Blackbird was developed on the simple proposition that we, as the African American community, can make the Internet experience better for ourselves and, in doing so, make it better for everyone. Primarily we believe that the Blackbird application can make it easier to find African American related content on the Internet and to interact with other members of the African American community online by sharing stories, news, comments and videos via Blackbird.
Already, griping about whether the product is too narrow-minded or not has surfaced. Why create another product that only appeals to African-Americans? When can we get out of this box? Who is this site to determine what pertinent black news is shown? What is “black” news anyway?
To that, I offer this: poppycock.
An argument speaking that a product is too insular is an argument devoid of historical and practical context. Jews, Italians, Nigerians and African-Americans in this country have created high-powered organizations that appeal exclusively to their race. Back to the days of Madame Walker, who gave every black woman a reason to get up early Saturday morning (or Thursday evening), onto the Johnson empire that started BET, their creations jump started with a niche crowd. Asians and Italians have both made a fortune in this country with delicacies from their homelands. Nobody would call them narrow-minded for that; that’s smart business.
To assume that “black people should get out of this box and produce something that appeals to the mass market”, not only ignores the low percentage profitability in that (axiom in marketing: he who sells to everybody sells to nobody), but ignores the fact that blacks only comprise 12% of the country. If one looks at societies where there are multiple cultures, the dominant culture always swallows the minority culture. There is no such thing as balanced integration, because that connotes equal mixing and standing. History supports this: if you want to start a business to make money, you’d better find a small hole and drill it like mad.
Who buys most of the rap albums? It’s no secret that the hip-hop industry has been funded by white dollars and support for years. Who owns BET now? Viacom, and no they were not started by people of melanin. What demographic provides BET’s biggest audience? You guessed it. Not African-Americans.
Ebony, Jet, Essence, Clutch, AOL Black Voices, 40 Acres and a Mule, Def Jam, Radio One and others have developed their “place” not through being solely supported by African-Americans, but by people of differing cultures and backgrounds. In fact, their authenticity of depicting their versions of “black culture” is what makes them highly desirable. If I want to find out more about Washington politics, then I would hit up the Washington Post. Why? Because it’s close to the action and it’s proven to be reliable to that facet, back to the findings Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. David Simon, creator of The Wire, said that if you produce something that’s so credible that the insider will stay with you, then the outsider will follow as well.
All of which is why Blackbird is a supportable innovation. It provides a portal to a culture, a demographic, a group that many people are infatuated with, no matter how much they would admit. Whether it remains supportable is dependent on its merit; its ability to provide the services it promises to provide.
If a few black people from say, Bismarck, North Dakota, don’t agree with the “monolithic” view of which they feel that black life is portrayed, then they should build a business model that states otherwise.
Homogenized products are for the birds. I’d take the niche product any day.