Black History Month — which evolved from “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans — is known as the annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.
Although we mostly concentrate on prominent people, businesses, and events from the past during Black History Month, it is imperative that we also focus on the future of the Black press.
Here are a few key facts that many in the industry might overlook when it comes to the Black press — all which help to ensure the advancement and sustainability of local black-owned media outlets.
Local Black-owned media organizations are reinventing themselves
Local Black-owned legacy publishers have realized that they are no longer simply newspapers in their local communities. Publishers are embracing digital transformation, rebranding themselves as networks and digital media organizations while also diversifying their revenue streams.
The Houston Defender is now known as The Defender Network; The AFRO in Baltimore uses its show Chicken Boxx to host discussions around current events, challenges, and common cliches within the Black community; and The Washington Informer connects with its local community through its digital broadcast, WIN-TV. Publishers are investing in branded content, funding journalism through philanthropy, and selling apparel to help with marketing, branding and the diversification of revenue streams.
Local Black-owned media organizations continue to tell authentic stories
Local Black-owned media outlets differentiate themselves from mainstream media by telling the important stories other outlets won’t tell, by focusing on their deep connections to the Black community and by developing their own voices through authentic content. Local Black-owned media outlets continue to offer their own distinct voices and give content contributors the ability to express themselves in unique and innovative ways.
Black media outlets don’t need to conform to the content styles of mainstream media to stay relevant. Local Black-owned publishers must continue to “keep it real” or, as many say today, “keep it 100.”
They understand that digital transformation doesn’t have to signify the demise of print
One of the main components of our work in the Knight x LMA BloomLab is working with local Black-owned publications on technology upgrades that will help with digital transformation. As we work to help reps at each of our publications become better sellers of digital ads, the BloomLab team continues to stress that it is more about integrated selling vs. an either-or approach.
Although publishers must be more intentional about selling print and digital, it doesn’t signify an abandoning of print altogether. It’s not print or digital, it is print and digital, with dual transformation happening for both product lines. Offering a full suite of advertising capabilities allows local Black-owned publications to capture their fair share of revenue.