When MySpace isn't black enough: BlackPlanet.com


There's no denying the appeal of demographically focused media outlets like BET, Lifetime, and SpikeTV to potential advertisers. So whether you're selling products for black people (BET) , women (Lifetime), or gangly teenage boys (SpikeTV), you can exploit a specific vertical media outlet that will expose your product to more of the people you are concerned with selling to.

As we enter the age of social networking, we begin to look at demographic focus in a slightly different manner. Because of database and user profile technologies, it's possible for a single social media outlet, such as MySpace, to provide access to many different tightly-defined demographic consumer groups who are participants in the social network.

Now, instead of dedicating the entire media property to a particular interest group, the social network operator can identify communities of special interest, of a specific race or gender, or of a particular religious background, making very appealing advertising opportunities available. Those who are pushing products aren't so much advertising any more, as they are merely participating in the network that serves their vertical.

Nevertheless, somebody at a company called Community Connect has decided that the approach employed by television network BET (that is, branding an entire media property around a certain race) remains the way to go. And apparently, over one million American blacks agree with them. BlackPlanet.com is a social networking site that is patronized primarily by African-Americans. The site has little to differentiate it from other social networking sites, although there are certainly a few cute innovations here (like BlackPlanet's Secret Admirer feature, a twist on Facebook's "poke").

Community Connect also runs MiGente.com, which is being pushed towards Latino-Americans, and AsianAve.com, which is being pushed towards Asian-Americans. Can these vertically-oriented social sites survive in a Facebook world? Having a million members is certainly a good start. So is carving out a meaningful niche--it appears BlackPlanet has done both.

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