Pressing Ahead

Black newspapers continue their fight for readers and advertisers

of New York City’s Amsterdam News, believes black newspapers provide advertisers with a critical vehicle they won’t find elsewhere. “We have a level of trust with our readers that [advertisers] won’t get with other papers, so our readers want to support the businesses that support our paper,” explains Tatum. She points to readers’ response to a full-page sale ad that Blockbuster Video ran last year with the Amsterdam News. “Blockbuster on 125th Street [in Harlem] got a line around the corner with people with the newspaper in their hands saying, ‘We want this deal.'” Tatum says that her sales staff builds continuing relationships with advertisers by encouraging them to go beyond running one or two ads. “We stress the importance of community-focused activities and events.”

But many readers also echo Don King’s observation about timeliness of coverage and emphasize that it is a significant problem. “Because [the papers] only come out once a week, the news is a little old,” says Andrea Greer, a Brooklyn resident who used to be a regular reader of the Amsterdam News. Greer still occasionally reads the newspaper, but it’s usually to read about a news event that the dailies haven’t covered.

Focusing on breaking local news stories that the large papers aren’t interested in covering can be one method of addressing the issue of timeliness. Doing more investigative features and advancing community-related events are also strategies that black papers can employ. The Call & Post’s president, House, is looking to attract readers by adding health and financial sections. He says that these are topics that African Americans have become more interested in over the past few years, but that few black newspapers cover them on a regular basis, or in a manner that is helpful to readers. “We’re running stories that advise how to invest in real estate, set up a good [financial] portfolio or choose health insurance,” explains House. He adds that the Call & Post has experienced increased advertising schedules from industry-related businesses such as Key Bank and area hospitals since including this coverage.

The good news is some national advertisers seem to be catching on to the inherent power of the black press, and to the importance of making long-term advertising commitments to these papers. Kmart, for one, seems to have embraced this philosophy. This past June, the national chain launched a media campaign that includes ongoing advertising schedules with black newspapers in markets where they have stores. “Black papers have a big presence in their communities and it made sense to add them to the mix,” says Chuck Morrison, who developed the campaign for Kmart. He declined to say how much Kmart is spending with black newspapers, but added: “We’re not using [the ads] as
a public relations vehicle, but as marketing vehicles. I’ve seen examples of how people use these sales ads to make instantaneous purchase decisions.”

If black newspapers are going to truly enjoy successful relationships with advertisers, however, Junior says publishers have to do better jobs of presenting information about their

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