Recognizing the buying clout of the African American market, major corporations have been courting black-oriented content developers. Microsoft has formed an alliance with BET Holdings Inc., Citigroup has teamed up with Africana.com and AOL has partnered with DME Interactive. One of the latest deals is between Afronet.com, a premier African American portal and community Website, and Sprint. Customers will now be able to access Afronet content on Sprint PCS Internet-ready phones.
Founded in 1995, Afronet offers news, e-mail services, reviews, career assistance, entertainment, community information and shopping. Afronet also distinguishes itself with probing essays on racial issues. These essays often encourage users to purchase goods from black-owned businesses. The site also has a search engine containing a broad range of African American Web links.
“We believe that the future of the Internet will belong to those who take advantage of emerging capabilities to bring information and entertainment content to customers throughout the world,” says Willie Atterberry, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Afronet. “Wireless content is certain to be a part of this future, and we are proud to be the first in our market to offer this alternative.”
Other Sprint PCS wireless Web content providers include MapQuest .com, Amazon.com, Bloomberg.com, CNN.com, Yahoo! and Ameritrade. Most wireless carriers offer cellular phones embedded with Web browsers for searching the Net and retrieving e-mail messages (see “Wireless Web,” Techwatch, April 2000).
Afronet has started to attract attention from major advertisers. Other products, services and Web capabilities are under development. The company currently publishes a namesake technology magazine.
Other black-oriented Websites are sure to benefit from major companies now rushing to capture underserved markets, knowing that the potential for this audience is huge. In the past, African Americans have been trailing other minority groups and the U.S. population as a whole. But that statistic is steadily changing as African Americans are expected to jump online next year at a faster rate than other groups. And it stands to reason that Websites aimed at African Americans are now one of the fastest-growing groups in cyberspace.