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2009 by Target Market News Inc. All rights reserved
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newspaper publishers resort to creativity to keep doors open
By Pharoh Martin
NNPA News Service
(July 7, 2009) When the economic downtown grew steadily cold two years
ago, newspapers across the country began shutting their doors --
permanently. It could have been a travesty for black-owned newspapers,
but sentiments from African American publishers and executives are that
it's hard to miss what one never had.
Therefore, in interviews at the National Newspaper Publishers
Association's annual summer conference in Minneapolis June 24 through
June 28, publishers told their creativity in making ends meet.
"The downsizing of the economy didn't affect us as much as some of the
larger papers because we didn't have enough staff in the first place,"
said John Smith, general manager of the Chicago Crusader. "We were
affected because our advertising revenue was down a bit but we did not
feel it as much as daily papers. So other than a little less revenue, it
was business as usual."
Black newspaper publishers are competing for the same scarce advertising
dollars as their white counterparts. Yet, they have remained resilient
despite a deep recession. Still, the Black Press has lost series
Some NNPA publishers said their newspapers have lost as much as 40
percent of advertising dollars. The National Newspapers of America
reports that the total drop in all ad revenue in the third quarter of
2008 was half of that number at just below 20 percent.
James Belt, advertising manager of the Dallas Examiner, said that
everybody is hurting but the first advertising that gets cut back is
typically the African American press. Like many newspapers across the
country he had to cut back and downsize on things they have historically
"We just hang on as long as we can," he said. "If you don't have the
ads, you don't print the pages. You just don't print what you don't
Kris Bennett, co-publisher of the Seattle Medium Newspaper Group, which
owns four newspapers and four radio stations, keeps a positive outlook
about working through the economic slump.
"It's been some difficult times but it's not a place that we as black
publishers haven't been before," he said.
Typically, when the economy is bad, business is good for publishers
because advertisers spend money trying to get customers back into their
stores, Bennett said. But this time, that hasn't been the case because
everybody has been trying to hang on to their purse strings.
Therefore, black publishers have resorted to creative advertising
packages for some of their local community-based organizations and
"We had to rely on the community that's been relying on us for so many
years to help balance our budgets that we would've lost from losing some
of our major advertisers," Bennett said.
As a result, Bennett said that his company did not have to make any
Brenda Andrews-Brooks, publisher of the New Journal and Guide in
Norfolk, Virginia, said that the downsized economy didn't really hurt
her company all that much either.
"A positive about downsized economy is that it forces you to think
creatively and go back and rely on the community in a different kind of
way, which is actually the way it should be anyway because that's the
reason why we are in business," she said.
As a small community newspaper, Andrews-Brooks' limited staff already
had the experience to multi-task. The 109-year-old newspaper was
fortunate enough to be able to hold onto all of their advertisers.
"We have some loyal advertisers that have been supportive," she said.
The New Journal and Guide recently formed a partnership with a local
gospel radio station to enlarge their coverage for their faith community
and to do some co-op advertising their advertisers can place ads in a
variety of media.
Andrews-Brooks' newspaper did not have to let anybody go. If fact, she
said she hired a new person to her staff.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for every company.
Jim Washington, publisher of the Dallas Weekly and president and general
manager of the Atlanta Voice, was forced to make more drastic cuts. He
laid off staff at his Atlanta newspaper and cut salaries in Dallas to
make ends meet.
"The issue was do you maintain the salary or do you cut people?"
Washington said. "To be quite frank, I put it to a vote."
Al McFarlane, president of Mc- Farlane Media and founder of Insight News
in Minneapolis, forecasted the change in the economy and made calculated
adjustments that streamlined his company to almost half.
"We took the advice of our financial counselors and knew that as the
economy shrank it would have an impact on our business so we began to
shrink our company from 20 down to about 11 people," he said.
His circulation of 35,000 weekly copies stayed intact.
When many of their local advertisers scaled back their ad purchases,
Insight News made two key moves. They reduced their ad prices and, in
some cases, gave more for old prices. They diversified by focusing more
on promotions and creating alternative revenue streams like enhancing
their website and producing a weekly radio show.
Amelia Ashley-Ward, publisher of the Sun-Reporter Publishing Company in
San Francisco, kept her company afloat by putting out special edition
issues of their newspapers. Special edition issues included
inauguration, back-to school and black history themes.
"You can sell more ads and charge your premium rates because they are
reaching out to specific markets and community," she said.
Washington leaned on health and government budgets.
"We've seen some up tick this year," Washington said. "They have gotten
some up tick in health care and governmental business because those are
the only entities that still have ad budgets. Even though they have also
slashed their budgets they still have the mandate to spend money in
order to reach the taxpayer. So that's how we've been surviving."
The next step for many black newspapers is to transition effectively
into the digital age. But, the process has been measured for some and an
uncertainty for others.
"The big change is that we are reconfiguring how we see ourselves,"
McFarlane said. "When we started, we saw ourselves as a weekly
newspaper. The world is changing."
McFarlane concludes, "So now, we are not only a newspaper. The newspaper
is a smaller part of what we do. We have to see ourselves as a 24-7
information system that includes several platforms such as social
marketing networks, the website, the newspaper, radio, video
conferencing. So we have to reconfigure that we are not just a newspaper
that only edits and prints on Thursday deadlines but a system that
launches information all day, everyday. That's the difference."
Target Market News
Congratulates the Recipients
of the 2009
of the Year
of the Year
LOUIS CARR President. Broadcast
of the Year
CRYSTAL WORTHEM Multicultural Marketing Manager
Ford Motor Co.
of the Year
ESTHER FRANKLIN Executive Vice Pres.,
Director of Cultural Identities
Starcom Mediavest Group
of the Year
President / CEO
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