One Approach Doesn't Fit All Ethnic Consumers

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If cable operators want a bigger chunk of their high-speed Internet access business from people of color, they'll have to market their products around several price and value issues.

And the generation gap is one key concern, as discussed at an Internet-focused panel at last week's 16th Annual NAMIC Conference here.

Young Latinos want to use the Web, but their parents don't lean toward buying the computers that furnish that access — and, perhaps, surf it at high speeds using cable modems, said David Perez, president of Lumina Americas, a marketing services company whose client roster includes American Express and Sony Corp.

"It's about education and directing the education to parents as well as kids," Perez said. "It's not about money. The issue is priorities.

"You have to educate people about what's valuable, and in the case of the Internet, showing that high-speed will help you grow and your kids grow."

Added Sree Sreenivasan, an associate professor at Columbia University's graduate journalism school: "Who's training and talking to them about how to use the Internet? It's important to get Internet access to all communities, because it's no longer a luxury. It's crucial."

Teams on street

Street teams — such as the college internship "u crews" mun2 Television launched this summer to promote its bilingual network — community fairs and other events are vehicles operators should use to demonstrate high-speed service and discuss value issues, he added.

Filmmaker Warrington Hudlin, creator of the Web site, believes the cable industry can attract high-speed customers of color by directing more original content their way, through partnerships between Internet-service providers and producers.

"Then say the service will give you content that you can't get anywhere else," said Hudlin. "That's the carrot."

Other panelists and audience members concluded that as long as operators keep their monthly charge for high-speed where it is — or raise it — then they run the risk of losing customers of color to alternative providers. U.S. cable operators price their high-speed products at around $40 to $50 per month, while in Canada, high-speed access from cable, digital subscriber line or other sources costs $25 to $30 per month.

Canada's penetration rates are higher than those found stateside, one audience observer noted.