Encyclopædia Britannica Online has reported that worldwide, Spanish is spoken by more than 358 million people and that the world's largest Spanish-speaking populations can be found in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina and the U.S.-which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, had a total Hispanic population of 44.3 million (not counting the 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico) as of July 2006. Also, the U.S. Census Bureau has projected that by July 1, 2050, the U.S. will have a total Hispanic population of 102.6 million (which will be roughly 24 percent of the U.S. population). Spanish is the most widely spoken of the romance languages (ahead of French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan), and it is the third-most common language on the Internet (after English and Chinese).
Bearing all of those figures in mind, it stands to reason that the demand for Spanish-language adult websites will continue to increase in the future and could offer attractive growth opportunities for adult webmasters who want to enter the Spanish-language market.
But the world's Spanish-speaking population is hardly monolithic, and many of the people who were interviewed for this article stressed that English-speaking adult webmasters who decide to launch Spanish-language websites have a lot of research to do.
The Barcelona, Spain-based Bjorn Skarlen, manager of business development for the third-party processor CommerceGate and former Internet director of Private Media Group (Europe's largest adult entertainment company), explained: "There are three Spanish-language markets. One is the Spanish-language market in Spain, one is the Spanish-language market in the U.S., and one is the Spanish-language market in Latin America."
Skarlen said that of those three, Latin America is the toughest for adult webmasters. Billing issues, according to Skarlen, remain a challenge in Latin American countries, and there are still many people in Latin America who lack Internet connections. Spain, Skarlen said, presently offers the most growth opportunities for companies that publish Spanish-language adult websites.
"Latin America is a difficult market," Skarlen said. "With the Latin American countries, it is very difficult to know where they will be in the future. I just know that right now with Latin America, you cannot calculate those countries as a profit center. I would focus more on Spain, which is the world's fastest growing Spanish-language market for the Internet, for sure. If you have an adult website in the U.S. and are thinking of translating your website into Spanish, I would think a lot about the market in Spain because Spain is the fastest growing Internet market for the Spanish language."
Internet statistics offered on the website InternetWorldStats.com illustrate Spain's importance to companies marketing Spanish-language adult sites. InternetWorldStats.com has reported that as of June 2007, Spain had a total population of around 45 million people (more than 19 million of them with Internet connections) and an Internet penetration rate of 43.9 percent.
According to InternetWorldStats, Internet use in Spain increased by 266.8 percent from 2000-2007. Meanwhile, InternetWorldStats.com has reported Internet penetration rates of 22.4 percent for South America on the whole and 18.2 percent for Central America and Mexico combined. Dial-up connections are still common in many Latin American countries; InternetWorldStats.com has reported that less than 1 percent of the populations of Bolivia, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Guatemala have high-speed broadband connections, although broadband connectivity is growing at much faster rates in Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Portuguese-speaking Brazil.
Barcelona-based Thibaud, the sales area manager for Electronic-Group Interactive and NoCreditCard.com, said: "Spain is the most profitable market and the most easy to convert. In South America, it's much more difficult to convert. Advertising is cheap, and in many countries, there is no way to make the user pay. Premium SMS is a good (billing) solution in Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, for instance, but payouts are too low to build a strong business."
InternetWorldStats.com has reported an Internet penetration rate of 70.7 percent for the U.S., and it's safe to assume that more and more U.S.-based Latinos will be using the Internet in the future. The question is: how many of them will be speaking primarily Spanish, how many will be speaking primarily English and how many will speak both languages equally well?
While some first-generation Latino immigrants might be more fluent in Spanish than English, their U.S.-born sons, daughters and grandchildren are likely to grow up speaking English fluently-and in the U.S., there has certainly been a strong demand for Latino-oriented adult sites that are published en inglés.
LatinCash.com and LatinTeenCash.com are among the U.S.-based companies that have specialized in English-language Latino adult sites.
"The majority of the U.S. Latino adult sites are in English," explained Thibaud. "For a U.S. Latino user, it's much more easy and efficient to browse on an English site."
Moreno "Mo" Aguiari, founder/president of TranslationsXXX.com (which specializes in translating adult websites into different languages) and an administrator for AdultItaly.com (an Italian-language website for adult webmasters), said that he has been observing "a gradual and slow increase of requests to translate websites into Spanish as well as other languages like German."
The Atlanta-based Aguiari (originally from Milan, Italy) noted that quite often, "companies run by Mexican- Americans or Europe-based companies create their websites in multiple languages right at the beginning," and he also said that English-speaking, U.S.-born Latinos have played a major role in the demand for English-language Latino adult sites.
Aguiari said: "From my personal research, done by asking friends, second-generation Latinos search the web in English. In my specific case, I am 100 percent Italian; I have lived for nine years in the USA, and I search the web in English. In my opinion, you can get more content, news and info on the English side of the web."
Skarlen pointed out that while many second- and third-generation Latinos in the U.S. are bilingual, Spaniards who speak fluent English are a minority in Spain-and for that reason, adult companies that publish websites in Spanish have a much better chance of reaching Spain's millions of Internet surfers.
Skarlen noted that in order to successfully market Spanish-language adult sites in Spain, webmasters must understand Spain's billing needs and make sure that translations into Spanish are first-rate.
"I think that translating your adult websites into different languages is a win-win situation if you use professional translators," Skarlen explained. "You don't want the translation to be done in a bad way and then lose out. Spanish customers in Spain will know if a website is translated badly, and they won't pay for a badly translated website."
None of the people interviewed for this article recommended using language translation software for translating an English-language adult website (be it a membership site or a site that sells tangible goods) into español; all of them recommended hiring professional translators instead. Noting the flaws of language translation software, TranslationsXXX.com puts it this way: "Try to translate the same document from English to Italian, then from Italian to Dutch and finally again into English. The original English text will be very different from the final English text."
Aguiari asserted that for Spanish-speaking customers, bad translations are a deal-breaker.
"Webmasters have to make sure that translations are correct," Aguiari said. "There is nothing worse than bad translations."
Skarlen said that even though many Spaniards have credit cards, only about 20 percent of the people who patronize adult websites in Spain are using credit cards to pay.
The Barcelona-based Sarai Azkona, sales manager for CommerceGate, said that in recent months, she has seen the number of credit card sales for adult Internet transactions increasing in Spain and predicted that the number will increase considerably in the future. "I anticipate a 400 percent growth of credit card sales in Spain," she said.
Because the U.S. dollar has become so weak against the euro in the George W. Bush era, some American webmasters might think that customers in Spain would be glad to be billed in dollars instead of euros. But Thibaud and Azkona strongly advise American companies against billing Spain residents in any currency other than euros. "Never bill in dollars," Azkona emphasized. "A Spanish user would never buy something in dollars. They need to see their local currency in order to know the exact price."
One adult-oriented entrepreneur who has considered launching a Spanish-language version of her website is the Colorado-based Lisa Lawless, president/CEO of the Holistic Wisdom Corp. and founder of the National Association for Sexual Awareness and Empowerment (NASAE). Lawless, who has been selling an abundance of sex toys on her HolisticWisdom.com site, stressed that any adult-oriented business that is thinking about entering the Spanish-language adult market needs to conduct a thorough cost/benefit analysis. Lawless said that if she were to launch a Spanish-language site at some point in the future, she wouldn't do it until she was certain that the new profits from Spanish-speaking customers would offset the additional overhead.
"When the time is right, starting a website in Spanish is definitely something I would like to pursue," explained Lawless, who speaks some French but doesn't speak Spanish. "With the Spanish-speaking population being as large as it is, I think it could be quite lucrative. But it isn't a priority right now."
Jeff Booth, president of the Los Angeles-based EroticUniversity.com, said that while the Spanish-language adult market is huge, he has opted to offer erotica in English exclusively because translating his material into español would be too expensive. "For us," Booth explained, "I just don't see an ROI for doing a Spanish-language version. We combine text, video and images, but with as much text as we have, the translation would be quite expensive. We're talking over 250,000 words."
Another thing that adult webmasters who enter the Spanish-language adult market need to be aware of is differences in regional dialects. Like English, Spanish is spoken with many different accents-and just as Americans, Brits, Australians, Jamaicans, Scots and New Zealanders all have their own regional accents and regional slang, so do Spaniards, Mexicans, Argentineans, Bolivians and Cubans when it comes to the Spanish language. Of course, the differences are not so great that people from different Spanish-speaking countries cannot understand one another; Mexican and Colombian telenovelas are popular in Spain, and people all over Latin America watch mainstream movies by Spanish directors like Pedro Almodóvar and Julio Médem. Nonetheless, the X-rated slang one hears in Madrid may not be the same slang one hears in Mexico City. For example, the verb joder (which means "to fuck") is commonly used in Spain, whereas in Mexico, chingar is often the verb of choice for "fuck."
"A Mexican does not speak the same Spanish that an Argentinean or a Venezuelan speaks," Thibaud noted. "Porn vocabulary is really different [from country to country]. For instance, in Castellano in Spain, a cunt is called coño, but in Argentina, it's conchaand it's cuca in Mexico. If you translate a website into Castellano, you take the risk not to meet South American surfers' interest."
Azkona said: "The vocabulary of porn varies greatly between (Spanish-speaking) countries. A Spanish user would only be interested in a porn site if it's translated into Castellano, (which is) Spanish from Spain." And Booth recalled: "I produced a show in Mexico, and the emcee I hired spoke California Spanish, which the folks in Mexico found a little offensive for cultural reasons I never did fully understand. I think you need someone involved who understands the target cultures, especially if your market is outside of the [U.S.]."
From hiring professional translators to dealing with billing matters, adult webmasters who decide to enter the Spanish-language market certainly have their work cut out for them. But the very fact that there are more than 358 million Spanish speakers in the world indicates that the number of Spanish-language adult sites will continue to increase in the future-and some of them will no doubt be coming from the U.S..
"I think that the more languages you have today," Skarlen said, "the more business you can pick up-and Spanish is obviously one of the first languages you should think of."