Ad revenue at Black-owned publishers like Blavity, Black Enterprise and Revolt has grown since agencies made spending commitments last year, and due to the work those publishers have done to develop relationships with advertisers and invest back into content, executives said.

Blavity, Revolt and Black Enterprise are seeing increases in ad revenue and new advertisers year over year. 

  • Blavity’s ad revenue has grown 56% in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of 2021, according to Morgan DeBaun, CEO of Blavity. Blavity is working with over 50 new clients this year, mostly in the CPG and consumer technology categories.
  • Black Enterprise’s ad revenue has increased 92% since 2021, said Justin Barton, svp of digital strategy and partnerships. The company went from having one campaign with AT&T in 2019 that was “a little under a million dollars,” to now running 60-70 different campaigns from new advertisers like Verizon, Bank of America, Citi, Mastercard, Braun, Nationwide, Rocket Mortgage, Estee Lauder, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Samsung. 
    • Black Enterprise is also finalizing a spending commitment with GroupM, part of the ad agency’s pledge to get clients to spend at least 2% of their media dollars with Black-owned media companies. GroupM is committing to a multi-year deal in the mid-seven figures each year, Barton said.
  • Revolt has brought in over $100 million in ad revenue in the past year, which has “5x’ed” since 2020, according to Mike Roche, evp of sales and partnerships. (A Revolt spokesperson said the company is “unable to share a finalized number at this time” to compare revenue from 2021 to this year.) 
    • Revolt’s digital business – which includes digital video advertising on Revolt’s site and network, YouTube, connected TV and other non-linear channels – has “8x’ed” since 2020, Roche said. Revolt’s digital business is now two-times its linear TV business, Roche added. The company has worked with 130 new advertisers since 2020, including Target, McDonald’s, General Motors, Nike, State Farm, Ally, Walmart and Amazon, according to Roche.

The impact of agencies’ pledges

Larger deals and spending commitments to Black-owned media often come from ad agencies (rather than working directly with a brand), DeBaun said, and Blavity, Black Enterprise and Revolt are seeing the positive impact of agencies’ pledges. Black Enterprise, for example, wasn’t working with any agencies before 2020. Now, in addition to the deal in the works with GroupM, they are in talks with Publicis, Magna and OMD for similar commitments, Barton said.

In June, Publicis Media’s APX Content Ventures division gave a portion of its $25 million Inclusion Investment Fund to 10 diverse-owned and targeted companies as part of the agency’s Once & For All Coalition initiative. Group Black — which was founded last year with the mission to get marketers and agencies to allocate more of their ad dollars to Black-owned media outlets — has brought in about $500 million in ad-spending commitments from companies such as Procter & Gamble and agencies like WPP, Dentsu and IPG, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Working with agencies has been a big part of Revolt’s growth, Roche said. “The commitments are definitely coming to fruition. It’s what’s driving that 130-plus new advertisers over the last two years. But there’s a lot of work that went into it.”

And the impact of publishers’ own legwork

Executives at those Black-owned media companies don’t want to give all the credit to agencies. In conversations with Digiday, they said the growth of their businesses is also due to the work they’ve done on their end to foster relationships with advertisers to land direct ad deals and to reinvest that revenue into growing their audiences and content the past two years.

Black Enterprise’s traffic has grown from less than a million monthly uniques when Barton joined the company in 2019, to 6.5 million unique visitors in June 2022, according to Comscore data. The company has hired 10 new writers in that time, with plans to hire five more before year’s end, Barton said.

“The pledges have helped, but if we didn’t have this traffic, we couldn’t deliver. So it also helps that we’ve done the hard work of building up our brand, building up our traffic… So it’s hard to know if it’s all just the pledges. On the flip side, it’s also our reach, and both of those are working together to help us drive success,” Barton said.

Due to “a significant increase” in both direct ad sales revenue and increased content distribution revenue from the pay-TV providers it works with, Revolt has been able to expand in a number of areas these past two years, Roche said. That includes an in-house creative agency called #000000 it announced in May, an Atlanta-based news studio and development hub it debuted in February, a suite of CTV and mobile app products that went live last year and additional content verticals in gaming and sports to attract new audiences.

Blavity’s ad business growth is also partly attributable to the addition of seven multicultural publishers to its ad network, Blavity Culture Network, in the past year, DeBaun said.

Getting access to those pledged media ad dollars can also be a hurdle for Black-owned publishers, especially for smaller businesses.

“There’s a lot of red tape in working with these big agencies,” DeBaun said – from sets of approvals to brand safety and measurement requirements. Blavity has the benefit of a large team, programmatic ad solutions and daily, real-time analytics reporting it can provide to marketers, she said.

Black Enterprise’s programmatic business “completely transformed” since Barton came on board in 2019, now working with “all the major” supply-side platforms to sell ad inventory to advertisers, he said. The company executes around 8-10 programmatic guaranteed deals per month, Barton added.

“You have to go to every single brand agency lead on the investment team and on the planning team, to convince them or educate them about your brand and the traffic we have and the different levers we have. It’s just time consuming. It takes forever,” Barton said. 

This article has been updated to reflect that Blavity has added seven publishers to its ad network after the publisher provided that information following the article’s publication.