

She said articles will include how to deal with a doctor who isn't Latino, childcare issues if the caregiver is a family member, and possible lead and mercury content in artisanal dishes often used to cook or serve food.

One encouraging finding, as BabyCenter gets more involved in social networking, is that young Hispanic women like to blog. According to market-research firm Synovate, 12% of Latinas between 18 and 34 are blogging, compared with just 4% of Hispanic men in the same age group.
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