New York City has a vibrant and extraordinarily diverse ecosystem of community news media. Newmark J-School’s Center for Community Media asked their publishers to complete this comprehensive survey that included questions about outlet type, business models, readership, size of staff and languages used. More than 130 replied. Here are the most relevant findings.
Community media outlets in New York City produce content on different mediums from print to websites to broadcasting. While more than 60% publish in print – with 11.5% saying they only exist in print – 15% have TV or some form of video programming while radio and podcast programming follow in the single digits. Most outlets have an online presence, including 15% that publish only online, while 40% engage in some form of social media. At the same time, 20% of those surveyed did not mention a website.Especially for immigrants, who make up nearly 40% of city residents, these publications cover news and events their readers cannot find elsewhere. In most of the outlets performing this crucial role, their full-time staff number is in the single digits, with 65% saying they have 1-5 employees and 16% with 6-10. On the other end, 5% have more than 50 members on staff.
Given the small sizes of the vast majority of the outlets, staff members often work in several different roles. And while 59% do have an advertising director, those in the role may also serve in other positions such as the publisher or editor.
Newspapers with a print edition are evenly split in terms of circulation levels, with a slight edge of 25% to the 10,000-19,999 group. The responses indicate that 80% of publications have a circulation of under 50,000 issues.
At 72%, the vast majority of the outlets are independently-owned while 10% are affiliated with a national or foreign entity. This suggests that most of the outlets have a local voice separate from any larger establishment. And for the 18% described as nonprofits, there is also more leeway for focusing on their content.
Nearly three-quarters of the outlets publish or broadcast either weekly or daily. The largest portion of respondents, at 41%, publish or broadcast on a weekly basis with dailies at 32%. The rest are divided into monthlies (13%), bi-weeklies (6%) and quarterlies (1%). Eight percent did not have a set frequency.
In terms of annual revenue, no range dominated: $0-$10,000 had the largest share at 24% with $100,000-$500,000 close behind at 22%. More than half of the outlets that responded generate under $100,000. At the other end of the scale, 21% had an annual revenue of between $500,000 and more than $1M.
Most of the outlets do not charge for their content, whether that be online or in print, suggesting a heavy reliance on advertising for many. Still, a sizable 20% charge for a portion while just 2% charge for all of their content.
The majority of the outlets were established within the past three decades with the largest share at 32% founded between 2000 and 2009, followed by 28% within the last 10 years. As for the rest of the outlets, 19% emerged between 1900 and 1989 while 5% began in the 19th century.
The diversity of the community media sector in New York City is evident in the wide variety of languages in which it publishes or broadcasts. Outlets that cover news, information and advertising in English make up 55% of those surveyed. Among the 45% that publish in other languages, one-tenth of responding outlets report in Spanish with Bengali close behind at 7%. Other primary languages submitted include Mandarin, Urdu, Nepali, Turkish and other Asian- and European-origin languages. As a whole this sector serves audiences in some 185 languages.
Among outlets with a secondary language, 66% use English and 19% also publish or broadcast in Spanish. The rest of the secondary languages, numbering in the single digits, include French (4%), Swedish, Tagalog, Yiddish, Cantonese and Creole (all 2%).
The majority of outlets (65%) do not have bureaus in other locations which underscores that most function as independent and relatively small news entities that serve a local and targeted audience.
The community media outlets are pretty evenly split between those who do and do not have a newsletter and this number is likely to grow as publishers and editors seek to diversify how they disseminate their content. At the same time, it is worth considering how newsletters may be a popular approach in the so-called mainstream media but given the many different audiences in this sector, such trends may not always work for every community.