MEDIA PROFILE: Web site covers all things African-American and more- Cable television was forever changed with the launch of BET over 20years ago. Now, the cable channel is expanding its reach to blackAmericans with Robin Londner reports

If you represent a product or concept that will impact the

African-American community, wants to be first with the story.

Updated three times a day, the black-themed Web site posts news and

features, and offers chat and message boards.

Sister company to 21-year-old basic-cable network BET (Black

Entertainment Television), can boast better name recognition

than many of its competitors, which include and, though the site is little more than 17 months old.

Retha Hill, VP of content for BET Interactive, says site producers are

on constant deadline, and are hungry for stories. For example, she says

Style producer Laini Madhubuti wants beauty products, "particularly if

they are oriented toward African-American women or men."

Hill adds that some products, such as MAC cosmetics, are trendy enough

to span the color divide.

The site is not so focused on African-American issues that it doesn't

cover other stories that have broad appeal. For example, Hill says's film writers will cover Jurassic Park III because the movie

may be a blockbuster the site can't afford to ignore. "It's not a black

film, but it's going to be hot, and everyone is going to want to be

there," explains Hill.

News stories on usually seek an African-American hook,


For example, Hill says's Timothy McVeigh coverage looked at

other people on federal death row, 14 of whom are African-American


Like the cable-TV network, the site is based in Washington, DC, but ten

of the 20 staff members are in New York. Section editors farm out

e-mailed pitches to staffers or freelancers. The Washington and New York

offices hold daily editorial meetings via conference call, with a

Tuesday brainstorming meeting for bigger packages.'s target demographic is blacks age 18-49, with the 18-35

demographic making up the core. Hill says college students and

middle- to upper-class people comprise the site's main audience. With

monthly site visitors hovering around the one million range for the past

seven months, the site's traffic has more than doubled since a dip last

summer sent numbers plunging under 600,000.

Predictably,'s visitors are clustered in cities with a high

percentage of African-Americans. They include New York, Los Angeles,

Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta. Surprisingly, Hill says African-Americans

in the Midwest and other unlikely places are some of the site's most

loyal visitors.

"If you're in Huntsville, AL, you're dependent on to tell you

the latest on the music scene or what everybody's talking about in the

entertainment community," says Hill. "You don't have the same community

of people in Detroit or New York to surround you and keep you up to


Though it sounds obvious, a pitch to should always begin with an

explanation of why the product, person, or thing being pitched will be

of interest to black Americans.

Jerry Johnson, director of public information for Luther College, an

undergraduate liberal arts college in Iowa, says he pitched to

last year to reach an audience of college-bound minority teens in urban


"I used the theme 'step outside your comfort zone in the college search

process, and take a look at small liberal arts colleges,'" says Johnson,

who began his pitch process in October 2000. His article first appeared

on the Web site in late March 2001, along with his photos.

PR execs should be aware that the site is currently looking for features

on summer travel so as to highlight popular African-American


The site's features are updated daily, but pitch ideas two weeks before

you want to see your client featured on Content for annual

events such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Kwanzaa is planned months in

advance, so the editors require as much lead time as possible. Send

photos in jpeg format, and send links to your own digitized video

instead of sending the raw video to the site.

"There is a high recognition of the brand among

African-Americans," says Hill, " and we're always trying to improve the

site because that's the audience we serve."



Address: 770 Broadway, 10th fl., NY, NY 10003

Tel: (212) 654-9000 Fax: (212) 654-9030

E-mail: Web:

Executive editor: Jessica Green; Women's/books producer: Kristin

Vaughan; Style and relationships producer: Laini Madhubuti; Health

producer: Michaelyn Elder; Music producer: Tonya Pendleton


Address: 2000 M St. NW, Ste. 602, Washington, DC 20036

Tel: (202) 533-1900 Fax: (202) 533-1994

Managing editor: Marilyn McCraven; Food producer: Denita Morris; Careers

and money producer: Stacy Gilliam; Spirituality producer: Tanishia

Harvey (religion); Entertainment producer: James Hill (poetry, movies,


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in