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Lazona, Elhood give Latinos their online space

Given the success of MySpace among all users, Latins included, it was only a matter of time before a social networking site specifically targeted that demographic.

In fact, there are two Spanish-language, music-centric sites now up and running.

MTV Networks Latin America's, officially announced June 29, may evolve to become an all-encompassing social networking site. But now it is being touted as a Spanish-language site for bands and music lovers, with an emphasis on new and unsigned acts from Latin America.

Meanwhile, Miami-based followed its March beta launch with an official June 26 kickoff, with similar goals. The bilingual site is described by Damian Bellumio, president of parent company Hoodiny Entertainment Group, as "an entertainment site that begins with music but wants to evolve into all media."

The heads of both sites acknowledge the influence and success of MySpace but say there was still opportunity in the area of social networking.

"We felt the Latin American audience had been underserved," says Luis Goicouria, vice president of new media for MTV Networks Latin America. "Sites like MySpace work in all languages but don't target Latin Americans. We felt there was a niche to fill."

Bellumio says Elhood, which also has an office in Spain and expects to open one in Los Angeles, plans to address the bilingual, bicultural reality of much of the younger Latin demographic in America.


"We wanted to create a company that presented the best of both worlds," Bellumio says. "Unfortunately, most of the innovation happens in the Anglo market, and that is one of the things that frustrate me. So we looked at the best practices in the U.S. market and put them into a portal. With social networking, the beauty is (that) the content creates itself."

While Elhood offers personal and miscellaneous postings, the site is most definitely music-oriented, featuring established artists alongside unknowns. Technical features include 1 GB of free storage and the capacity to create individual playlists for streaming. Bellumio has been financed with private funding, but the plan is to become advertising-driven.

MTV also plans for its model to become advertising-driven. Lazona will no doubt benefit from the reach of the MTV brand. The site logically would tie in with U.S.-based MTVTr3s -- the newly named U.S. Latin MTV channel -- after its planned September launch.

Lazona already is getting substantial exposure through MTV Networks Latin America, which reaches some 16 million homes in the continent, excluding Brazil. For the past six weeks, new musical acts have been encouraged to enter a contest through, housed at Lazona; five bands are chosen monthly with the winner voted upon by the community. The ultimate winning band will be featured on MTV Latin America show "Alerta."

The response so far has been overwhelming, with 12,000 fans and 10,000 acts registering for the site.

According to MTV, for the month of May alone, Lazona had 1.4 million page views, 50,000 visitors and 11,000 new users.

Most acts hail from Mexico and Argentina, but, Goicouria says, "there was just tons and tons of good music that we felt we could reach."

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