For years, publishers of small community and ethnic newspapers in New York City, many of whom are regular contributors to Voices of NY, have complained that local government agencies overlook them when choosing where to run ads about their programs and services.
The Center for Community and Ethnic Media decided to find out if this was true. Representatives of the Center interviewed city officials, advertising executives and newspaper publishers, and reviewed publicly available records, including some retrieved through Freedom of Information Law requests.
The full report can be read here, but the primary findings were:
- New York City is currently spending about $18 million a year to convey messages about health, education, transportation, economic development, as well as job opportunities at city agencies, to the public.
- About 82 percent of the ad budget of city agencies is earmarked for mainstream publications such as The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, amNY and MetroNY. The rest is dispersed among smaller community and ethnic publications, many of which are published in languages other than English.
- There are more than 270 publications that serve the immigrant and minority populations in the city, published in 36 languages. Eighteen of them are daily papers that are published in nine languages.
- Although the combined circulation of community and ethnic publications is about 4.5 million, equal to 55 percent of the city’s population, they receive about 18 percent of the city’s ad budget.
- Hispanics, meanwhile, make up over 28 percent of the city’s population, but in recent ad spending, Spanish-language publications have garnered less than 4 percent of the total.
- The city has language-access laws and executive orders on its books to ensure that essential city services are known about and understood by residents who are not proficient in English. These policies have not been applied to the city’s advertising messages.
- The city requires all city agencies to place their ads through advertising firms that have been awarded city contracts to provide that service.
- Two small, private ad placement firms have consistently won the city’s advertising contracts – one for 15 years, the other for 24 years.
- Although public officials assured representatives of the Center and NYPA in 2011 that the next round of contract bidding would generate fresh competition, those two firms were again awarded new contracts.
- The city’s ad contracts have previously been for terms of one to three years; the new contract is for five years.
The Center’s report was researched and written by Professor Sarah Bartlett, director of the Urban Reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, with the assistance of Garry Pierre-Pierre, executive director of the Center. Funding for the report was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation.