A new survey of Hispanics online finds that the number of Hispanics accessing the web has grown significantly - outpacing the U.S. general population - and that the majority of those online Hispanics prefer English on the web, even when they are bicultural and bilingual.

The "Hispanic Cyberstudy," conducted by research firm Cheskin and commissioned by AOL Advertising, found that 58% of U.S. Hispanics are now online (versus 71% of the general population), compared to 41% of Hispanics online in 2002. The study interviewed 717 Hispanic households over the phone and 616 Hispanic households and 634 general market households online.

More significant than the rise in Hispanics online, however, were their preferences. Instead of segmenting the Hispanic population by acculturation, as is the norm in many marketing studies (Hispanic dominant, biculturals, U.S. dominant), the AOL study segmented by what it calls "Life Stages," more specific to marketing and advertising purposes. The young and free (30% of sample) stage represents people who are single, average 26-years-old and have no children; young family (17%) are 33-years-old, married and have one child; mature family (23%) are 40-years-old on average, married and have two children; prime of life (18%) are 41-years-old, married with no children; and empty nesters (13%) are 57-years-old, have children over 18 years old and are married.

Not surprisingly, the young and free category spent more time online than any other, and also vastly preferred their online content in English (96.8%). But surprisingly, every category preferred its online content in English, including the empty nesters (81.2%).

The skew toward English online was surprising, says Maria Pousá, Sr. manager of strategic insights for Adlytics, who analyzed the data. But still, the fact that many online Hispanics still prefer their content in Spanish, "speaks to a much more multidimensional society, and a much more multidimensional way of marketing to Hispanics. Our proposal is that you can create the right content and advertising for Hispanics according to their life stage," she added.

Among other findings, the study also found that Hispanics are more willing to access the Internet via a wider range of devices, including mobile phones, and are eager to embrace new technology, even when they are not acculturated.