The growing importance of the US Hispanic internet audience has been highlighted by search engine Yahoo's decision to enter a joint online venture with NBC Universal's Telemundo broadcast network.

The two companies have agreed to merge their Spanish-language websites, resulting in shared advertising revenue and a combining of their staff.

The deal has been described as a "test bed" for other possible ventures, which they declined to elaborate.

Says Randy Falco, chief operating officer of the NBC Universal Television Group: "This is taking advantage of a moment in time [and of] the incredible growth of the Hispanic marketplace."

Online adspend targeted at Hispanics is projected to increase 32% this year to $132 million (€103.2m; £70.8m), compared with a 25% increase to $15.6 billion for the overall US internet ad market, according to New York research firm eMarketer.

The population of 16 million US Hispanic internet users is projected to expand around 30% over the next five years. Hispanics are the third-largest racial or ethnic group online in the US after non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans.

Avers senior eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson: "Companies are realizing this is a market to be reckoned with."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff