According to a recent Pew Research Report, YouTube is used by 81% of U.S. adults and 85% of adults who identify as Hispanic. To get a better understanding of the types of content Latino audiences were engaging with on the platform, EquisLabs, Harmony Labs, and the Cultural Engagement Lab set out to analyze over 250,000 days of YouTube consumption between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021.
This new research expands upon work from the 2020 partnership between Harmony Labs and Equis Research which provided a comprehensive view of Latinx media consumption in America. This work provides advocates and organizers a deeper, more powerful framework upon which engagement and persuasion efforts can be better constructed on YouTube specifically. We are excited to share the results of our research publicly in this new report.
Since 2020, EquisLabs has monitored YouTube channels that traffic in polarizing content targeted at Latinos in both English and Spanish. 47 YouTube channels were analyzed to provide a comprehensive characterization of the narrative landscape within which viewers receive mis- and disinformation online. Of these 47, the channel with the most reach was, not surprisingly, Fox News, consumed every day by 4 out of every 1,000 Hispanic audience members.
In analyzing these channels, consistent themes began to emerge (and recur). For instance, “big government” frequently appears as orchestrating the collusion of five antagonists intent on brainwashing, silencing, and dividing a presupposed “us” (meaning everyday people “like you and me.”)
This theme of “antagonists” vs “us” plays out in ways that are distinctly Latin, for example: Cuba and Venezuela offer concerns around big government, socialism, the surveillance state, and the Black Lives Matter movement (portrayed as a paramilitary group). At home in the context of right-leaning political content, a significant number of these channels follow these recurring themes with a primary goal of invoking viewers’ common sense and online research skills to identify collusion and threats.
To further understand what other channels associated with these 47 channels of interest, we identified all the other YouTube channels audiences engaged with and located channels that tended to cluster together by audience interaction. What emerged were 4 unique “content ecosystems” we’ve characterized as Right Hive, News Plus, En Exclusiva, and Flex.
Right Hive is best characterized as provocative and highly-charged. About 4% of the Latinx YouTube audience was found to consume content from this ecosystem, with core channels being Fox News, Timcast, and the Next News Network — and 1.12% of our audience specifically engaged with one of the 47 channels of interest there. This ecosystem is not, however, exclusively focused on right-learning news content — we found that many channels featured content about animals, food, and religion.
News Plus is defined as encompassing informative, mainstream news content across the entire political spectrum, viewed by 13% of our Latinx audience with primary channels like Fleccas Talks, Rebel News, and TheDC Shorts — and 0.08% of our audience engaged with one of the 47 channels of interest there. The most practical characterization of this ecosystem is a behavior of all news all the time, including “hot-take” content from both right- and left-leaning audiences.
En Exclusiva, reached of 2% of our Latinx audience — and 0.24% of our audience engaged with one of our 47 channels of interest there — is an ecosystem defined by highly-charged Spanish language news and entertainment, occupied by news channels like Noticias Telemundo as well as family drama content such as Caso Cerrado.
The Flex ecosystem is dedicated to news analysis, punditry, or “rant”-focused content that exhibits both humorous and overtly masculine qualities, most notably The Joe Rogan Experience (PowerfulJRE). This ecosystem has highest reach of our Latinx audience at 18%, and 0.27% of our audience engaged with our 47 channels of interest there, and the users in this ecosystem have a characteristic of consuming specific and controversial media that has less obvious overlap with content in the other ecosystems.
Summarized findings of opportunities for each ecosystem are as follows:
Application of these prescriptive research findings above can inform the development of effective, powerful content strategy — in other words, the findings of the research efforts are best put into practice when advocates and media makers utilize the work to test content hypotheses “in the wild.”
Ultimately these insights are presented publicly with the hopes of providing actionable insights and resources for content creators, change-makers, and strategists en route to building impactful methods of intervention. If you are curious about these learnings or have your own ideas for leveraging these findings, we encourage you to read the full report here and get in touch to start a conversation.
Using minute-by-minute media behaviors of over 300,000 people in the U.S., identifying roughly 10,000 users who self-identified as Hispanic or regularly consumed Spanish-language YouTube content, we isolated a single Latinx YouTube audience to serve as the focus of our analysis.
When identifying content ecosystems, we chose our characterized groupings by examining the strongest clusters of audience interaction, quantifying the ecosystems that have the overall highest daily reach across YouTube as separate from ecosystems with the highest channel reach within our 47 identified channels of interest.
A key step in our process required us to exclude music channels from our analysis, as none of our 47 channels of interest focus on music. Despite music channels occupying the highest reach with Hispanic YouTube viewers, we chose to focus on channels that would best represent opportunities for narrative intervention, rather than prioritizing “reach” as a primary indicator of opportunity.
EquisLabs is working to create a better understanding of Latino communities, invest in innovative approaches to reach and engage them, and uplift the Latinx leaders of tomorrow who will implement and carry forward this important work. Equis is a leader in digital innovation, focused on message testing and experiments, anti-disinformation tracking, and digital capacity-building for grassroots groups. Equis is also committed to developing Latino leaders across the progressive space, serving as a convener of organizations and individuals leading Latinx-focused programs.
Cultural Engagement Lab (CEL) ignites change by collaborating with artists and creatives to create compelling and inspiring stories that power advocacy, electoral, and civic engagement efforts, especially those that seek to engage a multi-racial audience. Led by a dynamic team of women of color artists and political strategists who understand the power of culture to shift narratives and create lasting change, CEL engages seasoned artists and creatives to lend their storytelling talents to meaningful engagement. CEL is the 501(c)(4) sister organization of The Center for Cultural Power.
Harmony Labs is a 501c(3) non-profit on a mission to create a world where media systems support democratic culture and healthy, happy people. We’ve been doing audience, narrative, and story analysis for more than a decade, helping storytellers channel the immense power of story to shape the future. With the Narrative Observatory project, for the first time ever, we’re harnessing powerful industry relationships and an academic research network to develop data infrastructure purpose-built to identify and track narratives and story opportunities ,and to learn about audiences across platforms.