In the past, the African-American media had a distinct local feel; with the exception of a few national magazines, such as Jet, Ebony, and Black Enterprise, many African Americans turned to locally owned radio stations or newspapers, such as New York's Amsterdam News, for information specific to their community.
But the Internet is triggering an evolution in the African-American press, including the beginnings of a nationwide audience for individual outlets.
"More black media are gathering their news on the Internet... and increasingly the black consumer is retrieving information from the Internet," says Bernadette Morris, president/CEO of Black PR Wire and Black Digital Network.
Alan Hughes, managing editor of Black Enterprise, says that trend is especially true for outlets targeting younger African Americans. "Online has become a way to introduce your product and brand to that younger African-American audience," he says.
African-American outlets continue to resemble their general-interest counterparts in their desire to provide not just breaking news, but also trend stories, consumer news, and increasing amounts of service journalism.
But Morris points out that blacks do turn to African-American outlets for perspective they can't get elsewhere. "Stories like the Hurricane Katrina aftermath are big, but we'll look at them from the community, as well, and political and faith-based sides of it," she says. "You can't just provide a picture of a black person and feel that will make all the difference."
Linda Jefferson, SVP/director of media services at Chicago-based Burrell Communications Group, adds, "A lot of the issues... may be the same, but the African-American media will focus on how it relates to you as a member of the African-American community."
But Hughes disputes the notion that outlets like Black Enterprise are only interested in African-American-owned companies.
"Having that African-American example doesn't hurt," he says. "But if it's something that has to do with business or management advice or business trends, those are all colorblind, so if it's a really good business story, we'll run it."
Hughes adds that while many African-American media outlets are still struggling for their share of advertising dollars, many stand to benefit from the inevitable growth.
"There's this opinion... that we'd like to keep our voice, which is defined as black-owned media outlets," he says. "But going forward, the African-American news outlets that are doing well will generate interest from the major media companies."
PITCHING... African-American media
Younger African Americans are going to the Internet more for information, so outreach should be targeting sites like Blackplanet.com, BlackAmericaweb.com, and BlackDigitalNetwork.com
You need cultural touch points in your pitch that consider regional difference with the African-American population
Most African-American communities are served not just by city-specific black papers, but also smaller niche news weeklies and community papers that are worth targeting