Ten years ago, the Center for Community Media (then called the Center for Community and Ethnic Media) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY helped set events in motion to change New York City’s media landscape. Our report Getting the Word Out: How and Where New York City Advertises examined how New York City agencies spent their advertising budget in placing ads to inform the public of vital programs and services such as healthcare, employment, housing, and transportation. Our analysis found that 82% of the city’s ads were placed in mainstream publications, while the city’s community media, serving 4.5 million residents or 55% of the city’s population, only received 18% of city ad dollars.
- NYC ads placed in mainstream outlets (2013) 82% 82%
- Ads in community media 18% 18%
The report recommended that the city redirect a percentage of its ad spending to community media, stating: “A little increase in advertising revenue could go a long way toward strengthening the city’s community media while simultaneously helping the city get its message out to all New Yorkers.”
As a result of CCM’s call to action, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued executive order 47 in May 2019, which mandated that all NYC agencies direct a minimum of 50% of their annual print and digital advertising budgets toward community media publications. CCM’s Advertising Boost Initiative reported that the percentage of the city’s print and digital advertising budget spent on community media outlets increased from 18% in FY 2013 to 84% in FY 2020.
- FY 2013 18% 18%
- FY 2020 84% 84%
This investment by the city kept many community publishers viable so that they could keep informing vulnerable communities and communities susceptible to mis- and disinformation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2021, the City Council passed Local Law 83 of 2021, which created the Mayor’s Office of Ethnic and Community Media (MOECM), and stated that “each mayoral agency shall seek to direct at least 50% of its total spending on advertising to ethnic and community media outlets.” They expanded the law to include ethnic and community radio and television media outlets for a total of more than 357 eligible outlets.6
This report examines how New York State agencies disseminate critical information to New Yorkers through advertising spending, just as we explored New York City ad spending practices and equity in 2013. CCM submitted FOIL requests to 16 state agencies and received responsive records from only six agencies. This report sheds light on the agencies’ advertising practices by liberating the data we extracted from the media placement invoices provided by those six agencies. Our findings show that the state agencies we looked at do not allocate their ad spending equitably to community media.
Defining the community, ethnic and mainstream media
CCM defines community media as independently owned, non-corporate outlets that serve distinct communities and geographic regions; and cover news that is often missing from the radar of mainstream media, public officials, and advertisers. These outlets are often deprived of the critical resources needed to sustain the delivery of important news to underserved audiences.
For its directory, MOECM defines “Community and Ethnic Media” outlets as “newspapers, websites, and broadcast media outlets that serve communities of people based on factors like native language, race, color, gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or immigrant status; and target discrete neighborhoods, geographic regions, or populations within the city rather than the city as a whole.”
The office defines a “Mainstream Outlet” as “A print or digital outlet that is not created for one of the aforementioned communities specifically and has…[wider] readership.”