Tag Archives: culture

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!

2 Ways Google is Killing Online Booksellers & How You Can Help

(1) Google Uses its Dominance in Search to Hijack Traffic from Websites

Google does this by placing content, it has collected from other websites, ahead of their search engine results, to sell its own products and services.  Google engages in this practice in a wide variety of areas from restaurant ratings to travel directions.

However, Google has had a particularly devastating impact on online booksellers—Google has literally embedded its own online bookstore prominently in their search engine results.  Rather than directing visitors to other websites, which should be the purpose of a search engine, Google is abusing their virtual monopoly in search by standing in bookseller’s virtual doorways and grabbing visitors before they can enter.

I’ve been tracking, and participating in, online book sales for 20 years.  My niche is Black literature and the impact on this group of sites has been particularly devastating.

Despite websites being less expensive and easier to create than ever before, there are far fewer websites dedicated to black literature today than there were 10 years ago. Those that remain are struggling to grow because they are unable to attract enough visitors to generate the revenue needed to maintain their websites.

The video below demonstrates how Google does this:

 

(2) Google’s Virtual Monopoly in Search Allows Them to Control Which Sites are Visited

I would argue that Google’s search engine is one of the the most significant developments on the web.  In fact, I use Google’s search engine on this site, because it is an excellent service (Google is discontinuing this service in 2018).

Unfortunately, Google does make mistakes, and these mistakes and be very costly if not catastrophic for the affected business.  Consider the following graph from Semrush’s website, which shows their estimate of this site’s traffic.

Graph of AALBC.com Traffic hit

While Semrush’s data is not prefect, they estimate a site’s traffic based upon how frequently it shows up in Google’s search results (big data stuff), they did correctly identify a significant drop in traffic to AALBC.com, back in 2011.  The drop in traffic was a direct result in a reduction of traffic from organic search from Google.

Now Google never provided, or even made themselves available for, an explanation of this dramatic, overnight, drop in traffic from search.  Many, less sophisticated, web site owners never knew what hit them. The drop in our traffic was apparently the result of a change in the code Google used to rank websites. Affected businesses were left to speculate on the specific underlying reasons for their site being penalized in search engine results.

This lack of transparency from Google has fostered a industry of people touting services to help you understand and improve (or game) your site’s search engine rankings.

This has also fostered a level of paranoia, which has led to an unwillingness of websites to link to each other for fear they could hurt their own site’s ranking in search. This behavior actually puts more power into Google’s hands, as websites are no longer a good way to discover other sites.  AALBC.com has never stopped linking to other good sites. Part of the value the site our site provides is helping visitors discover other websites they will enjoy.

From my experience, the best way to address Google’s search engine rankings is to follow all of Google’s recommendations and guidelines.  No matter how you feel about it, if you want your site to rank on the only search engine that matters, you must follow Google’s rules.

AALBC.com’s traffic has completely recovered 2011. 2017 is on track to be a record year for page views. Visitor quality is also better; visitors look at more pages and stay on the site longer.

AALBC.com is a higher quality site because of my adherence to Google’s mandates, but I invest a significant portion of my time addressing “Google Issues.”  This time and energy comes at the expense of creating valuable content for the site.

The environment created by Google also discourages the creation of new sites because it is not enough to produce quality content, you must also be well versed in Google search engine optimization.

Google Makes the World Wide Web a Less Rich Place

Because of these practices and more, Google makes the World Wide Web a much less rich place.  We are rapidly reaching a point where only the most massive corporate sites have a chance at survival.

Google has argued that they are trying to create the best possible experience for their visitors. In reality, what they have done is help make the web less accommodating to diversity and creativity, by making it an environment hostile to independence and where only the wealthiest companies have a chance to maintain a profitable platform.

Many who would have operated their own website, just 5 years ago, are now using Facebook as their primary web presence, because they believe their chances for discovery and survival are better on Facebook. As a result, visitors need a Facebook account to engage with this content. Once on Facebook visitors are treated to the same cookie cutter style and presentation. This situation contributes to concentrating of wealth into the hands of a few massive corporations. The rich get richer and wealth inequality continues to rises…

What Can You Do?

Support independent bookseller websites by;

  • Visiting their websites (here are more than 50);
  • Purchasing the products they sell;
  • Sharing their content by utilizing word of mouth, social media, anyway that makes sense;
  • Linking to bookseller websites from your website or blog;
  • Engaging with their content by leaving comments and participating in their discussion forums; and
  • Buying advertising on their platforms if available;

Sure, buying from an indie bookseller, might cost you a bit more on the price and you may need to wait a little longer to receive the product, but will we be better if the only place we can buy a book is from Google and Amazon?

Join our conversation about the importance of independent booksellers (both online and physical stores).

Support Independent websites, including this one, especially if you want them to thrive rather than merely survive.

AALBC.com Partners with What’s The 411 TV

AALBC.com has partnered with What’s The 411 TV to bring information about Black books, authors, events, and news to both What’s The 411TV and AALBC.com’s audiences.

What’s The 411 TV reaches 14 million subscribers across the country on DishTV and can also be seen on Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS, and RCN in New York City. The relationship is a great opportunity to expand our respective platforms, reach more reader, and celebrate Black culture through books.

WhatsThe411

Founded by Ruth J. Morrison and based in Brooklyn, New York, What’s The 411 TV is a division of What’s The 411 Networks, a media/news and information company connecting sophisticated multi-cultural audiences through its distribution platforms of television, online, mobile, and social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vimeo).

I’m excited about this partnership, because it has tremendous opportunity to improve our ability to spread the word about great books and Black culture.