A consortium of Black-owned newspaper publishers and Deloitte are launching The Exchange, a pilot project designed to co-create and distribute business content tailored for diverse audiences.
News media diversity, particularly at the national level, continues to be a work in progress. People of color represent only 21.9% of the workforce in U.S. newsrooms, according to a 2019 survey by the American Society of News Editors. In an era when local media is both vital due in particular to its ability to represent diverse voices, and at risk due to declining ad revenue over the years, The Exchange is meant to support local, diverse-owned publishers financially, bring specialized business content to their audiences, and pioneer a new model of collaboration among the participants. The project uses Deloitte’s research-based business thought leadership as a starting point for the publishers to customize business content for their audiences and to help drive revenue to the publishers through a related ad buy from Deloitte. The learnings from the collaboration are expected form the basis for workshops with additional publishers.
“As the name implies, this project is a true exchange,” said Kwasi Mitchell, chief purpose officer at Deloitte. “We are providing support to amplify diverse voices, which can help drive equity in the media landscape in these communities. In doing so, we are also learning from our publishing collaborators what issues are most critical to their readers, expanding our connection to those communities, and growing awareness of our business.”
During the six-month pilot project, five publishers from the Word In Black collaborative — The Atlanta Voice, New York Amsterdam News, Houston Defender Network, AFRO-American Newspapers (Baltimore and D.C.) and The Seattle Medium — will work directly with Deloitte to co-create and publish the content. Through the Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium, an additional 10 Black-owned media companies — The Michigan Chronicle, The New Pittsburgh Courier, The Chicago Defender, The Charlotte Post, The Sacramento Observer, The Washington Informer, The Dallas Weekly, The St. Louis American, Black Voice News and The Precinct Reporter — will distribute the content to their audiences, extending the project's reach.
The project is being managed by the Local Media Association (LMA) and Local Media Consortium (LMC). The work will be supported by advertising and syndicated to a wider audience through a network of Black-owned media companies
The project will focus on the financial and business impact on economic opportunity, exploring such topics as health equity, the impact of technology on business, environmental sustainability, financial literacy and the future of work. The first in an ongoing series of articles is expected to focus on the impact of home ownership on the wealth gap, and will be included at theexchangelocal.com and on all 15 participating publisher sites, all of which primarily serve diverse audiences and will be part of a larger ad buy to support the project.
Dr. Frances Toni Draper, CEO and publisher of The AFRO in Baltimore and DC, said the project will be especially beneficial to small businesses in The AFRO’s community which often don’t have access to this kind of information. “There are literally hundreds of micro and small businesses in our local markets that will benefit greatly from the stories created through and by this collaboration,” she said.
Audience research, such as focus groups and surveys, will be conducted by the LMA and LMC in local markets to help determine article topics for business-focused content. The LMA and LMC will also provide participating local news organizations with analytics tools to better understand who is reading their content and to track audience engagement.
Knotch, a software and consulting company, is providing the LMA and LMC with the technology to measure the effectiveness of the content. Participating publishers can further benefit from branded content media buys.
“The project works on several levels,” said Julia Campbell, chief business transformation officer, Local Media Association and general manager of a branded content collaboration between the LMA and LMC. “It offers support to local media and serves readers who often don’t have access to this kind of business content.”
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