How Small Print Publications Owned by Black and Latinx Created Digital Advertising Businesses Through the Google News Initiative


BIPOC-owned media companies may have collectively received an influx of longer-term tenders and advertising deals from advertisers who increased their multicultural marketing budgets to support the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. . But those without programming capabilities or digital advertising rate cards were missing.

Google saw an opportunity to help independent black and Latinx-owned media companies improve their digital advertising capabilities to meet increasing business advertising demands, as well as compete for greater part of those multicultural media budgets. Thus was born the Google News Initiative’s Ad Transformation Lab for black and Latinx-owned news publishers, created in partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the National Association of Hispanic Publications and the Association of Alternative. Newsmedia.

Over a six-month period, 28 black-owned and Latinx-owned publications, including Blavity News and The Los Angeles Sentinel, underwent a digital transformation led by the Google News Initiative – some monetizing their digital operations for the very first time – to catch up with the rest of the publishing industry.

All media companies applied to the program and were selected based on a number of criteria, including proof that they are Black or Latinx-owned or that the publication serves under-represented communities, the evidence that increasing digital ad revenue is a priority for the business and indication that senior management is invested in the long-term success of digital ad revenue as per the selection requirements section of the online application form. Selected entrants are not required to join Google’s advertising network, nor to adopt the platform’s ad technology and toolkit. The Lab is completely free to attendees, with no stipulation that they must share programmatic ad revenue with Google. This is due to Google’s 2018 pledge to allocate $ 300 million in funding to news organizations.

Bootcamp for programmatic companies

The first iteration of the Lab was a six-month program that ran from January to June 2021 and gave 28 publications the opportunity to learn how to use new technologies in Google’s ad suite, as well as learn to price and sell their products. numerical operations with more precision. It had a particular focus on programmatic advertising, although attendees also learned how to set CPMs and create pricing tables for direct sales campaigns.

Every Friday, representatives from each publication came together virtually to learn about search engine optimization (i.e. tactics to help their sites rank higher in organic search results), how to create a competitive pricing model, how to use the Google tools available to them, and more. , thanks to the help of their coaches and members of their cohort. They were also given homework, which involved sharing the lessons with publishers and company sales teams and putting the tools in place.

On average, lab participants experienced a 25% increase in programmatic revenue as well as a 10% increase in traffic in the first three months of the lab compared to the last three months of the lab, according to Google, but the growth the most important indicator, according to two publishers who participated in the program, was the impact on their business operations. Google did not provide exact figures.

Publishers’ experiences

AFRO is a 129-year-old publication based in Baltimore, Maryland and is the oldest black, family-owned newspaper in the United States. Until this year, however, programmatic advertising was so marginal that it wasn’t even considered its own revenue stream, according to Dana Peck, the publication’s director of digital solutions.

“As digital requests became more common, we realized we needed to expand our knowledge base,” Peck said, adding that there were several missed opportunities to rely solely on the publication’s webmaster to place ads. , rather than hiring a digital solutions coordinator who could read analytics and showcase advertisers as their main job. This position and additional digital salespeople were subsequently hired this year, bringing its total workforce to 25.

AFRO derives most of its money from its digital business, and programmatic ad sales have become a trackable revenue stream, though Peck declined to share how much money is expected to be made from that business this year. However, the company has benefited from the opportunity to recruit more national advertisers, rather than the local advertisers it typically offers in its print product.

“We have focused on regional sponsors, and now we have the ability to court national sponsors. It’s been a big change, ”said Peck. Currently, AFRO is running an all-digital campaign with Verizon that represents six-figure revenue, a price it said the media company is not used to.

According to Will Medina, director of sales and marketing for the newspaper.

His goal for the Ad Transformation Lab was to learn how to diversify income in a much more efficient way and “make money while we sleep” through programmatic advertising. “I’m a one-person sales team,” he said, “I don’t have digital marketing experience. ”

Medina said her team were encouraged by the program’s coaches to post online more frequently and hired reporters to update the site hourly rather than once a week – which was the pace of the release of the newspaper – which led to an increase in traffic of 20,000 average monthly visitors. to 100,000. This change, along with learning how to SEO and implementing some of Google’s tools, won the post, five new advertisers, in those six months and helped increase digital revenue for 1000% in the past year, although he declined to share any income figures or name. exact marks. Medina said her team expects programmatic revenue to increase by 50% in 2022 compared to 2021.

“There are brands that are looking to be more inclusive with their advertising budget. As brands take steps to do so, black-owned and Latinx-owned publishers can also find themselves more easily in the programmatic space, ”said Yuting Zhang, director of digital engineering at the agency. Media Kitchen media purchase.

The next step for these publishers, however, is to perpetuate these strategies, according to Zhang. As the death of the third-party cookie looms, programmatic strategies are under threat, so partners like Google must help these media companies prepare or they will be back to square one.

How small Black- and Latinx-owned print publications created digital advertising businesses through the Google News Initiative


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