|The data show that the nation’s new immigrant populations are fanning out around the country, their numbers growing in new places. But what of the role of the ethnic media in these new frontiers? Do ethnic media outlets serve different functions in them? And how are the spreading ethnic groups using their media?
At PEJ’s request, the pollster Sergio Bendixen went back through the massive ethnic-media-consumption survey he conducted in 2005 to see how ethnic groups in the 10 states with established ethnic populations — Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada and Texas — compared with the those in the rest of the country. He reran the numbers on the two ethnic groups with large populations around the country, Hispanics and Asians.
The findings? First, there are differences in the ways the two ethnic groups use their media, depending on whether they live in established or emerging communities. Second, those differences also vary depending on the ethnic group examined.
The differences between Hispanics and Asians apparent in a broad national sample grow even starker when split into established and emerging communities.
Hispanics, who tend to rely more on native-language media overall, do so even more in emerging communities than in established ones. Asians, on the other hand, tend to rely more on English-language outlets in emerging communities than they do in established ones.
Consider the figures for newspapers. In established communities, Hispanics are split fairly evenly between those who read the paper mostly in English or mostly in Spanish — 27% in English, 28% in Spanish. But in emerging communities a much larger number, 36%, read in Spanish, versus 19% in English.1
Asians, in contrast, are more likely to read newspapers in English generally, but that tendency is even greater in emerging communities. In established communities, 43% mostly read English-language newspapers and 24% mostly read papers in an Asian language. But in emerging Asian communities that disparity grows dramatically to 59% who read a paper in English and only 14% who read one in an Asian language).2
What accounts for these differences? One explanation is that the emerging ethnic immigrant communities are more likely to have a higher percentage of new immigrants who do not yet speak English. They would be more likely to have to rely on media in their native language.
But why then do Asians rely more heavily on English newspapers in emerging areas?
There are a few possible answers. It may be that Asians who come to the U.S. and move to more removed communities are farther along in their education, with some background in English. It’s also possible that those figures reflect the fact that the Asian media in the U. S. aren’t as developed as the Hispanic media, and as Asian groups move to emerging communities there simply isn’t as much Asian-language material available. In other words, they may be using English-language papers because that’s all they have.
That possibility is supported when one compares the number of Hispanic and Asian-language media outlets in the U.S. New California Media’s National Ethnic Media Directory lists 128 pages of Hispanic media outlets versus only 83 pages of Asian media outlets. And those Asian outlets have to be further broken down into constituent languages. For instance there are only 23 pages of Korean media outlets in the directory and seven pages of Vietnamese outlets.3
The findings regarding established and emerging ethnic communities and newspapers hold true when Asians are asked about TV as well. In established communities 49% watch TV in English and 17% watch in an Asian language, while in emerging communities the number watching in English jumps to 58%, while the number watching in an Asian language drops to 12%.4
Ethnic radio, which really needs a dense population to survive, shows the biggest difference among Asians. In established communities 50% of Asians listen to radio mostly in English, but that number jumps to 73% in emerging communities. At the same time the number of Asians who say they mostly listen to Asian-language radio drops from 21% in established communities to 5% in emerging ones.5
The real test for the differences in media preferences between established and emerging ethnic communities, however, is probably the Internet. While there are always questions about the Internet access people have, once they gain access there are no questions about whether ethnic media are available. The Internet is the same in Los Angeles as it is in Dubuque. There may not be local Web content, but even if there isn’t the Internet offers a host of ethnic media alternatives to those in areas where the ethnic media are less established.
What do the Internet data show? That people living in emerging ethnic communities, whether Hispanics or Asians, are bigger users of ethnic Web sites than those in established communities.
Among Hispanics in established communities who use the Internet, 40% regularly visit Hispanic or Spanish-language Web sites, but that number jumps to 61% in emerging communities. And among Asians, 47% of those in established communities regularly visit Asian-language sites, but the figure increases to 60% for those living in emerging communities.6
Taken together, those survey findings seem to indicate a few things. First, emerging ethnic populations, on the whole, are probably more reliant on and interested in ethnic outlets than their cohorts in established communities. Second, those emerging communities are probably not served as well as they could or should be. If there are areas for ethnic-media growth in the coming years, it may be the emerging communities. And third, the best way to reach such populations may be TV, particularly cable TV, and the Internet.
Until the emerging communities grow bigger, those media, and especially the Internet, will remain the ethnic outlets their populations use most. And as ethnic populations continue to spread out, bringing with them new immigrants, the ethnic media that do the best may be the ones that develop a national strategy that can reach into such areas. The new audiences want ethnic media; the question is how to get it to them.