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Census Ad Campaign Dollars ‘Not Enough’ Black Newspaper Publishers Say


By Pharoh Martin
NNPA News Service
(July 7, 2009) Rick Wade, deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to the U. S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, was met with a bit of displeasure from black publishers June 26 as they expressed that the government’s Census advertising plan for black newspapers was insufficient.

Wade announced to members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association that out of an estimated budget of more than $24 million dollars for black media advertising only $1.6 million will be spent with black newspapers.

The funds are to be used to assure an accurate count in difficult to count communities, such as among African Americans and Latinos.

“That’s not enough,” one publisher said quickly in response to Wade’s announcement. Another publisher did the math and equated that the estimated numbers will do nothing if split among hundreds of newspapers nationally. At the most it will only buy one ad, she said.

As others chimed in during a question and answer period, Wade assured the audience representing more than 200 black-owned newspapers that the proposed budget is not yet final.

“These are just estimates,” he said. “We believe we have sufficient funds to ensure an accurate count.”

Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader Newspapers, and chair of the NNPA Foundation, then addressed another concern.

“Ten years ago, we ran your ads and didn’t get paid,” she said. “We are a significant part and we want to be counted.”

Wade assured, “These are paid advertisements so you will be paid.”

The intense, but courteous discussion underscored a long-standing contention by black newspaper publishers that they are often undercut by advertisers�including the federal government.

Wade told the group that he understands that black newspapers are not only press but they are also businesses and that it is in the interest of the Department of Commerce to advance businesses.

According to the temporary budget, the $24.7 million being allocated for black population media advertising during the census count will be split three ways. Black population media includes Black- American, Caribbean-American and Black-African media outlets, according to Wade. The budget is comparable to the Latino media allocation of $27 million dollars.

The advertising campaign will begin in the fall and will end August 2010. The Census Bureau will adjust and reallocate unused money until it runs out.

The Department of Commerce will be pushing their message about participating in the 2010 census through a large advertising campaign in order to reach the “hard-to- count” populations.

Wade spent most of his speech before America’s premier black publishers organization explaining the specifics of the 2010 Census and promoting the importance of $5 billion slated to broadband employment for the black community. But the information surrounding the Census’ advertising campaign is what caught the ears of the dozens of black newspaper publishers in attendance.

Following the breakfast the Census Bureau hosted a seminar called Advertising and Ethnic Media, in which, the Bureau gave more specifics about the process of securing an advertisement buy during the 2010 Census advertising campaign.

Contract management chief Kendall Johnson said as long as the media entity is solvent and has been in business at least a year it would qualify for ad money.

“We’re not looking for metrics. We’re just looking that you can reach the people you say you can reach,” she said.

The advertisements will be placed through multi-cultural advertising firm Globalhue and a pairing of smaller advertising firms. The smaller firms are being used because law states that 40 percent of the $326 million dollar contract’s budget must be spent on small businesses.

And even though 51 percent ad budget will be allocated to ethnicowned media some publishers fear that the money will not make its way down to community papers because many black newspapers have not had positive business experiences with Globalhue.

“We’re not being represented by that agency,” said a publisher who spoke but did not identify himself. “We have our own ad agencies that haven’t excluded us and put us behind the eight-ball. So it’s not [that] we don’t trust [the Census Bureau]. We don’t trust the guys you are doing business with.”

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