By BVN Staff –
It’s no secret the economic downturn has had a grave impact on the news industry, but in contrast African- American publications experienced a dramatic decline in advertising revenue. Many black newspapers were faced with tough choices, resulting in reducing staff, trimming their print schedule to save revenue or completely shutting their operations as a result. All of which have unfortunately come true for some long-standing Black newspapers.
We are investing in technology. The Black Voice News faced the same dilemma, but rather than drastically change the publication due to the fleeting economy, we shifted our focus to existing opportunities in digital media. This allowed us to bolster our image and spread our messages. The most important task of the press is clear: disseminate information. For the Black Press, it’s arguably more vital that we share information with our minorities readers -- those who are most vulnerable to changes in legislative policy and evolving social issues that can create a negative precedent.
While other African-American publications witnessed receding subscribers and declining traffic, we saw growth. We implemented new content strategies specifically for the website, providing more diverse and informative articles featuring national news, intellectual commentary and lifestyles-oriented content. Over the past year, our website traffic grew more than 30 percent -- and continues to grow, outpacing many of our counterparts.
This motivated the Black Voice News to move to becoming a daily online publication, updated Monday through Friday. We also capitalized on social media, creating a place for constructive dialogue on our Facebook page. This in turn ushered additional traffic into our website.
Unknown to many, Blacks and Latinos are the highest users of the internet via their mobile devices. About 38 percent of Black and Latino smartphone owners go online using their mobile phone compared with 17 percent of whites, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. This was a glaring opportunity for our publication to stay in constant touch with our readers, updating our Facebook and Twitter with quality information and news and connecting these accounts with our website.
Digital media has a tremendous impact on how we move forward as a publication. There are many creative revenue opportunities aside from traditional ad placement we have discovered -- and continue to implement. We recognized that augmenting our traffic and connecting with our niche audience is the first way to protect our revenue. While some view the dismal economy as simply a hardship on African- American media, we now view it as the driving force that made the Black Voice News evolve into a full-fledged new media publication.
We are investing in education. The new Executive Director for the Black Voice Foundation, Inc. is Hardy Brown II, a Wilberforce University graduate and former head of its cooperative education program who has dedicated his talents to providing opportunities for others. He has expanded the programs of the foundation and secured new and diverse funding sources like UPS, Cintas, Southwest Airlines to join major foundation supporters Southern California Edison, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and others. Our Footsteps to Freedom Study Tour will celebrate it's own milestone anniversary next year, marking 15 annual trips for over 350 educators.
We are investing in diversification. Second generation Black Voice News family owners Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds and Regina Brown Wilson founded BPC MediaWorks, a strategic communications firm, built on the family's strong ties to the Inland Empire and communities throughout California. The firm is committed to developing creative communication strategies and has earned the trust of some of the largest companies and most high profile projects including: March LifeCare, the largest medical development project in the Western US; Siebert Brandford Shank, the 8th largest bond underwriting firm in the US; the League of California Cities; First 5 California; and others.
We are investing in community. Over the next year you will see changes in the Black Voice News as we listen to you, the members of the community, who we proudly serve. Look for the new "People" section that will weekly highlight individuals who are making a difference here in the Inland Empire. Also, watch for monthly special issues on pertinent topics. This effort will be led by longtime BVN editor and integrated content manager Lee Ragin, Jr.
Rapidly expanding and innovative technology has changed our business. News is now instantly retrieved on mobile devices, books and other print media are read on tablets that were non-existent just a few years ago. The word "Apps" was not even in our vocabulary. But our core mission has not changed: we advocate, document, inform, and educate. We look forward to this 39th year of service to this community: in print, online, and in person.
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