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Stop The Press: What Does the Future Hold for Black Newspapers?

Last week, Ethnic Media Group (EMG) – formerly Europe’s biggest-selling black and Asian newspaper company – went into administration, writes Orantes Moore.

On Monday afternoon, administrators marched into EMG headquarters in east London and shut down the firm’s leading papers, New Nation and Eastern Eye.

Staff were made redundant and sent home, while freelance writers – some of whom hadn’t been paid since November – were left reeling.

It’s hardly a surprise; the media industry is in the middle of a revolution.

Newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV channels are all battling the credit crunch and there’s no evidence to suggest black publications can survive.

Earlier this month, London’s most profitable local newspaper, the Evening Standard, was sold to a former KGB spy for the princely sum of one pound, and the BBC announced that targeting minority groups is no longer a priority.

Clearly, Barack Obama was right; the world is ready for change.

Launched in 1996, New Nation targeted Africans Caribbeans in London with exclusive news, celebrity gossip  and groundbreaking features.

The paper peaked a decade later selling around 22,000 copies each week and helped launch the careers of London Paper deputy editor Eva Simpson, above, and Now Magazine celebrity editor Selina Julien, below.

So what went wrong? What sent New Nation’s circulation into freefall from a respectable 22,000 in 2005 to a dismal 6,000 three years later?

Michael Eboda, pictured, the paper’s editor between 1997 and 2007, blames poor management and a flawed business model.

He told Overground: ‘Eastern Eye [which targets British Asians] was advertised on buses and stuff like that. We didn’t advertise, but still sold twice as many copies.

”That was an achievement because Britain’s Asian population is twice the size of the black population. We were at one stage the biggest selling black paper in the UK.

‘New Nation went into administration because EMG didn’t know how to bring advertising revenue in. I’m not saying there wasn’t advertising to bring in; they just didn’t know how.’

Features writer Adenike Adenitire, pictured, claims the paper lost direction after Eboda left in November 2007.

‘If I’m honest, the standards dropped. In the early days, it felt like we were building something, but that changed when some of the staff left. The paper lost its way.’

So what does the future hold for the black press in Britain?

Perhaps newspapers will mimic the community radio station business model; pirates such as such as Galaxy Radio and Genesis have increased their audience share by broadcasting online and on traditional FM formats simultaneously.

Still, even those online platforms that generate high volumes of traffic are yet to work out how to monetise their websites.

Business adviser and founder of Pride Magazine, the first monthly publication targeting African Caribbeans, Peter Murray says it will become increasingly difficult to attract revenue for media targeting one racial group.

He said: ‘The question is: what kind of advertiser wants to target black readers exclusively, as apposed to any other group, especially as the UK has become home to more ethnicities than ever before?

‘The answer is very few, unless they sell products or services exclusively for blacks of a particular age. Black publications will find it extremely difficult to survive; even if they reshape the business models they’ve been working with up until now.

‘It’s time to look online and really start thinking outside the box to create niche publications that attract a high volume of readers and generate lasting income – and that won’t be easy.’

Internet use among African Caribbeans and Asians aged 16 to 45 is disproportionately high and according to a recent Ofcom report, they are among the most technology-aware consumers in Britain.

Justin Onyeka, pictured, New Nation’s deputy editor until 2007, blames EMG’s failure to establish its brands online for the company’s demise.

He said: ‘The powers that be were media dinosaurs who never seized the opportunity to take the paper forward. Everything the paper achieved was generated through editorial rather than marketing or management.

‘There was a great opportunity to establish something effective online, but there was a strong reluctance to do that.

‘In addition to the recession, just the whole way in which people consume media has changed, which is why online news sites are thriving. Anybody with any sense would look online before touching the press format.’

Adenitire agrees: ‘The internet has made a big impact. Whereas before if you wanted know about Snoop Dogg or Dizzee Rascal you had to pick up a black newspaper or magazine, it’s all free online now.’

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Tags media, Orantes Moore, Peter Murray, Ethnic Media Group, New Nation, black newspaper, Eva Simpson, Selina Julien, Michael Eboda, Adenike Adenitire, Justin Onyeka, Pride Magazine, newspaper
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COMMENTS (23) Add your comment
Paul Martin, 24/03/2012 21:34

I have so far had a first quick reading of “Stop the Press…” and found it useful because I have been working on a draft of a scholarly article on the black press. Indeed, after hearing the response of newsagents’ in Britain during a visit in May-June 2009 that New Nation had disappeared a couple of months earlier I called up listed numbers for the publishers and received no response. A brief online check also revealed no information explaining the disappearance of New Nation. In searching for fairly recent information on the black press the above article emerged. I shall have a closer look at it to see what, if anything, I can cite from it.
PM – 24/3/12

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