Black Is The New Search: Barry Diller's IAC Launches Its First Home Grown Business - A Black Search Site
About a year ago, Internet mogul Barry Diller appointed Johnny C. Taylor Jr. president and CEO of a new business group at his IAC corporation called Black Web Enterprises Inc. Mr Taylor was previously head of human resources at IAC, which owns large Internet properties such as Ask.com, Match.com, LendingTree, Ticketmaster and 54 other leading Internet brands.
Black Web Enterprises is the first business to be created by IAC rather than acquired. I met with Mr Taylor recently and he explained the background to tomorrow's launch of a new search site: Rushmore Drive targeted at the Black Internet user.
"We felt that the Black community could be better served by the Internet and so we carried out a lot of focus groups. We found that Black people in the US do a lot of search, they look at news, and they look for jobs. Out of that work we decided to launch a search site called Rushmore Drive that offers mainstream search but also something extra for the Black community." It also has its own editorial department staffed by journalists, and a jobs site where people can also network similar to LinkedIn."
Is "Black" considered a good designation? "Yes, Black designates a large number of people. Barry Diller asked why we didn't use the term "Afro-American. First of all, "afro" is a hair style and secondly there are many people such as those from the Caribbean that don't identify themselves as African-American."
IAC estimates that there are 40 million African-Americans and an additional 20 million people who fall under the designation "Black."
Suspicious of a Black web...
I asked if there was a suspicion by the Black community about a search site focused on them, because there have been many cases where minorities paid more for cars, loans, etc.
"It's interesting. When we ran focus groups I was surprised that there was a lot of suspicion from people about a large corporation targeting the Black community, because I don't really pay much attention to being Black myself. I was watching a lot of hostility through a two-way mirror. But when I stepped into the room and people could see me, they immediately changed their attitude and were much more welcoming of the idea. They also told us that they want great search, they don't want just a bunch of Black targeted search results."
Not a Black Ask...
Mr Taylor said that the site is not a Black version of Ask.com. It provides high quality search results plus more. The term Black is hardly used on the site and it won't be used in marketing or advertising.
Radio ad spots will be targeted at Black audiences only in the sense that a radio station has a Black audience, and not in the advertising message itself. "It's important to be inclusive," Mr Taylor says.
The search site's name Rushmore Drive is based on the address of the business group, located on 1115 Rushmore Drive, in Charlotte, North Carolina. "It's like Rodeo Drive, it is a classy name." Classy is an important quality, Mr Taylor says, which is why the right type of advertiser is important.
"I could have tripled my first year numbers from just one advertiser that wanted to be part of the site but I turned down the business because I did not like the association with the product." Mr Taylor declined to name the advertiser (I would guess it could be a malt liquor brand) and said he wanted top advertisers such as Gucci and Ferragamo.
A Black Linkedin...
Part of the job search at Rushmore Drive is a network feature similar to Linkedin. "One of the first things Black people ask each other is which church do you go to, and what professional associations do you belong to," Mr Taylor says. Those two answers are key to the networking feature on the site.
News on the site will come from mainstream sources but there is also an editorial department with Black writers that will engage users in discussions around topics that are of importance to that community.
"For example, the recent death of R&B singer Sean Levert was a big deal in the Black community but it didn't make much news elsewhere. We would promote that news and also discuss why he was in prison for failing to pay child support. We would look at the issue of paying child support in the Black community and not shy away from uncomfortable issues," Mr Taylor says.
IAC is investing many millions of dollars in this first home grown business. "I can't say how much we are investing. Barry Diller told me to make sure that we build a quality product. I can tell you that it's not cheap setting up a search site, I've got a large group of engineers and also a large group of marketing people."
It is certainly new territory for a search site. And maybe it will spur the development of other search sites focused on specific types of users. For example, I recently wrote about the possibility of an Apple branded search site.
Mr Taylor's challenge will be to demonstrate how Rushmore Drive can provide a better search experience that is inclusive while at the same time exclusive in its strong focus on the 60m strong Black community.
- - -
(Thanks to Steve Gillmor for the headline inspiration.)
Wall Street Journal April 18 2007
IAC Site to Court Minorities In Push Into Growing Sector
By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO
Time Warner Inc.'s AOL Black Voices offers news, videos and blogs that highlight prominent African-Americans, such as actress Halle Berry or presidential candidate Barack Obama. The site, which attracts about 3 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, according to comScore Networks Inc., also assembles articles on themes likely to resonate with the community.
BlackPlanet.com, operated by Community Connect Inc., is a social-networking site that aims to connect African-Americans over common interests and issues, such as the latest trends in black fashion and music. The site includes an online dating service and a job-search engine for employers.
Such sites have engendered significant loyalty among some African-Americans who find the rapport more relevant than what they get on other portals and social networking sites. "The vibe is just there," says Joseph Bell, 39 years old, of Jamaica, New York, who logs onto BlackPlanet.com almost daily to meet people who share his interests in music, entertainment and morals. "You just feel really comfortable."