DENVER -- As he waited for the bus on a searingly hot day in Denver, Chaz Aguinaldo leaned back and listened to the syncopated beat and Spanish lyrics coming through his headphones.
No Beck for Aguinaldo, no Black Eyed Peas -- he was tuned in to KMGG-FM and a new format the radio chain giant
The DJs, like the songs, mix English and Spanish freely, sometimes in midsentence. Clear Channel's slogan for its new Hurban stations is ''Latino and Proud," something that resonates with Aguinaldo.
''It's in both English and Spanish, the way it should be," he said.
English is still the language of choice for most of the nation's nearly 14,000 radio stations, but a booming Hispanic population is pushing dramatic change: Spanish-language radio is at a record high, with more than 678 stations across the country, according to
''That number could double in two years," said Mike Henry, a Denver-based radio consultant.
In 2000, the US census counted 35.6 million Hispanics and that number has grown to 41.3 million. Estimates of Hispanic purchasing power now top $630 billion, up nearly threefold from $233 billion in 1990, and it's expected to reach $926 billion in 2007, according to Denver marketing firm Heinrich Hispanidad
Spanish-language radio is no longer about mom-and-pop stations that operated for years on the fringes of the AM dial. Hurban has a growing appeal for broadcasters and syndicated shows dominate mornings and afternoon drives in certain markets.
While Hispanics account for nearly 14 percent of the US population, expenditures by companies trying to reach this market account for only 3.2 percent of total advertising dollars, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. Broadcasters are hoping to close the gap.
The trend has attracted heavy hitters. Los Angeles-based
While Los Angeles, New York and Miami have long had large Hispanic populations and radio stations to reach them, areas like Charlotte, N.C., and Providence, are now among the top 50 Hispanic radio markets.
Spanish-language stations have survived for years by offering content listeners can't get from other media. Denver's KBNO-AM -- Que Bueno (Spanish for ''how good") to its listeners -- had been number one from October through July in the 18-to-34 category during morning drive.