Black Blogger Month: Karen Civil
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Behind-the-scenes players don’t always earn shine from a backlight. Karen Civil is the exception. As the creator of her self-titled hip-hop blog, the music industry insider has proven that she can pimp the online ring from any and all angles. Even with a resume that boasts impressive bullet points such as Lil Wayne‘s Young Money Social Media Coordinator and currently, Beats By Dre Digital Marketing Manager, it’s KarenCivil.com, that positions the New Jersey native as one of today’s most authoritative digital gatekeepers.

Kick-started in 2008, KarenCivil.com site was born from a simple, but sticky idea: Produce premier content on cocooned artists Civil believed would blow up. And with early cosigns that include hip-hop stars Drake and J. Cole, it’s safe to bet her ear and eye are worth trusting, especially since they’ve earned her a 2010 MTV Hip Hop Award, 2009 Essence Black Web Award and features in The Source, XXL, Complex and Billboard. Printing out traffic reports of 1,000,000+ monthly visitors, the site generates around $125,000 in yearly revenue. Farming the lifestyle element of her brand, Civil’s recently collaborated with eco-friendly jewelry maker Good Wood for a successful line of Live Civil bracelets seen on not only everyday fans, but rappers such as A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne. BlackEnterprise.com catches up with the tech savvy 26-year-old to see how her digital empire was built.

I started blogging because…

Back when I was working with Dipset and Max B, I used to service hip-hop blogs like Nah Right and Hip-Hop Game. But as people really got to know who I am, instead of passing out news on the artists I was working, I decided why not just create my own hub for this. I was toying around with it and thinking, Okay, maybe I can do some interviews, maybe I’ll put up music and people can just take it directly off my page. And if they want to know more about my artist I’ll just have these generic questions answered. I knew so many artists on the come up who weren’t getting attention anywhere else so it was like why not just figure out a way to get them on my site. The first interview I did was at Starbucks with Drake the day of his birthday and when it got like 700 views I was so excited [laughs].

 

The overhead for running my blog…

Depends on if there’s an event. I’ve been working with sponsors on a lot of things lately, which is great, but if there’s an event like the Grammy’s [then I have to factor in] having to go there, video editing, things like that. Monthly, I’d say it can be anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000. But, thank God, I’m getting all this corporate money from sponsorships now [laughs]!

 

The biggest influences on my career are…

 

I love [New York radio personality] Angela Yee because she’s herself. She likes to wear $900 shoes, have a good time and it all works. She’s also a hustler–very ambitious and I like that. At times, I look at myself as the hip-hop Blossom because I wear so many different hats and it’s the same as [Yee]. She has her site, she’s on the radio, she does TV… I appreciate someone in entertainment who’s similar to me but on a higher plateau, but it doesn’t feel like it. Usually it’s hard for females in the same field to be okay with one another, but she’s not like that at all. Another person is [Funkmaster] Flex. Whether you like him or not he’s making sure that he stays relevant, that he’s No. 1 and that’s still pushing his content. He never gets old and that’s exactly where I want my brand to be. Him and Angela Yee, they just do it for me. They’re two wonderful people that I watch on a daily basis and kind of implement certain things they do into my business life and it’s working.

 

My blog stand out from others in the same space because…

KarenCivil.com is going to give you great, curated content–from the interviews to things that are happening in the culture–and we’re always going to have that Civil voice. As things are happening, we’ll make sure to have that insight people may not necessarily know… It’s not about posting XYZ song first, it’s about telling the story. Where did they record it? Why did they put it out? Who was in the room when they recorded it? We like to tell a story from the fan’s perspective. It makes our posts that much better.

 

Having a Civil voice means…

Never having to step out your character to get things done. You’re being well received and getting the job done by being just you. It’s honestly about self-love. I love my opinion, but I don’t have to go crazy, I keep it civil. I keep it as humble as possible.

 

 

The biggest mistake I ever made in business was…

Trusting certain people. That’s something I wish I didn’t do early on because playing the favor game backfired. I remember going to this rapper’s site and he did a whole negative post [about me] all out of spite. This was someone I tried to help and now they’re sitting here making songs and blogs about sleeping with me? People who know me know it wasn’t true and people who didn’t know and believe it, their thoughts didn’t matter. I just let karma handle it. Cream rises to the top.

 

What I learned from that mistake was…

To say no more. I’m a lover of music so I’ll think something’s great, post the song and people assume that I’m their street team now! So when you don’t [post] they start getting on your [Twitter] mentions and emails like you did something wrong. I don’t owe anyone anything at all. Me and my team prefer to post things that cater to our fans.

 

The biggest hurdle I face as a woman in a male-dominated industry is…

People taking you serious and putting you in that friend realm where they’ll just overlook you. It’s all about working hard and proving yourself. Through time I eventually got Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Wale exclusives. People gave me things because they felt like I deserved it and now I don’t have to put in those calls and requests because they just want to give it to me.

Networking is important in the digital space because…

The crazy thing is that I’m an anti-social person in a social world. I don’t like to be out all the time getting free drinks and standing on couches. I get motivated to go somewhere by seeing if there’s three to five reasons to my benefit. For instance, I recently went to a Diesel dinner so I asked myself, “Why am I going to this?” One, advertisement–they’re working on a new female campaign, and it would be great for them to run ads on my site. Second, it’s a new female denim line, so maybe I can be a correspondent, maybe they can use Karen Civil in a look book or sponsor my site with something. Third, it was an intimate dinner, so obviously the people chosen are maybe people I should be meeting, a great opportunity to network for the first and second points. I’m calculated.

 

The biggest lesson I learned about branding in the digital space is…

People want to be everything to everyone and that’s not necessarily going to help you in terms of engagement and impressions. I call it the Kim Kardashian Effect, no disrespect to her, but she puts her name on everything. My brand is not giving everyone that cosign. I look at KarenCivil.com as very premium and I don’t ever want to cheapen it. Giving the stamp early on to artists like Drake, J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle–people who have gone on to be great–that reminds me.

 

The best piece of business advice I ever got was…

‘You do it ’cause you love it.’ Even if I wasn’t getting this traffic or attention, I’d still want to blog. That’s just how I see it. So if someone doesn’t credit me or I get overlooked for an interview, that’s not going to stop me from wanting to post and wanting to continue help magnify this culture.

 

 

 

 

 

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