Corporate America Is Defunding Journalism About Racial Justice With Blocklists

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Written by Ann Brown
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Corporate America is defunding journalism about racial justice with blocklists containing words like “Black Lives Matter,” “George Floyd,” and “protests.” Photo: Minneapolis MN – May 30: Rioters ransack Target in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 30, 2020. Credit: Damairs Carter/MediaPunch /IPX/A line of police officers surrounding City Hall on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Seattle, look towards demonstrators following protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

During the covid-19 pandemic, digital media advertising has dropped significantly as companies have tried to avoid pacing advertising next to stories on the virus. Now comes word that companies are using blocklists to block ads from news mentioning ”George Floyd,” “protests,” and “Black Lives Matter.” And this while several of them have been touting their sensitivity to diversity, police abuse, and the BLM movement.

Apparently in June Target Corp. told a leading online news publisher not to run its ads in stories related to the Black Lives Matter movement, such as articles mentioning police-brutality victims such as “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd,” and those with the word “protests.”

Target, MTV, and other advertisers have compiled blocklists and news publishers are arguing by doing so it punished media companies for covering important topics since they earn less money from content where ad-blocking is used. In essence, corporate America is defunding journalism about racial justice with blocklists.

“It’s defunding our journalism at a time when it’s imperative for us to be the front lines doing this kind of work,” Paul Wallace, Vice Media’s vice president for global revenue products and services, told The Wall Street Journal. Even though stories about Black Lives Matter were Vice’s most popular news in June, those articles received ad prices 57 percent less than news about other topics because so many brands are aggressively avoiding placing ads in those articles, he said.

“The most frustrating part of all of this is that the brands that are sending this stuff are standing on a pedestal saying that they support BLM,” he said.

Vice’s svp of content strategy and community, Marsha Cooke, told NPR, “We found that content that was related to George Floyd and the protests monetized at a rate 57 percent lower than other news content. And that’s because brands and agencies specifically blocked their ads from being next to content around racial unrest. Words relating to the murder of George Floyd and the protests happening across the country were popping up on these lists that are called within the industry blocklists. These words were George Floyd, Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter, Black people. What we realized is that brands or advertisers would not want their product to be aligned or placed next to the content that is important for the American audience to know about.”

A Target spokesman doesn’t deny blocking ads for Black Lives Matter news. But the spokesperson claimed the retailer’s blocklists “does not discount the importance of reporting on topics like Black Lives Matter or the murder of George Floyd. It’s intended to acknowledge that the person consuming that content may not be receptive to a marketing message from a mass retailer like Target at that time.” The spokesman added, “Target stands with our Black team members, guests, and families.”

Meanwhile and, some might say, ironically, Target is among many brands that have temporarily paused ad spending on Facebook Inc. after a public campaign by civil-rights groups that complain Facebook isn’t doing enough to rein in hate speech on its platform.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

“When covid-19 took over the news cycle in March, news publishers’ page views soared as readers flocked to those stories. But ad prices plummeted as much as 50 percent compared with the year-ago period, partly because of the keyword blocking by advertisers,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

But in May, ad prices started increasing as brands grew more comfortable, but then took a hit again in late May following Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. In fact, in the two weeks after Floyd’s May 25 death, ad prices on news content were on average 41 percent lower than the same date a year earlier, according to Staq Inc., which aggregates data from more than 40 digital publications. Currently, ad prices are about 20 percent lower than where they were a year ago.