A groundbreaking report released by the Center for Community Media (CCM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism has shed light on concerning disparities in New York State’s advertising practices.
The report, titled ‘Community Blindspot: Study of NYS agency advertising practices reveals lack of transparency that leaves community media business sector and audience overlooked,’ was commissioned as part of CCM’s Advertising Boost Initiative.
This year-long research project, spearheaded by Professor Barbara Gray and Jennifer Cheng, CCM’s Research and Development Associate, has exposed significant imbalances in advertising spending by at least six state agencies.
New York State, renowned for its diversity, is home to over 700 community media outlets. These outlets not only form an integral part of the state’s media landscape but also function as small businesses that are deeply intertwined with the local economy. For many communities, they serve as primary sources of news.
The report’s findings, based on data covering advertising campaigns from 2015 to 2023, reveal a stark contrast in ad spending allocation.
Out of $216 million analyzed, New York State’s community media received a mere 2.6%, equivalent to approximately $5.6 million.
In stark contrast, traditional mainstream media received a substantial 61.5%, amounting to $133 million.
Furthermore, state agencies collectively spent $42.4 million, constituting 20% of the total budget, on social media, tech, and ad-serving/targeting companies.
This allocation is almost eight times greater than what community media received.
The report emphasizes the need for transparency, equity, and accountability in advertising distribution.
Mikhael Simmonds, CCM Executive Director, noted, “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.”
Some of the report’s notable findings include:
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance allocated zero of its $3.9 million ad budget to community media.
The Office of Children and Family Services spent a meager $17K of its $2.2 million ad budget on community media.
The Gaming Commission, with the largest advertising budget among agencies surveyed, spent only $5.2 million, out of $201 million, on community media outlets.
The Department of Agriculture allocated only $3,485, out of $4.6 million, for 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 allocated $144,000, out of $497K, for community media advertising.
The report calls upon New York stakeholders to address these disparities urgently, advocating for legal, administrative, and structural reforms. By prioritizing transparency and equity in advertising distribution, New York State can bolster the sustainability of community media, fortify the region’s media ecosystems, and ensure vital campaign messages from state agencies reach under-resourced and underrepresented communities.
Mikhael Simmonds emphasized the importance of supporting community media:
“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
Founded in 2006, the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism is a public graduate journalism school situated in the heart of New York City’s media hub. It prepares students from diverse backgrounds to produce high-quality journalism with affordable tuition and extensive scholarship support. The school offers various programs, including 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 Center for Community Media (CCM) serves news organizations that provide essential local coverage for populations whose voices and issues are underrepresented in mainstream media. CCM acts as a hub for information, resources, and training to increase the sustainability of this crucial news media sector.