Simmons ‘Grinds’ Into Social Media

Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons is ramping up efforts to increase visibility of his latest venture in the digital realm,, a social media Website launched in January 2008.

An online hub for the hip hop community, the site gathers content including political coverage, sports news, and gossip from across the Web. Simmons calls it the “Huffington Post of Hip Hop.” And like the information aggregator created by political socialite Arianna Huffington, Global Grind is increasing its celebrity-driven content with blogs from a bevy of hip-hop heavyweights. Simmons will also serve as the sites editor-in-chief, selecting content to be featured on the site.

“We decided on the celebrity aspect because in speaking to Russell we realized that celebrities wanted a place to share their thoughts and opinions with their audience and each other,” said CEO Navarrow Wright. “We know the community wants a way to connect with the real side of the celebrities they see everyday. Celebs have embraced online currently more than ever,” Wright said at a New York news conference Wednesday.

The panel was comprised of some of the featured bloggers, along with Simmons; rapper and actor LL Cool J; Kevin Liles, executive vice president of Warner Music Group; Toccara, model and show host;and burgeoning entrepreneurs Vanessa and Angela Simmons, among others.

An additional feature to Global Grind will help bloggers monetize their sites. Similar to Google AdSense, Global Grind will assist bloggers in obtaining advertisers, thus generating revenue. “Over 40 sites have joined, and the number is steadily growing,” Wright said.

The site reaches more than 1 million unique visitors per month and is partnered with more than 35 publisher sites.

“Social media creates a real dialog,” Simmons said at the news conference. “It can play a major role in shifting the public consciousness,” he said, as the site allows users to favorite or “grind” stories they deem interesting.

The site was developed by Wright, former chief technology officer at Black Entertainment Television (BET). Since its inception, the site has undergone a number of facelifts. It was first started with initial investments from Simmons and Accel Partners. Wright would not disclose how much revenue it generates.

“As bad as the economy is, the Internet is still flourishing,” Wright said. “We have the opportunity to put advertisers and businesses in front of their core audience.”