Ethnic Media Going Strong

While news about the mainstream media seems to get worse by the day, the same can’t be said for ethnic media.

A recent study by New America Media revealed that the launch of ethnic media outlets and their reach have been increasing over the past four years. The audience for ethnic media grew by 16 percent during this period, reaching 57 million people on a regular basis.The study also found:

  • Ethnic media reach 82 percent of all Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American adults;
  • The percentage of the Asian-American adult population reached by television programming targeting Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino viewers has grown by 30 percent over last four years. For Asian-Americans, watching news about their countries of origin is a major reason for viewing these stations;
  • The penetration of Spanish-language television is now almost universal; and,
  • Chinese and Korean newspapers now reach 70 percent and 64 percent, respectively, of their adult populations. Newspapers like Sing Tao, the World Journal, Korea Daily and Korea Times have substantially increased their circulation.

While the advertising downturn, among other things, has caused the mainstream media to spiral into crisis, ethnic media have been able to withstand the economic meltdown. It’s not that ethnic outlets aren’t facing tough times as the recession hits local businesses, but ethnic media have always struggled to secure national advertisers, making them less dependent on corporate ad dollars.

“Advertising is more of a mosaic of small businesses, causing no big holes in ad revenue as it would by big corporate advertisers,” Juana Ponce de Leon, the executive director of the New York Community Media Alliance, told Colorlines magazine.

Julian Do, the Southern California director for New America Media, added:  “Their (ethnic media) model is more resilient with standing up to the crisis. They are more flexible to cutbacks… they won’t totally shut down [as mainstream media might]. A number of ethnic media did close, but when compared to the mainstream media, it pales in comparison.”

Ethnic media are also in a better position to withstand the economic crisis because of their historic mission to serve the community.

A Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism study found that 68 percent of ethnic media outlets believe that providing a voice for their community is the most important goal for their organization.

This commitment is reflected in the longevity of ethnic media staffers. Despite traditionally low-to-modest salaries, the study found that 39 percent of participants worked for their companies for 11 years and that 32 percent believe their jobs provide them with an opportunity to grow in their careers.

But the report did touch upon the technological challenges facing ethnic media outlets. While Spanish-language and African-American-oriented Web sites have expanded their reach, only about one in five Hispanic and African-American adults visit those sites on a regular basis.

The news is better for Asian-Americans. Asian language Web sites have greater penetration.  More than half of all Chinese-American adults visit sites in Cantonese or Mandarin, and about one-third of Korean-American and Vietnamese-American adults visit sites in their native languages.

Asian-Americans are far more likely to have broadband access at home than any other ethnic group in the country.

As we work on new solutions to save quality reporting, maybe we should take a few tips from the ethnic media outlets that are still serving their communities – and doing it well.