If you represent a product or concept that will impact the
African-American community, BET.com 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), BET.com can boast better name recognition
than many of its competitors, which include Blackvoices.com and
Africana.com, 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
BET.com'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 BET.com usually seek an African-American hook,
For example, Hill says BET.com'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.
BET.com'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, BET.com'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
"If you're in Huntsville, AL, you're dependent on BET.com 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 BET.com 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 BET.com
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 BET.com 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 BET.com. 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 BET.com brand among
African-Americans," says Hill, " and we're always trying to improve the
site because that's the audience we serve."
CONTACT LIST - BET.com
NEW YORK CITY
Address: 770 Broadway, 10th fl., NY, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 654-9000 Fax: (212) 654-9030
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.bet.com
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,