Joins Crowded Spanish-Language Field

Shopping portal launched its service yesterday, becoming the latest in a long line of Spanish-language Web sites to target the Spanish-speaking market in the United States and Latin America.

The Wakefield, Massachusetts-based site will initially sell Spanish-language books, music and videos and will ultimately end up offering jewelry, electronics, sporting goods, perfume and cosmetics. It is also slated to offer e-mail, Web page hosting, electronic postcards and interactive radio and television.

Targeted at Spanish speakers in the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico, also announced a $10 million (US$) advertising campaign in conjunction with the launch. The company will advertise in Spanish language print and television outlets, as well as on online rivals El Sitio and Yahoo en Espanol.

“We believe Spanish-speaking consumers require a bona fide Latin e-shopping opportunity, and that’s why the word ‘authentic’ has a special meaning to us,” said CEO Kyle McNamara. “We’re not just giving consumers the most original online Latin experience when they visit, we have created ane-commerce alternative never offered before.”

Join The Club

Despite McNamara’s claims, Spanish language portals Yupi, StarMedia and El Sitio — as well as ventures by AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! — have targeted a Spanish-speaking U.S. and Latin American market in one form or another.

Latin American Internet users are estimated to number between 2.5 and 7 million and are expected to grow to between 5 million and 34 million by 2002.

StarMedia (Nasdaq: STRM) is the recognized leader in the field. The company has been buying companies at a rapid rate since its $105 million initial public offering in May. Backed by Chase Manhattan bank, the company operates Spanish and Portuguese-language sites across the continent.

Buenos Aires, Argentina-based El Sitio completed a $44 million private placement in June and has Spanish-language sites across Latin America and in the U.S., as well as a Portuguese-language site in Brazil. It claimed 300,000 users as of July and relies on a network of 80 journalists across Latin America to provide content for its localized sites.

Yupi is another contender in the Spanish-language market. The portal recently signed a deal with Sony that calls for it to offer Latin music to its users and gives the Japanese entertainment giant an equity stake in the company.

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