Over the last year, I’ve invested a lot of effort informing the public about the adverse impact of the corporate take over of the web and how this is hurting independent websites, particularly Black owned ones.
I have, however, not been very critical of the Black owned websites themselves. Part of the reason for my lack of critique is that I’m very sensitive to the environment and in many ways understand when websites choose not to cooperate or work in unnecessarily competitive ways.
For example, Google, the most popular search engine, is now in a position to dictate to webmasters how to design their websites—what content can be published and how to link to other sites. A webmaster does not have to comply with Google’s rules, but if they want their website to rank high enough to be found in Google’s search results, they have no choice.
Complying with Google’s mandates is not always easy. The rules by which their search engine ranks websites changes constantly and no one outside of Google (few inside I suspect) completely understands how Google’s search algorithm works. As a result, there is an entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) experts ready to help webmasters with a wide range of tools and techniques to help sites rank high on a Google search result. The most unscrupulous of these “professionals” will guarantee a number one ranking for a website, or even worse utilize “black hat” techniques (sophisticated ways of cheating) to obtain a higher search result ranking. These techniques can leave a website worse off, by being penalized by Google for attempting to game their search algorithm and reducing the quality of the site as more emphasis is placed on the SEO than content.
As a consequence of SEO, webmasters now have an incentive not to link to other websites, or when they do link they are encouraged to use rel=”nofollow” which essentially tells Google’s search engine to ignore the link. Google does not want webmasters to swap links with other websites or to be financially compensated for a link to another site without using rel=”nofollow.” Some webmasters, being overly cautious in avoiding Google’s warth, have gone a step further and have stopped linking to other sites altogether.
Before Google was invented swapping links was one way sites were discovered. Today, when independent websites are harder to find via search, linking to other sites is even more important, but sadly it is done less frequently. Many, Black owned, independent websites are not linking to each other in meaningful ways, and we are all harder to find as a result.
Frustrated by having to spend more time and effort jumping through Google’s hoops, I’ve decided to more aggressively, and directly, support independent websites. I visit these websites—not their social media platforms—and share their content, engage others on their discussion forums and comment on their articles. I encourage everyone to take similar action, but I try to lead by example.
One of the entities I’ve been promoting is Ebony Magazine. I subscribe to the magazine and have been enjoying Michael A. Gonzales’ Vintage Vision, column on Ebony’s website. I’ve been promoting Ebony Magazine, as well as all of the Black owned magazines I’m aware of on Huria Search (an advertisement-free website dedicated to supporting Black owned websites). I also promote Ebony’s website on my listing of the Top Black Websites. I even have a collection of Ebony Magazine issues going back over 60 years. I’m a fan and a supporter.
The last issue contained an informative article about Black Americans exiled in Cuba. It was an interesting article and I learned quite a bit. I shared my enthusiasm on Twitter:
— Troy Johnson (@aalbc) March 3, 2014
Recently, I posted the following comment on an article Ebony shared from the, NJ Star-Ledger, about Amiri Baraka’s recent passing. The comments expressed AALBC.com’s shared grief and a link to a short documentary we produced highlighting Baraka’s work.
Ebony marked the comment as spam!!
Now I understand if Ebony does not want to link to a another site (as explained in great detail above), but they did not have to hurt AALBC.com by marking the post as spam. They could have simply not allowed the comment to be seen. Not only was the comment the exact opposite of spam, one could argue that Ebony, or at least their visitors, would have benefited from the link.
I do not support Ebony Magazine because I expect anything in return. I learned long ago that the biggest websites are the ones least likely to reciprocate. I do not support Ebony because I like I everything they do.
I support Ebony because what they do is increasingly rare and more important than ever to the Black community. Their coverage of books in the last issue was good too—not the usual diet of celebrity books many magazines and websites feel obliged to focus on. In fact, I tweeted about their book coverage as well.
My motivation is not to call out one magazine on a trivial slight, no one would have know about unless I mentioned it. My goal is to highlight a symptom of a much bigger problem that manifests in numerable ways across the Internet landscape. The fact of the matter is we are simply not working together, as well as we must, to survive.
Individually, none of us have a chance to compete, over the long term, against the huge corporations taking over the World Wide Web. Embracing social media is not the answer. Collectively, we provide FAR more support and promotion of social media platforms than we do our own and we continue to lose.
Unless we bind together, support and uplift each other, we have no chance of retaining ownership of our voice on the web. When we lose our voice, we see articles focusing on our scandals rather than our triumphs, we see content that is the most marketable rather than the most important. We also lose our ability to create business and generate revenue online. We have already lost so much, but we still continue to willingly relinquish what little we have left.
I’m fighting to reverse this trend. Will you help?
- Huria Search – A Search Engine which queries Black Owned book, newspaper and magazine websites.
- The Power List – Accumulates data on books written or read by African Americans and compiles that information into a quarterly best-selling books list.
- 3 Must Read Books for Social Media Advocates, Addicts & Sharecroppers
- Join the Fight for Independence on the Web
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There is a Lack of Unity Among Black Websites