As a Black-owned and operated publication, The Network Journal is proud to be holding its own as the effects of the financial crisis that began in 2007, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s that followed it, and the proliferation of digital delivery hack away at newsrooms in general and at Black media in particular.
Holding our own doesn’t mean we escaped the ravages. The ongoing struggle for advertising, the lifeblood of commercial media, has forced us to reduce the number of issues we publish a year. According to the Pew Research Center, print advertising fell for a sixth consecutive year in 2012 — by a significant 7.3 percent or $1.5 billion. Beginning in 2014, TNJ will be publishing four issues a year — February-March-April; May-June-July; August-September-October; and October-November-December.
While the number of issues a year will fall, we will remain true to our editorial mission, which is to deliver in the highest-possible quality content that informs, inspires and empowers our audience of Black professionals, business owners and decision-makers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. That mission has taken on greater significance in the face of the media industry’s new business model that seems less concerned about the delivery of content to audiences than about the delivery of audiences to advertisers.
In the segment titled “African American: A Year of Turmoil and Opportunity” of its State of The News Media 2013 report, the Pew Research Center describes the current experience of Black media as “a difficult one at best.” The segment elaborates: In the newspaper sector, many historic African-American publications both lost circulation and struggled to find advertising revenue; on television, news continues to fight for a place in African-American programming; in radio, African-American voices became even scarcer, with Black-owned radio stations continuing to wither in number and several programs hosted by major African-American personalities going off the air.
The report notes, however, that “the handful of African American magazines that carry at least some news had different stories to tell in 2012. One of the most popular, Ebony, enjoyed a solid rebound after years of decreasing circulation.” Aside from the decline in advertising, positive figures were cited for other magazines of similar ilk.
Given TNJ’s unique news hole, we look to the future with optimism. While we have beefed up our website, tnj.com, our use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and our weekly e-newsletter, at this point we have no plans to go quietly into the all-digital night. We are exploring at least one addition to our signature events — currently the 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards and our 40 Under Forty Black Achievers Awards — and more partnerships with like-minded organizations on programs of interest to our audience.
After 20 successful years of publication that includes one of the most grueling business environments ever for small businesses, we plan to keep the TNJ brand around for the foreseeable future.