Pressing Ahead

Black newspapers continue their fight for readers and advertisers

was founded by his parents, Les and Pauline, to serve a growing community of African Americans in the state’s Central Valley. After taking over the reins himself in 1986, Kimber has seen his share of ups and downs as he sells approximately 25,000 copies a week. But Kimber says that through it all, surrender has never been an option. “Things have never gotten to a point where we said, ‘No. We’re not printing the paper,'” says Kimber. “Not publishing has never been a consideration.”

There are several strategies that publishers can employ to increase circulation while taking the focus off newsstand sales. Cyberspace is one key avenue for increasing readership. “We plan to take our papers online,” says Barden. He believes that Websites can boost current circulation and provide an avenue for publishers to make revenue from archival issues. “We expect our Website to be a major profit center,” he adds.

Increasing mail subscriptions is another vehicle for upping circulation. Chuck Morrison, executive vice president and partner in the Southfield, Michigan-based Don Coleman Advertising Inc., suggests that publishers build their mail-delivery circulation through subscription drives and by offering discounts for fully paid, long-term subscriptions. It’s a strategy that has worked for Call & Post President Michael House. He believes the best methods for building this base is face-to-face solicitation. “We’ve gone into churches and set up booths at organizational conferences,” says House. He also suggests publishers look at purchasing mailing lists from civic groups, sororities and fraternities for access to potential subscribers.

LaTanya Junior, director of media services for the New York-based advertising and marketing firm Stedman Graham and Partners, advises black publishers to tap into transportation companies for distribution sources. She says that airlines such as Continental have boarding terminal newsstands that offer free copies of a wide range of magazines and newspapers to their passengers. A study by Target Market News in Chicago suggests that airlines have a major incentive for making African American newspapers available to travelers. Black consumers spend $1.1 billion annually on airline travel, and readers of black papers account for $741 million of purchased tickets.

Providing free copies of your paper to travelers may not increase your sales revenue, but it can help significantly increase your readership, and that is the key to increasing advertising revenue. “The success of any paper is going to be contingent upon a strong advertising base,” offers John Morton, president of Morton Research Inc., a Maryland-based consulting firm that analyzes media properties.

Morton believes African American consumers are important to advertisers not only because of their growing economic power, but because blacks often tend to be more brand loyal than other ethnic groups. But Morton also notes that black publishers face a key challenge in convincing advertisers that they can reach African American consumers more successfully than large dailies. “A [specific] black community may feel underserved by [their] major daily and this can go a long way in a black newspaper establishing itself [with advertisers],” says Morton.

Not surprisingly, Elinor Tatum, publisher

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