The increasing importance of the Internet as a means for marketing and, moreover, artist development, was the crux of the “Image” panel today (Oct. 9) at the Billboard regional Mexican Music Summit, where speakers discussed innovative marketing strategies that incorporate online and traditional media.

On the one hand, programming directors from channels and networks like Bandamax and TeleRitmo highlighted new shows dedicated to developing artists. TeleRitmo’s Mauricio Alatorre, for example, spoke about “Plataforma Grupera,” a new show for developing acts where fans vote via SMS and twitter and where the first prize is production of a music video.

But for regional Mexican acts, gaining entry to big media is increasingly preceded by online presence, says Tomás Rubio, programming VP/executive producer of A Toda Musica TV.

“Before, [regional Mexican acts] would go on promotion from little town to little town and then they would go to the big cities. Now, they do this through the Internet,” says Rubio.

While television producers continue to look at charts and sales in determining their programming, they also look at page visits on sites like MySpace and Facebook, along with and views on YouTube. According to Horacio Rodríguez, online and mobile marketing manager for UMLE, having online presence via MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites, is crucial for artist development.

Loren Medina, president of online marketing company Digital Girl, cited grassroots promotion on blogs and community forums as a key ingredient in generating interest for acts. Medina cited the example of urban act D’Zoo, whose first single got on radio after it gained traction online.