To determine whether community media outlets are getting their fair share of the New York State agency spending on advertising meant to reach all New Yorkers, CCM started the search in the Open Budget NY tool. This tool allows a search for marketing and advertising program appropriations for only a single state agency or authority, the Department of Economic Development, which has merged into Empire State Development (ESD). Open Budget NY’s archive of data provides historical advertising appropriations data, but only for ESD. This database did not list the state’s total advertising budget or the detailed advertising budget for any other state agencies or authorities. Nor did the state agencies’ websites.

Then CCM searched the public database Open Book NY’s spending data to attempt to find the total advertising spending of New York State agencies for the period we initially focused on, FYs 2012 to 2022. This database offered some data on the state budget, contracts, and spending, but we could not find the total state advertising ‘spending by agency using this database. 

Instead, we searched all of the payment “purpose” types on the dropdown menu associated with advertising: “Promotional Adv,” “Publications Advertising,”  “Commercial Printing Advertising,” and “Photography Advertising.” The results were not comprehensive, which was evident compared to our subsequent searches.

The closest we could get to finding the state’s overall advertising spending for that period using publicly available data was the total amount of spending by state agencies or authorities to all vendors with state advertising contracts listed as contract type “Advertising/Public Awareness,” which is inexplicably a subcategory of the “Printing” category. Once we had the list of top vendors/payees for FYs 2012 to 2022 and the amounts paid to them (see Table 2: Top NYS Advertising Payees/Vendors), we searched for which state agencies paid the most (see Table 1: New York State Agencies CCM sent Freedom of Information Requests (FOILs) to for invoices that include Media Buys or Media Placement) to the top state-contracted vendors.

This search determined that New York State agencies paid over $905 million to state-contracted advertising agencies from FYs 2012 to 2022.

In September 2022 CCM took the next step and filed Freedom of Information Law requests with the sixteen state agencies that spent the most with state-contracted advertising vendors, to obtain the ad agency invoice records with detailed data on media placements, as well as the amount spent with specific media outlets. Shortly after, via email, we limited the scope of data covered in our requests to FYs 2019-2022 to increase the odds that we would get responsive records within the twenty-day period prescribed by law.

SIx state agencies (Gaming Commission, Department of Children and Families, Board of Elections, Department of Agriculture, Office of Temporary Disability, and the Department of Labor) sent us responsive records by the time this report was published in September 2023. In July 2023, the State Department of Health sent us non-detailed, aggregated data on media buying. This DOH data did not allow for comparison with the other six agencies. After a year of postponements, DOH has stated they will fulfill CCM’s FOIL request on August 27, 2023, but we haven’t received any responsive records from the agency as of the date of this report. CCM will update this report when we do receive a response from DOH.

Using the invoices or spreadsheets provided by the six responsive agencies, CCM extracted the types of media outlets that received agency spending for ad buys and how much the agencies spent in each category. Where no fiscal year was identified by the agency we determined the fiscal year according to the invoice date. For reference, the State’s FY 2023 began on April 1, 2022 and ends on March 31, 2023. The data we extracted fell into five categories of media:

  • Traditional media (including unspecified outlets identified as traditional): local radio, TV, and print – any large mainstream companies or outlets owned by large companies or corporations.
  • Community media: independently owned, non-corporate outlets that serve distinct communities and geographic regions; and cover news 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.
  • Sports and live events marketing: Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, New York Mets, Yankees, Buffalo Bills, and the New York Islanders. State Gaming Commission was the only agency with the category ‘sports and live events marketing.’ 
  • Ad-serving/targeting companies: digital marketing platforms that use artificial intelligence to target consumers, like Adtheorent, H Code Media, which specializes in reaching “US Hispanic Audiences,” and Google’s marketing company Doubleclick Digital Marketing. 
  • Social media and tech entities: companies like Facebook (Meta), Twitter, Google, Hulu, and Spotify.