Newsstands in New York are filled with ethnic newspapers, though many casual browsers never give them a second glance. These newspapers, with a small but loyal group of readers, compete with the more prominent newspapers and an abundance of national magazines for scarce display space and the fleeting attention of passers-by.
More important, these papers, like News India-Times, The Guyana Monitor and The Filipino Reporter, must also compete for advertising revenue. Most ethnic newspapers in New York rely on ads from travel agencies, money transfer services, lawyers and hospitals. Many say they do not receive their fair share of ads from more mainstream advertisers like telephone companies, health maintenance organizations or department stores.
But a nonprofit organization has begun a program to help those newspapers tap into the broader market by making it easier for advertisers to buy ads. The program, called the All Communities Advertising Service, permits advertisers to place ads in many ethnic publications with one phone call. "It's basically an ad agency for the little guys," said Garry Pierre-Pierre, the editor and publisher of The Haitian Times in Brooklyn, which uses the service.
The service's creation is a reflection of the growing market for ethnic publications in multicultural cities like New York, which is home to about 150 of them. The number of people reading ethnic newspapers in New York has grown more than 30 percent since 1992, to 1.2 million, Abby Scher, who oversees All Communities, said.
The service is run by the Independent Press Association, a nonprofit organization that tries to help smaller publications that offer different perspectives from those of newspapers run by large corporations.
In San Francisco, where the organization is based, that means supporting alternative newspapers that advocate social causes. In New York, it means helping papers that serve ethnic groups and immigrants.
Ms. Scher said the service was intended to be a way for advertisers to reach a relatively untapped group of consumers. The group points to a study conducted last month by the National Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, which said that 3.2 percent of mainstream advertising is aimed at Hispanics, yet 12.5 percent of the population is Hispanic.
"When you think of the importance of the Latino market," Ms. Scher said, "the advertising budgets are not matching."
The idea of the service was first discussed at a meeting held by the association in May 2000, when publishers spoke of the difficulties they had finding advertisers.
But the impetus did not come until after Sept. 11, when charities like the September 11 Fund asked the press association for help in reaching immigrants who were victims of the attacks. The association responded by helping the groups put ads in the ethnic newspapers. It later realized that the service was needed full time.
The first two advertisements that were not related to the attacks were run by the Lucy Daniels Foundation, which encouraged people to attend a conference about creativity, and by Planned Parenthood of New York City, which described its services in eight publications geared toward black and Hispanic women.
Roger Rathman, the vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood, said the organization was happy to see that the newspapers translated its ad. "In this case, it was just Spanish," he said, "but if we go into Polish or Ukrainian newspapers, it's nice to know we don't have to worry about the translations."
In neighborhoods like Astoria in Queens, Flatbush in Brooklyn and Chinatown in Manhattan, the publishers of ethnic newspapers that use All Communities Advertising hope that the service will bolster advertising sales. The newspapers pay a commission of 10 percent to 15 percent to the press association for each ad.
"The problem with getting mainstream advertisers is they don't have any idea about the ethnic newspapers," said Abu Taher, the executive editor of Bangla Patrika, a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 12,000 to 15,000 in Long Island City, Queens, that serves mostly immigrants from Bangladesh.
Mr. Taher said the paper's advertising sales staff sends letters of introduction and samples from the paper. "Sometimes it works," he said, "and sometimes it doesn't."
The newspapers also hope that they can expand the types of products and services that are advertised. The Haitian Times, a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 15,000 based in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, carries advertisements from the traditional sources - travel agencies, money transfer services, lawyers and hospitals.
Mr. Pierre-Pierre said he thought that with All Communities, his paper might start to carry ads from mainstream advertisers like telephone companies and department stores.
"These are services that our readers use," he said, "but because we don't have the resources to go all over the place, we don't carry them."
Mr. Pierre-Pierre said that if the service added 2 percent or 3 percent to his revenue, it would be a success. "If it could generate a couple thousand dollars a month," he said, "that would be something."
Aaron Donovan, The New York Times. May 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.