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The Resilience of Black-Owned Media: Overcoming Adversity and Paving the Way for a More Inclusive Industry

Black-Owned Media Support

As the world of advertising continues to evolve, it’s important that we take a moment to reflect on the ways in which we can all work towards a more equitable and inclusive industry. One area where we have fallen short is in our support of Black-owned media companies, as highlighted by Detavio Samuels in a recent article.

Detavio Samuels, CEO of media company Revolt, has been a vocal advocate for increasing support for black-owned media companies. He has argued that despite the industry’s stated commitment to diversity, Black-owned media companies continue to struggle to secure funding and recognition.

Samuels’ call to action should serve as a wake-up call to all of us in the industry. It’s not enough to simply pay lip service to the idea of diversity and inclusion – we need to take concrete steps to support black-owned media companies and give them a fair chance to compete in the marketplace.

One analogy that comes to mind is that of a garden. In order for a garden to thrive, we need to plant a diverse array of seeds and give each plant the care and attention it needs to grow. If we neglect certain plants or fail to give them the resources they need, the entire garden will suffer.

Similarly, in the world of advertising, we need to plant the seeds of diversity and inclusion by actively seeking out and supporting black-owned media companies. This means allocating a portion of our ad spend to these companies and giving them the same opportunities to compete as larger, more established media companies.

Recent Controversies

Facebook Targeting Controversy

In 2020, Facebook was accused of discriminating against black-owned media companies by failing to provide them with the same advertising opportunities as other companies. The accusations sparked a wave of outrage and calls for greater support for black-owned media companies. 

The controversy centered around Facebook’s “Ad Manager” tool, which allows companies to create and manage their Facebook ads. According to a lawsuit filed by the National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), Facebook’s Ad Manager discriminated against black-owned media companies by allowing advertisers to exclude specific audiences from their ads based on race and other factors.

Facebook denied the allegations, stating that its Ad Manager tool does not allow for discriminatory advertising practices. However, the company did make some changes to its advertising policies in response to the controversy. For example, Facebook announced that it would be creating a new “equity team” to focus on diversity and inclusion issues in advertising.

The controversy was settled in December 2020, when Facebook agreed to pay $40 million to settle the lawsuit filed by the NAAAOM. As part of the settlement, Facebook also agreed to make a number of changes to its advertising policies, including:

  • Establishing a new program to help black-owned companies and organizations increase their presence on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Creating a new tool to allow advertisers to search for and exclude content related to specific multicultural affinity groups.
  • Updating its advertising policies to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and other protected categories.

While the settlement was seen as a victory for advocates of diversity and inclusion in advertising, some critics argued that it did not go far enough to address the underlying issues of discrimination in the industry. The controversy served as a reminder of the ongoing challenges facing black-owned media companies and the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the advertising industry.

There are other examples such as Google been accused of discriminating against black-owned media companies by allowing advertisers to exclude ads from appearing on websites related to “blackness” or “African-American culture” in 2017.

Despite these challenges, there are many inspiring examples of black-owned media companies that have thrived in the face of adversity. For example, Blavity, a digital media company founded by Morgan DeBaun, has become one of the most successful black-owned media companies in the world. The company has secured funding from a number of high-profile investors, including GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Comcast Ventures.

Other companies, like Essence and Ebony, have a long history of promoting black voices and perspectives in media. However, these companies have faced their own challenges in recent years, including financial struggles and accusations of mismanagement.

Efforts to Support Black-Owned Companies

Efforts to support black-owned media companies have been driven by a number of advocates and organizations. For example, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is a trade organization that represents more than 200 black-owned newspapers in the U.S. The organization has been instrumental in promoting the work of black-owned media companies and advocating for their recognition and support through:

  1. Advertising Campaigns: The NNPA has launched several advertising campaigns aimed at promoting black-owned media companies. For example, in 2016, the NNPA launched a “Black Media Matters” campaign to encourage advertisers to invest in black-owned media outlets.
  2. Training and Development: The NNPA provides training and development programs for journalists and media professionals. These programs help to improve the quality of reporting and increase the reach of black-owned media outlets.
  3. Advocacy and Policy: The NNPA advocates for policies and regulations that support black-owned media companies. For example, the NNPA has called for the Federal Communications Commission to increase diversity in media ownership and to ensure that black-owned media companies have access to the same advertising opportunities as other companies.
  4. Partnerships and Collaborations: The NNPA has partnered with other organizations to promote and support black-owned media companies. For example, the NNPA has collaborated with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters to advocate for policies that support black-owned media companies.
  5. Awards and Recognition: The NNPA provides awards and recognition for outstanding journalism in black-owned media outlets. These awards help to promote and highlight the work of black-owned media companies.

In addition, celebrities and influencers have also played a role in raising awareness about the importance of supporting black-owned media companies. For example, Beyoncé’s recent visual album, Black Is King, featured a number of black-owned media companies in its production, helping to shine a spotlight on these companies and their work.

Influencers have also used their platforms to advocate for policies and regulations that support black-owned companies. For example, some influencers have called on their followers to support black-owned companies during Black History Month and other times of the year.

A metaphor that resonates is that of a puzzle. In order to complete a puzzle, we need all of the pieces to fit together in harmony. If we neglect certain pieces or fail to give them the attention they deserve, the puzzle will be incomplete and unsatisfying.

Likewise, in the advertising industry, we need to ensure that all voices are heard and all perspectives are represented. By supporting black-owned media companies, we are not only doing the right thing morally, but we are also unlocking new perspectives and ideas that can help us all create more effective and engaging campaigns.

Future of Black-Owned Media companies

The future for black-owned media companies looks promising. As consumers increasingly demand more diverse and inclusive content, black-owned media companies have a unique opportunity to grow and thrive.

One area where black-owned media companies are poised for growth is in the digital media space. With the rise of social media and digital platforms, there is a growing need for high-quality, diverse content. Black-owned media companies that can provide this content have the potential to attract a large and engaged audience.

Another area where black-owned media companies are expected to see growth is in partnerships and collaborations with larger media companies. As more companies recognize the value of diversity and inclusivity, they are seeking out partnerships with black-owned media companies to expand their reach and connect with new audiences.

There is a growing recognition of the importance of supporting black-owned media companies in general. Consumers are increasingly aware of the disparities faced by black-owned companies and are looking for ways to support them. This support can come in the form of financial investments, partnerships, or simply by choosing to consume content from black-owned media companies.

However, there are still challenges that black-owned media companies will need to overcome in the future. One of the biggest challenges is securing funding and investment. Black-owned media companies have historically struggled to secure the same level of investment as their white-owned counterparts, and this can limit their ability to grow and expand.

Detavio Samuels’ call to action should serve as a rallying cry for all of us in the advertising industry. By actively seeking out and supporting black-owned media companies, we can create a more equitable and inclusive industry that benefits us all. Let’s plant the seeds of diversity and inclusion, and watch as our garden flourishes and our puzzle comes together in beautiful harmony.

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