Category Archives: internet

We Must Patronize Black-Owned Websites or Lose Them

The Top 50 Black-Owned Websites

Part of AALBC.com’s mission is to help support Black-owned websites.  Historically, I’ve focused on sites related to books including, publisher sites, authors sites, and even other bookseller sites. I support other booksellers, because no single site can possibly cover all the great Black books available, and each site brings a unique perspective to how they cover Black books.

As the number of large Black-owned websites that cover Black books began to decrease, I expanded the scope of websites that I supported to include Black-Owned Magazines and Black-Owned Newspapers. While newspapers and magazines do not cover Black books as deeply, or as frequently, as a dedicated book site would, they still are important platforms for Black writers and their books.

Black People are not profiting from the great wealth generated on the web.Many of our Black-owned newspaper and magazine websites began publishing less original content or shutting down.  So I decided to open up my support to include even the largest Black-owned sites.  In 2013, I compiled a list of the top 10 sites and called it the crude but traffic generating name, “The 10 Best Damn Black Websites Period!

I discovered during my research many of the most popular websites focused on Black culture were not Black-owned. It became clear, Black people are not profiting from the great wealth generated on the web—even when the content is directly related to Black culture.

Perhaps worse, I found the most frequently visited websites owned by Black people were enjoying great success by providing very salacious, celebrity driven content.  Comments in reaction to an article in Black Enterprise celebrating the success of one such site, MediaTakeOut, illustrates this point:

“Black Enterprise should be embarrassed to do a story praising this man [MediaTakeOut’s Founder,  Fred Mwangaguhunga] like he is some type of role model for the black community. Did you even look at his website before writing this article? It is extremely racist against white people, very degrading to black people, homophobic, and constantly making fun of people. I don’t know when publishing this type of offensive trash on a low budget website became worthy of so much praise, or how the lies on his site can be considered “celeb news”. Black Enterprise just lost a lot of credibility and better realize that Media Take Out is an embarrassment to black people.”

“When I think of minstrel websites such as MTO, BlackPlanet, BET, and WorldStarHip (actually, all of their clones, quite frankly), and the collective devastating effects of ZIP COONERY on our people, I think of the UNCF slogan: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

These comments were not cherry picked to make my point but are reflective of the overall reaction to the article, (Black Enterprise, June 21, 2011, “Former Lawyer Succeeds Online as Man Behind MediaTakeOut”).

Black Enterprise

MediaTakeOut is not alone.  In fact, as far I can tell, Worldstar Hip Hop, is the most frequently visited Black-owned website, but their content is arguably even more prurient than MediaTakeOut’s.

Fortunately, the World Wide Web is vast and there is plenty of room for all types of websites. However, because of the dominance exerted by a handful of extremely powerful corporations, independent, Black-owned websites that produce serious content are crowded out and are effectively rendered undiscoverable.

As a result, when it comes to informing Black people of important issues, determining how Black people are portrayed in the media, and sharing in the wealth that is created on the web, Black people are largely excluded.

Some Black folks take great pride in our dominance of #blacktwitter, but no one mentions how little we profit from that activity or even asks how Twitter actually serves the Black community.  Many websites have turned to Facebook to bring visitors to their websites; they built large Facebook followings, only to have Facebook tell them that organic reach has ended, and that they must now must pay to reach the audience they worked so hard to build.

If we are to regain our agency and share more equitably in the revenue generated on the web, we must make this happen ourselves.  AALBC.com’s contribution is to help spread the word about hundreds of popular Black-owned websites as well as sharing detailed information about our Top 50 Black-Owned Websites.

We all can do something to help increase the influence, revenue, and quality of Black-owned websites. The solution is quite simple:

We Must Patronize Black-Owned Websites:

  • Identify one or two websites that you like and visit them regularly,
  • Leave comments on their articles and engage on their discussion forums,
  • Subscribe to their publications,
  • Send them feedback,
  • Buy their products, and
  • Share their content with others

The solution is not more engagement on social media—that just enriches social media at our expense. The solution will not come from government legislation—they are part of the problem and any potential solution will come after the damage has been done.

There is still a wealth of interesting content on the web. Indeed I trust AALBC.com is contributing to that wealth, but it will not continue if the current trends persist unabated. If we don’t determine what is important, then someone else will do it for us.

The power to increase Black ownership and control on the World Wide Web is in our hands. Lets use our power!

Simon & Schuster Gives Racist Troll $250K Book Deal, But Boycotting Them Makes No Sense

Editor’s Note: Subsequent to the publication of the article, a video of Milo making comments condoning sex between children and adults was widely circulated.  As a result, his book deal with Simon & Schuster was pulled.  He also stepped down from his role as an editor with Breitbart News.


dangerous.jpgMilo Yiannopoulos is laughing all the way to the bank.  The interviewer from CNN (shown in the first video below), despite her faux outrage, is greatly helping this Milo’s profile.  CNN is doing this because these interviews generate rating and money for their company.  The hypocrisy is sickening.

This is solely about money.  Milo is no different than Twitter, CNN, and CNBC. This is the exact same thing that raised Trump’s profile. Outrageous statements are profitable.  Milo is simply the latest capitalistic troll to exploit the dysfunctional of our culture.

Now I appreciate I’m is actually feeding into the frenzy of Milo, but I do this because I know full well I’m not going to make money from this effort—corporations own that market. I just hope to make some points that will help readers think about the platforms they consume “information.”

Milo Yiannopoulos’ has a book Dangerous coming out in June.  It was already #30 on Amazon’s bestsellers list on February 14th—not in some miscellaneous sub-category either.  It is #30 overall!  The book is published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Yesterday I posted a link to AALBC.com about a fascinating book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, which is also published by Simon & Schuster.  I received the following in reaction,

The crazy thing is that I had no idea who Milo Yiannopoulos was prior to Emanuel’s comment. Milo is apparently the guy who spearheaded the racist trolling of Leslie Jones on Twitter. We previously talked about Leslie’s Twitter trolls on our discussion forum, without ever mentioning Milo.  Leslie threatened to leave Twitter and Twitter booted Milo in reaction (presumably).

While we (or least I) was unaware of Milo extreme trolling, corporate media were obviously paying attention and anxious to capitalize off Milo’s racist attacks.  In the process they raised MIlo’s profile; which of course boosts rating—adverse cultural impact be damned!

Simon & Schuster even offered him a $250K book deal!  Imagine a quarter of a million dollar book deal, apparently for being racist enough to get thrown off Twitter?

But then Milo is not your garden variety troll; he has Breitbart News as a platform, he is very clever, media-savvy, and funny.  I have been personally been the target of Trolls.  Not only did it not bother me I found some it kinda funny and even posted examples.  But my trolls don’t write for Breitbart, and I’m not a celebrity.  For me, it is just another day on the web: I ban my trolls and keep it moving.  No interviews on CNN, no book deals, no outrage on Twitter, indeed no attention at all.  But celebrities and the trolls are a different matter.

There was a spate of angry tweets leveled against Simon & Schuster and others announcing boycotts:

This is all very powerful stuff. Roxanne Gay caught my attention by pulling her next book which was also being published by Simon & Schuster.  The book’s title is How to be Heard.  A curious title, given Gay’s reaction is exactly the opposite of the title connotation silencing a troll

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Simon & Schuster.  Indeed, I’d seriously considered banning them in my own personal boycott because they are the only publisher of significance to never spend a penny, in advertising, with AALBC.com.  This is despite the fact that Simon & Schuster has the top selling imprint on AALBC.com, Atria Books.

Now I would be more than happy to boycott Simon & Schuster.  In fact with the website’s new design, I could remove all of Simon & Schuster’s titles from my website by changing a few lines of code.

But I’m not going to ban Simon & Schuster’s books, not for this reason.  Simon and Shuster is a massive corporation Milo’s imprint Threshold Editions has nothing to do with the imprint 37 INK, who publishes some important books. It makes no sense boycott 37 INK’s titles because another imprint decides to publish the rantings of some racist troll.  It is the reason I still carry Simon and Shuster’s books even though they won’t break down and support the site with ad revenue.

The real problem is not Simon and Schuster, or even Milo. Both are simply capitalizing on the fact that, in America, skilled trolling is profitable.  One could argue that MIlo and Threshold Editions are behaving perfectly rationally given the environment.

We live a culture were saying outrageous things is not only very profitable but can get you into the Whitehouse.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Future is Cyberspace

Black Issues Book Review Nov-Dec 1999 cover“Outsiders” have often dictated the trends of African American Culture, sometimes doing the job themselves, sometimes using what authors John A. Williams called “surrogates.”  Both W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington accused each other of being manipulated by outsiders.

With the introduction of cyberspace, younger writers have the ability to reach audiences unheard of during the sixties when African American writers produced broadsides and saddle-stitched chapbooks.  As access to cyberspace becomes less expensive, more voices will be heard and this period, the most prolific in the history of African American Literature, will rise to worldwide prominence, no longer having to obey the tastes of the outsiders in power or the dictates of the establishment-manufactured Talented Tenth.
Ishmael Reed (Black Issues Book Review; November-December 1999)

During the period Ishmael Reed wrote this I would have agreed with him.  A year earlier, I’d started AALBC.com with just that belief in mind.  But I was naive, and today I strongly disagree with the statement.  I wonder if Ishmael disagrees with it now too.  I will reach out to him, and see if he is willing to share his thoughts here.  He is active on Facebook so…

“Cyberspace,” or the World Wide Web, as it is more commonly known today, has actually made it easier for “Outsiders” to dictate the trends of African American Culture. Nothing has changed indeed it has gotten much worse for us.

Market forces drive us to conform to the dictates of the “Outsiders” referred to by Reed. The most popular “Black” websites are not owned by Black people.  The ones that are owned by Black folks take their marching orders from the white owned sites they minick, in an attempt to attract visitors.  Anyone who has been online for 5 minutes knows about the-celebrity-scandal-click-bait content that drives our most popular, so called, Black sites.

Sure there may be more Black writers with the potential to reach more people, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to be heard, unless of course they are cosigned by one of the massive sites run by “outsiders”; which then of course requires conforming to their dictates.

Despite all of this virtually free access to the web and numerous tools to publish content, we do not drive the narrative, rather the “outsiders” created narrative drives us.  Anyone attempting to do something other than what the “outsiders” have prescribed will fail or struggle miserably.

I often read old magazines for a historical perspective.  I subscribed to Black Issues Book Review (BIBR) for it’s entire run.  The issue from where I transcribed Ishmael’s quote was brilliant.  I’m unaware of any other magazine that comes close to producing the content  Black Issues Book Review did during it’s prime.  Both the magazine and the associated website are long gone.

Part of the problem is the we simply do not work in our own self interest.  Sure there are some great exceptions, but not enough to really make a difference.  When I was a corporate employee, this was not apparent to me, but the minute I became a business owner it became very obvious. It is very sad.

For example, I would listen to Black writers give Black Issue Book Review, a lot of grief for not paying them enough, or fast enough, for the articles they wrote.  Of course if you say you are going to pay someone, you need to pay them.  But I also observed some of these very same writers proudly write for the Huffington Post for free!  Just the idea of having a HuffPost byline was enough compensation. There was never as much pride in having a BIBR byline.

Today we have fewer websites dedicated to Black books.  One would think there would be an uproar, but media, like a BIBR, who would report on this problem, no longer exists.  I’d image the general public has no idea a problem even exists.  Even saying there are few Black book websites, would not mean much absent a historical context.  Meanwhile, the “outsider” has sold us on the idea popularity on their platforms is the only meaningful measure of success.

Sites like AALBC.com who are inclined to report on this issue, an issue that does not conform to the “dictated the trend,” defined by the “outsiders,” have to fight to be heard. Trust me; it is a fight. Social media is pay to play, and search results skew away from Black independent websites.  But most importantly, our people will not sacrifice to support, no invest, in our own platforms.  Paying a bit more or clicking away from a massive social media site is apparently too much of a sacrifice for us to make, to control our own narrative.

Black websites certainly don’t matter to the massive corporations who control the World Wide Web, but based upon our behavior they don’t matter to us either.

Our future may be cyberspace, but that future looks pretty bleak.  I hope to tell a very different story in 15 years.