Ownership is Key
Responding to some criticism of his venture, Wilson is explicit that “this is a black-owned entity.” Part of Rabb’s longstanding criticism of sites targeting African Americans has been the issue of ownership. “I think ultimately in the 21st century that there is a tacit disapproval of entities that are white-owned. Not that they can’t do the subject justice, but the starting point has to be equity. There has to be a meaningful [black ownership] stake.” Rabb notes that across the media landscape—television, print media, and radio—there remain few black-owned entities, and the same is true for high-traffic Websites. This, he says, has a significant impact on the Web ecosystem.
He adds that the increase in the number of black celebrity entertainment and gossip blogs and sites is one indication of the failure of mainstream media to tell relevant black stories. Whether we love or loathe such sites, this surge in interest could bode well for other black-owned businesses, Rabb suggests. “The audiences of key bloggers are growing, and those relationships can yield all kinds of victories locally, nationally, and internationally, and these are the kinds of institutions we should invest in more methodically.”
At press time, both The Root and TheGrio boasted a strong arsenal of contributors that includes journalists, academics, and artists. Within its first two months of operation, TheGrio saw a more than sevenfold increase in unique visitors, from 50,000 to 360,000, and it expects to exceed these numbers in coming months.
–Additional Reporting by David Hudson
This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.