A ground-breaking report on the advertising practices of New York state agencies and departments released by the Center for Community Media (CCM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism uncovers conspicuous inequities in the advertising spending practices of at least six state agencies.
Commissioned for CCM’s Advertising Boost Initiative, the report titled ‘Community Blindspot: Study of NYS agency advertising practices reveals lack of transparency that leaves community media business sector and audience overlooked’ is the result of a year-long research project led by Professor Barbara Gray, Newmark J-School Associate Professor and Chief Librarian, with data analysis and visualizations by Jennifer Cheng, CCM’s Research and Development Associate. It provides insights into the advertising spend of New York State agencies across the multitude of outlets that make up the state’s media ecosystem. Furthermore, the report provides recommendations for state agencies to reform their advertising practices in a way that is more transparent, equitable and reflective of the state’s rich diversity.
“In a state as diverse as ours, it is only right that state agencies distribute advertising funds to ensure fairness and support the economic viability of the media organizations that diligently serve these diverse communities. It is in New York’s best interest to strengthen their capacity to fulfill their vital role as the voice of the different communities, fostering informed and engaged citizens,” Mikhael Simmonds, CCM Executive Director, said.
New York State is home to a vibrant array of over 700 community media outlets, which not only comprise an essential segment of the state’s media fabric but also function as small businesses that are intertwined with the local economy. They often serve as the primary news sources for many communities.
Based on data received from a third of the agencies contacted about their advertising allocations, the researchers analyzed $216 million spent on 90 advertising campaigns covering various periods between 2015 and 2023. They found that the state’s community media received a meager 2.6%, about $5.6 million of the total $216 million spent on media buys over the decade.
In contrast, a total of 61.5%, equivalent to $133 million, was spent on traditional mainstream media. State agencies, meanwhile, collectively spent $42.4 million, constituting 20% of the total $216 million, on social media, tech and ad-serving/targeting companies. This amount represents nearly eight times the agency ad spending that community media received, according to the report.
“Given that community media makes up a significant portion of outlets in our ecosystem, for it to receive only 2.6% of the advertising dollars flowing around New York State confirms the vast disparities we’ve known existed for years,” said Darlie Gervais, Manager of the CCM Advertising Boost Initiative. “Our hope is this report opens a more vibrant discussion about community media’s vital role, extensive reach, community issue coverage, and trustworthiness among the diverse communities so our state can better sustain them through increased revenue.”
Findings from the report that support the insights:
- The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance allocated zero of its $3.9 million in ad spending on community media.
- The Office of Children and Family Services spent a paltry $17K of $2.2 million in ad dollars on community media.
- The Gaming Commission, which has the largest advertising budget of the agencies surveyed, spent only $5.2 million, out of $201 million, on community media outlets.
- The Department of Agriculture spent only $3,485, of $4.6 million, on media ad buys in community outlets.
- The Board of Elections spent $199K, out of $4 million, on advertising in the sector.
- The Department of Labor spent $144,000, out of $497K, on community media.
The report urges New York stakeholders to reduce these inequities in ad spending on community and ethnic media, and highlights the critical need for legal, administrative and structural reforms to address these disparities. Through transparency, equity and accountability in advertising distribution, New York State can bolster community media’s sustainability, nurture the region’s vibrant media ecosystems, and ensure that crucial campaign messaging from state agencies reach communities that are under-resourced, and underrepresented in traditional media.
“Community media is the last defense to news deserts,” Simmonds added. “Redirecting a portion of the state’s advertising budget to community media is more than just an expenditure; it’s an investment in the heartbeat of our communities. These local businesses thrive, underrepresented voices are amplified, and the civic fabric is strengthened when we make this crucial shift.”
About the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, founded in 2006, is a public graduate journalism school based in the heart of New York City’s media capital. With affordable tuition and extensive scholarship support, it prepares students from diverse economic, racial and cultural backgrounds to produce high-quality journalism. The school offers an M.A. in Journalism, M.A. in Engagement Journalism, and M.A. in Journalism – Bilingual Program (English/Spanish).
About the Center for Community Media at the Newmark J-School
The mission of CCM is to serve news organizations that provide essential local coverage for populations whose voices and issues are underrepresented in mainstream media. The Center serves as a hub of information, resources, and training aimed at increasing the sustainability of this news media sector.
For further media inquiries:
Jehangir Khattak, Director of Communications | Center for Community Media at Newmark J-School | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Davila Ramirez, Director of Communications and Marketing | Newmark J-School | email@example.com