Report: Minority-Owned Media and the Digital Duopoly

With an Overview and Introduction from News Media Alliance, American Economic Liberties Project, and MediaJustice 

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Provided by Newsgatherers serve a vital role in our communities. Every day, millions of Americans rely on their local newspapers to get the latest information on what is happening locally, nationally, and internationally. Local newspapers not only help to create a sense of community but also form a fundamental part of American life. By keeping government officials and other policy- and decision-makers in check, a healthy local news ecosystem corresponds with lower municipal lending costs, while local and regional newspapers are also often responsible for some of the biggest scoops that affect the national discourse.

Niche publications aimed at certain racial or ethnic groups similarly provide high value to those communities and have been hard-hit by the transition to a Duopoly-dominated advertising marketplace.

Minority-owned news outlets occupy an important place in American journalistic history, and their continued survival – as well as the addition of new outlets – is threatened by the digital platforms’ anticompetitive practices.

This report investigates how the digital Duopoly’s dominance in the digital advertising ecosystem has impacted news outlets owned by and targeting non-white Americans.

Click here to download the report.

Research Report: Minority-Owed Media and the Digital Duopoly


Throughout their history, minority-owned news media have faced economic challenges due to the dearth of advertising and prohibitive printing and distribution costs. While some believed that the Internet would enable minority media to flourish by lowering barriers to entry, the rise of Facebook and Google has created a host of new challenges for all news media.

As eyeballs and advertising dollars have largely moved from legacy print to digital media, the big tech giants have been the biggest beneficiaries, while newspapers, television and billboards have all faced double-digit revenue declines and competition for a smaller share of the advertising pie. The outsize claim on online ad revenue by Facebook, Google and increasingly, Amazon – which rose from 80 percent in 2019 to nearly 90 percent in 20201 – has sparked a number of antitrust lawsuits that allege Facebook and Google constitute a duopoly that is illegally manipulating ad sales. A bipartisan House Judiciary Sub- Committee report found evidence that the tech giants had monopolized the digital economy. “Companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” said the report. It further states that the tech giants both run and compete in the marketplace, “a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”

The shift has undermined the economic underpinnings of the traditional news industry. Between 2000 and 2015, newspaper ad revenues alone fell from approximately $60 billion to $23 billion, and between 2008 and 2017, newspapers laid off 45 percent of their workforce. During roughly the same period, the 82 percent spike in employment and addition of 6,100 jobs in digital-native newsrooms did little to offset the loss of some 33,000 newspaper jobs.

While the Duopoly has fueled legitimate concerns about its adverse impact on the news media, little attention has been paid to the particular effect the tech giants’ media dominance is having on minority-owned and -operated media. People of color comprise roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population, yet remain acutely underrepresented in mainstream newsrooms that, consequently, often under-report or overlook issues of importance to their communities. After George Floyd’s death, some in major media issued apologies for their historical racial failings, including the editors of the Los Angeles Times, the Kansas City Star and Vogue magazine.

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Key points from the report:

– Data for the top 22 Black-focused websites shows that the median audience size of these websites is just under 2 million average monthly unique visitors. Collectively, the median decrease of these websites’ average monthly visitors was about four percent between 2015 and 2016.
– While Black Planet was profitable and poised for growth when [Co-Founder Omar] Wasow left in 2005, he said Facebook, which went public in 2016, was growing ten times faster.
– “Staying competitive would have required substantially more investments to keep up with emergent technology… the dominance of Facebook makes it difficult to replicate Black Planet’s previous success.” – Omar Wasow, Co-Founder, Black Planet
– “The watchdog function of the press is vital,” he said. It’s crazy that Black America – with more than 40 million people – doesn’t have major media.” – Omar Wasow, Co-Founder, Black Planet
– Today, roughly 95% of all web advertising dollars goes to the top 50 websites, and a 2001 Aspen Report on the 15 ad-supported African-American websites showed the rates generally fall below the industry average of $35 CPM.

About the report

American Economic Liberties Project, MediaJustice and News Media Alliance commissioned author, journalist, and professor Pamela Newkirk to conduct extensive research on the history of – and impact of the ascendance of big tech platforms such as Facebook and Google on – minority-owned media and media targeting underrepresented communities. Dr. Newkirk gathered evidence, including research studies and news articles, and conducted phone interviews with Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Joel Dreyfuss, former managing editor of The Root; Akoto Ofori-Atta, co-founder and executive editor of Capital B; Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today; and Omar Wasow, Co-Founder of Black Planet.

For more information

Please contact Alliance Executive Vice President & General Counsel Danielle Coffey if you have any questions.

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