NEW YORK — The Hispanic population continues to rocket and everyone from clothing retailers to toy manufacturers wants a piece of it. The Census Bureau estimates the number of Hispanics at 38.8 million – compared with 38.3 million African-Americans – out of a total U.S. population of 288.4 million. In January 2003, there were 12.4 million Hispanic Internet users, or about one-third of the total U.S. Hispanic population. Their online activity is comparable to that of the general population, with the total Internet population spending 86.4 minutes a day on the computer and Hispanics, 85.9 minutes, according to ComScore Networks, an Internet audience measurement service.

There’s a strong correlation between the retail sites visited by the general online population and the Hispanic online population, said ComScore. Both groups tend to frequent the sites of the biggest online and off line retailers, such as eBay, Amazon and American Greetings. One exception is Wal-Mart, which isn’t amongthe top 10 retail sites for Hispanics, but is the sixth most-popular site for the total online audience.

Another notable difference between the two groups is age. Hispanic Web users tend to be much younger than the general Internet population: 60 percent of Hispanics online are 34 years old, compared with 50 percent of the general online population.

This age difference manifests itself in the list of top apparel retail sites, which definitely skews toward brands that are attractive to younger customers, such as Limited, Nike, Alloy, Gap and Hot Topic.

According to ComScore, 21 percent of the 50,000 Hispanics surveyed prefer to speak Spanish at home. The top 10 Spanish language Web sites, such as Terra Lycos, the leading Internet portal in Spain and Latin America, reach 91 percent of Spanish preferred users, ComScore found.

While ComScore’s analysis discovered that U.S. Hispanic online users tend to have a lower household income than general U.S. users, compared with the total U.S. Hispanic population, Hispanic Internet users tend to live in higher-income households.

Because U.S. Hispanic Web users are more likely to live in larger households, online products and services have extraordinary reach. For example, 39 percent of Hispanic online households contain five or more persons compared with only 18 percent for all online households. And in sharp contrast, only 2 percent of U.S. Hispanic Web surfers were in single-member households, versus 10 percent for the total online population.

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