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U.S. Ethnic Media Expands Its Reach and Influence

New America Media, News Report, Marcelo Ballv Posted: Jun 05, 2009

Ethnic media reaches a substantial majority of African, Asian and Hispanic Americans and has increased its penetration into these audiences by 16 percent over the last four years, a just-released New America Media poll shows.

"The ethnic media is growing, and it is growing at a very impressive rate," said Sergio Bendixen, whose Miami-based firm Bendixen & Associates conducted the multilingual poll of over 1,300 ethnic Americans.

The poll's results were unveiled at the opening plenary of the New America Media expo June 5 in Atlanta, Ga.

Because it is the second national poll of ethnic media, its results were easily compared with those of NAM's first poll in 2005. The resulting picture was a fine-grained view of ethnic media's rapid growth and diffusion.

"It's impossible to deny" ethnic media's key role as information-providers to a broad segment of our society, said Patricia Thomas, Knight chair in health journalism at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism.

Bendixen said it is testament to ethnic media's strength that this growth spurt occurred during troubled times for the news industry in general, as newspapers and broadcast outlets grapple with closures, layoffs and shrinking newsroom budgets.

Today, 82 percent of the U.S. ethnic adult population regularly views, listens to or reads ethnic media. That's an audience of 57 million.

These aren't viewers or readers who go to ethnic media "once in a blue moon," adds Bendixen. The pollster took pains to measure only audiences who were frequent users of this "vibrant segment" of American media.

The poll, conducted in April and May of this year, had a margin of error of 2.7 percent. Arab-Americans, Native Americans and several other ethnicities were not included in the study due to budget constraints.

In television, Hispanic programming now reaches nearly 9 out of 10 Hispanics, and Asian ethnic television made big gains, thanks to new Asian TV stations like KCNS-TV in San Francisco and VATV in Washington, D.C., serving Chinese and Vietnamese audiences respectively.

Asian TV's audience grew by 30 percent in the last four years.

Meanwhile, Spanish-language radio stations, once concentrated in traditionally Latino-heavy states, have spread over the rest of the country, to states like North Carolina and New Hampshire.

African-American newspapers saw dramatic growth as well, increasing their penetration 42 percent since 2005.

Some of the most explosive growth was online, though there's clearly still room to grow in that category. Despite relatively low rates of Internet usage among Hispanics, Hispanic-targeted websites expanded their reach by 90 percent (now reaching 19 percent of that population).

Fifty-four percent of Chinese access ethnic websites.

The plenary closed with a discussion of racism and its impact on public health led by Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. She called for ethnic media to seriously consider their roles as brokers of race views and focus attention on dismantling its sometimes invisible influence on who wins and who doesn't in the United States.

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