Serving New Masters: The Root Acquired By Univision

Serving New Masters: The Root Acquired By Univision
The Root was never Black-owned

AFRICANGLOBE – What: La Fabrica, a division of Univision Communications, is acquiring African American focussed site The Root from Graham Holdings, the former owner of the Washington Post and current owner of digital properties including Slate. Financial details were not disclosed. On-line magazine focused on news, opinions, culture and entertainment from the perspective of African Americans. The Root reaches an average of 5 million unique users per month, according to ComScore.

Why it matters: Univision has been trying to expand its offerings away from its Spanish-language core products. The acquisition of The Root fits well with its strategy to capture a larger share of Millennial and Urban Audiences, says Marla Skiko, EVP, Director of Digital Innovation , SMG Multicultural.

Univision Communications Inc. announced that it has acquired The Root, a leading online news, opinion and culture destination for African-Americans. In joining UCI, The Root will leverage UCI’s extensive digital production facilities and publishing infrastructure, while its editorial team will retain its voice and stay true to its mission, which has made it successful throughout its history. “Like Univision, The Root aims to serve a significant segment of America’s diverse population. Our diverse communities are continuing to define the fabric of the country, from buying power, to social influence, to elections,” said Isaac Lee, president of News and Digital for UCI and CEO of Fusion. “This game-changing union strengthens our ability to fulfill our shared missions of informing and empowering our communities.”

Marla Skiko, EVP, Director of Digital Innovation , SMG Multicultural, says that The Root is a good complement to Univision’s digital offerings. Univision has been broadening the reach of its content base for a few years now with the addition of English language content and content that appeals across the spectrum of the Hispanic audience, from more Spanish dominant to bicultural and bilingual. Adding in content that is appealing for the African American audience will enhance that spectrum and make their offering appealing to a broader group of multicultural users/viewers.”

“This bold new partnership between Univision and The Root underscores the ties that have long bound people of color together throughout the Western Hemisphere and is a sign of even greater levels of communication, collaboration and exchange between these culturally vital groups of people,” said Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University and chairman of The Root, who co-founded The Root along with Donald Graham, CEO and chairman of Graham Holdings Company, in January of 2008. Donna Byrd, VP, Digital and Publisher of The Root, is joining the leadership team of Univision Digital, which recently added Mark Lopez (EVP, General Manager) and Joe Simon (Chief Technology Officer, Digital) in the past two months. Lyne Pitts will continue in her role as the managing editor of The Root.

Univision’s acquisition of The Root is somewhat unusual since it is outside the Hispanic-focused realm (Spanish-dominant or English-dominant). According to SMG Multicultural’s Skiko, “Given that the fastest growing and most technologically savvy consumers in the US are multicultural, it makes sense to focus on that group. While their core focus has always been and likely always will be on US Hispanic, there is no denying the growth and power of the African American audience, especially in the digital space.

It definitely signals that Univision sees the importance of more multicultural audiences, which we see as a good thing, especially when it comes to attracting the ever-important Millennial segment which is largely multicultural.” According to Skiko, The Root definitely appeals to African American Millennials and beyond. “Millennials are a very active, outspoken group who care about their culture and the news that affects their world so this should help bring more diversity to Univision’s digital base including that specific African American audience segment.”

“With The Root, we will serve a diverse, dynamic, young and influential audience with unique, innovative content across platforms while providing a voice to two of the most influential segments of the population,” adds Mark Lopez.