I recently had the opportunity to attend a media roundtable discussion hosted by the Asian American Advertising Federation and sponsored by AARP at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, 2017. Going into the roundtable discussion with the news of the closing of New American Media (a multimedia ethnic news media and a coalition of ethnic media founded in 1996 by the nonprofit Pacific News Service) and the cancellation of international format by LA Channel 18 earlier this year, I was not expecting much. The discussion of challenges facing the Asian American marketing industry reflected broader trends in media and advertising. These include the decrease in spending in traditional media; ethnic media’s struggle to attract younger, U.S.-born users while at the same time retaining their core first generation immigrant audience; the challenge to fight never ending piracy in video content; and a lack of understanding of the climate of Asian American marketing at the brand level.
However, there are some bright spots. Saavn, a digital distributor of Indian music globally, has successfully switched from a free service to a paid subscription service and is now available on iTunes and Alexa. Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper which expanded to the United States in recent years, is able to garner 20 million unique users and 80 million page views on a daily basis. It distributes news digitally via geo-targeting apps, leveraging on content produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also has a U.S.-based team generating unique domestic content. Thirdly, traditional radio is experiencing a renaissance in the Vietnamese community, so much so that Viet TV recently launched a 24/7 radio station in Houston. Their success suggests that there are opportunities for ethnic media to prosper when they find the right niche and deliver content on an appropriate platform for the target audience.
The discussion also touched on the challenge of a lack of standard measurement for Asian media. Only a handful of Asian media subscribe to the Nielsen rating service or can afford an audit. I agree that it would be beneficial to have standard measures to help marketers measure campaign effectiveness and ROI. However, I think it’s only meaningful to a certain extent. Marketers certainly need media measurement to make a business case for their spending. But numbers don’t tell the entire story. I reflect on my own media usage. I use mostly mainstream media such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Week. News from Asia for me comes primarily from Facebook and WeChat forwards and commentary from friends. I only pick up a Chinese newspaper when I visit the local Asian supermarket once or twice a month. Entertainment is a mixed bag of Asian and mainstream content from Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. For me, the use of ethnic media is not about frequency, it’s about emotional and cultural connection. That’s perhaps why Danny Wong, a Chinese American born in the U.S., decided to launch Sky Link TV (a 24/7 Chinese satellite TV station in the US) in 2015. He said at the media roundtable that although he is a U.S. native, he wants to see programming that reflects his cultural background. That said, further research is needed to evaluate the role of ethnic media and effectiveness of advertising among Asian Americans.