On March 16, 1827, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish started the Freedom’s Journal in New York City. During the Civil War era, African American newspapers had grown to 40 publishers. In the 1920s and 1930s, major newspapers were ignoring Black America — including not even printing obituaries for African American people. So African American newspapers became the outlet for Black cultural expression, job opportunities, retailers who didn’t discriminate, and other issues that were reported from the perspective of African American readers. Audience mattered … audience still matters … audience must matter.

In an October 2021 report by Nielsen entitled, “Seeing and believing: Meeting Black audience demand for representation that matters,” Nielsen highlights the lost and undervalued presence of Black content. Some highlights from the report include the following:

  • For many African Americans, content is the common language. The media industry needs to learn that traditional media habits are blending with new paths to engaging with content.
  • How brands can build trust with the Black community by finding opportunities to put Black culture front-and-center in content and marketing.
  • Dig deeper into the diversity and intersectionality of race, class and gender within the Black community.

While the number of advertisers spending in traditional media focused on reaching African Americans has increased by 16% since summer 2021, one example finds that Black men are engaging outside of these platforms to find the forums that offer representation, connection and solace. Two out of three Black viewers are more likely to watch content that represents them and buy from brands that advertise in representative content.

With a deep history, brand value in local Black communities, and relevant storytelling from an African American perspective, Black-owned newspapers are well positioned to capture advertising revenue through digital transformation. For our specific work in the Knight x LMA BloomLab to be successful, we will grow BloomLab publishers’ audience footprint by 20% and non-print revenue by 50%. We will create a path to transform into digital-first, world-class journalistic media companies where Black audiences engage. We believe that this strategy will foster independence and sustainability. But just as important, we believe in the future of Black-owned media and digital revenue opportunities that will come from Black spending power, which is approaching $1.57 trillion dollars, and Black viewing power, both in television and streaming, totaling 1.06 trillion minutes.

Source: Nielsen’s Seeing and believing: Meeting Black audience demand for representation that matters, Diverse Intelligence Series, October 2021