Whenever 29-year-old Trina Hernandez and her family have questions, they all turn to the same place.
"YouTube is such a popular word in my family," she says, and that's not just with her husband and son. "With my mom, she has a question and she'll go to YouTube to search. And my aunts, they're like, 'Oh, did you watch that video on YouTube? Oh, look it up real quick.' "
Latinos are more likely than other Americans to watch online videos, but there hasn't been much of an effort to develop special content for them — until now. Marketers say the last year has been marked by a flood of professional videos geared to Latinos. In fact, one production company has gone from making television to developing a whole network on YouTube geared toward Hispanic-Americans. It's called Mitu and it features all kinds of short, lifestyle videos. Hernandez says she especially likes the cooking shorts.
"I'm not a very good cook, and Mitu has really great short videos — like 2-minute videos — where they quickly show you how it's done," she says.
According to Hernandez, the food recipes on Mitu are geared to people like her, Americans of Hispanic heritage.
"Our problem is we're sometimes a little bit too Americanized," she says. "And my mom, you know, she lives three hours away, so I really can't necessarily turn to her and say, 'Hey mom, how do I make the salsa that you used to make?' Mitu has really helped in adding that Latino flair."
That desire for content with "Latino flair" presents an opportunity for people like Danielle Gonzales, a vice president at the multicultural marketing firm Tapestry.
"For years, the Hispanic market has been there and has been using YouTube and has been using a lot of the different video sites, but there wasn't a lot of content that was directed towards them," Gonzales says.
She says advertisers were willing to pay premium prices for the limited online content they could find. Now, there are six Latino-oriented channels funded by YouTube, and Univision and Telemundo, the major Hispanic TV networks in the U.S., are starting to fund special content for their websites.
"This is the first year that we really have now, in my opinion, enough supply to satisfy most advertisers and most consumers," Gonzales says.
'Mitu Could Be 20 Times Bigger'
Mitu founders — and TV and film producers — Beatriz Acevedo and Doug Greiff also feel their moment has arrived.
"We've had a successful production company for many, many years," Greiff says, "but we both genuinely believe with all our heart and soul that Mitu could be 20 times bigger than whatever we've accomplished on the TV production side of it."
And Greiff has some numbers to back him up. According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos are more likely to visit video sharing sites than white, non-Hispanics — 81 percent versus 69 percent.
At his home in Santa Monica, Calif., Greiff is directing a series of shorts with actress Karla Zelaya about her experiences as a pregnant woman. Greiff says his budget for online videos is tighter than what he's used to getting for his television work, but that doesn't mean they aren't just as good.
"I would actually put up any one of our premium [online] originals with any of the TV shows that we produce," he says. "It forces you to be a little more creative. It forces you to hunker down a little bit."
Mitu also collaborates with people who are already producing online content. Designer Ximena Valero, who delivers fashion advice in one of the Zelaya shorts, already had her own YouTube channel with a couple of million viewers, but now she's also part of the Mitu network.
"They have so many different interests for people and they have so many members already signing with them," Valero says, "so just by being part of them, a lot more people are going to see my stuff."
Building Up Buzz
Since launching in April, Mitu videos have gotten more then 300 million views, and the network now has more than 950,000 subscribers. According to Greiff, their growth strategy relies on Latinos' heavy use of social media.
"Our first hire was a social media community manager who is now communicating nonstop with these folks — both viewers and channel partners — and using Twitter, using Facebook, using everything that she can to get people talking about it," he says.
And this year, Latinos who like to spend time surfing the Web are going to have a lot more to talk about.