BLACK MEDIA: THE NEW UNDERGROUND?
CASE STUDY: TBT NEWS — STAYING IN THE BLACK MEDIA GAME
Black media is becoming more underground.
The revelation sucked all the air out of the room when multicultural marketing and media expert, Deborah Gray-Young delivered the news to a group of marketing professionals. Some of us sighed as if facing defeat. We’ve been living this reality – the fall-out from the divestment and divestiture of Black media by business leaders (i.e.declining ad investments, closed/bankrupt media businesses, etc.).
Reading the room, Gray-Young continued to explain that Black media going underground is not a bad thing:
“Being underground simply means that some media outlets are not visible to everyone. It’s not on Main Street”, explained Gray-Young.
She further added: “But the audience these media serve, find them and tap into them regularly. There are any number of bloggers and sites with thousands of followers that publish content on a regular basis for this consumer. There are dozens and dozens of groups with thousands of followers on Facebook for example. Just because mainstream advertising agencies and marketers don’t acknowledge and support them, doesn’t mean they don’t provide a valuable service to their audiences. The Black community gives full meaning to ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ When we can’t find what we’re looking for, or what we need, we create it – powered by today’s technology which has dramatically decreased the cost of entry to most platforms.”
Without hesitation, Carl West agrees with Gray-Young.
West, the Founder and CEO of Midwest Gap Media, the umbrella company housing a number of brands including Truth Be Told News Service (TBT), launched in 2010. He openly describes TBT as underground media, read primarily by a forward-thinking Black audience with a high pass along value – primarily through Black social media.
Today, after several years of highs and lows, West claims his seat at the table, bringing a candid, straightforward-confidence and street swag to his journalistic style. If you judge the constant use of colloquial language into his powerful storytelling, you will miss how smart and humble this guy really is!
West speaks candidly about his early days as an entrepreneur and the obstacles he encountered to get access at “the table” of opportunity. “Everybody fails. Failure is a part of the process. If you haven’t failed, you are not where you should be,” says West.
At the end of 2017, West declared yet another banner year and attributes TBT’s success, and its modern-day underground status to two key factors:
• TBT is unapologetic
West challenges the status quo by showing up with “unapologetic and unashamedly” Black perspectives on politics and Black community issues.
His description. His words.
Perceptions among most TBT readers is that the editorials as enlightening and thought provoking. TBT’s critics find it annoying. Either way, TBT generates lots of conversations by engaged readers …all under mainstream’s radar. ‘
• TBT has a thing for the underestimated
West showcases local politicians, business leaders, and “good Samaritans” who are moving the needle toward Black progress.
“Why not celebrate them? West asks rhetorically, and adds, “They too are making a difference.”
Accordingly, West is bombarded with requests to be featured in TBT, and has seen his audience grow to well over 70k+ organically–one email, one business card at a time.
Patterned after the late-night talk shows, TBTs newest addition is a digital TV platform — Imagemaker–where influential guests converse during one-on-one, in-depth interviews.
At this writing, WGN Radio’s buoyant reporter, Dometi Pongo, is the host. West describes Pongo, a millennial, “as the one” to carry the narrative to the next generation. He’s right. Pongo is a natural. He’s a relaxed, smart, funny interviewer and dead serious exactly when he needs to be.