The Smart Marketing Seminar is a transformative initiative aimed at bolstering brand awareness, solution offerings and advertising effectiveness of Black media organizations in the Knight x LMA BloomLab.

This case study delves into the experiences of four prominent Black media organizations — The Dallas Weekly, The Houston Defender, The Sacramento Observer, and The Seattle Medium — as they participated in this initiative. Through interviews and insights from the publishers themselves, we gain valuable perspectives on the impact of Smart Marketing Seminars on their organizations and the broader African-American communities they serve.


The landscape of newspaper publishing has undergone a paradigm shift in the digital age. The rise of online media consumption, coupled with evolving advertising strategies, has posed unique challenges to print media, including Black-owned newspapers.

The placecard at the Houston Defender Smart Marketing webinar.

The Knight x LMA BloomLab is an immersive experience that focuses on technology upgrades, business transformation, and revenue growth. It is funded by a $3.2 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Recognizing the need for adaptation, revenue diversification opportunities and brand repositioning for BloomLab participants, I developed the Smart Marketing Seminar as a collaborative effort among BloomLab directors, including John Celestand, program director for audience and community engagement; Apryl Pilolli, program director for technology and innovation; and me, as program director for sales and marketing.

The participants

The Houston Defender: Serving the Houston community since 1930, The Houston Defender has been a voice for African Americans in Texas, covering important social, political, and cultural issues.

Sonny Jiles, publisher and CEO of The Defender: “Our team at The Defender has worked effectively with the BloomLab team on technology innovation. The Smart Marketing event was the next logical step on our transformation journey by showcasing our innovation efforts in our solution offerings for print, digital, newsletter and video products. Existing customers commented how impressed they were with our changes and this event gave us an opportunity to generate additional revenue from existing customers and acquire new advertisers. The BloomLab Team did an outstanding job of representing The Defender as an extension of our team.”

The Sacramento Observer: A cornerstone of Sacramento’s African American community for more than 55 years, The Sacramento Observer continues to provide news and insights that matter.

Larry Lee, president and publisher of The Observer, on his Smart Marketing event held May 16, 2023: “We hosted an event, ‘Observing @60: Engaging a New Black Consumer’ at the Golden 1 Center. During that event, we reintroduced The Observer to existing and potential partners to illustrate the advances we have made as a news organization. We were also treated to fantastic presentations from Apryl and Robert about technology and marketing trends. Attendees were very impressed with the event.”

The Seattle Medium: For more than five decades, The Seattle Medium has been a vital source of news, advocacy, and celebration for the Black community in the Pacific Northwest.

Chris Bennett, publisher and CEO for the Seattle Medium: “The event that was hosted by The Seattle Medium provided us an opportunity to showcase our brand and offerings beyond our print product. It gave us an opportunity to re-engage with existing customers about our nonprint offerings and introduce ourselves to high-level prospects to inform them about the full breadth and depth of our work. The BloomLab really helped us by sharing insights across audience engagement, changes in digital advertising and the value of Black media organizations. The room was packed for both sessions and created an opportunity for local executives and decision makers to network and expand their connections.”

The Dallas Weekly: Founded in 1954, The Dallas Weekly has been a trusted source of news for the African-American community in Dallas.

Jessica Washington, CEO, and Patrick Washington, owner and publisher, shared that the Smart Marketing Seminar provided “a great opportunity to network with existing customers and high-value prospects. The participants in the room were highly engaged as the BloomLab team talked about changes in digital marketing and audience engagement. Feedback from participants indicated that they appreciated how the Dallas Weekly has started on its journey of innovation. The opportunities for additional revenue opportunities were a direct result of this seminar.”

Key outcomes

Brand repositioning: All four organizations reported significant improvements in how they position their brand to existing customers and new business prospects. They gave in-depth information on the competitive advantages and how combining print, digital and social is a winning combination for advertisers.

Increased advertising revenue opportunities: The implementation of broader solution offerings resulted in increased ad revenue opportunities for all four organizations. They attracted upsell opportunities for existing advertisers and acquired new advertisers by demonstrating the effectiveness of integrating advertising campaigns.

Improved customer engagement: The Smart Marketing Seminar empowered these media organizations to better engage with their customers. BloomLab directors shared up-to-date trends in audience, digital, marketing, media technology and information on today’s consumers and how to keep them loyal to their respective brands.

The seminars focused on how to reach Black audiences.


The Smart Marketing Seminar has proven to be a vital catalyst in the transformation of these Black media organizations into digital-savvy, community-engaged entities. Their enhanced digital solutions and increased advertising revenue opportunities have not only secured their relevance to customers and prospects alike but also strengthened their “brand position” as voices in their respective communities. This case study showcases the potential for collaborative initiatives to revitalize and empower traditional media in the digital age, ensuring that diverse voices continue to be heard and valued.

We stand ready to share our findings with you as the work of the Knight x LMA BloomLab continues its work with Black media organizations on their transformation journey towards sustainability and independence. Reach out to us.