by Latoya Peterson
Recently, I did an interview with Mike Green, titled “Media, Entrepreneurship, and Birth of a New Nation.”
Mike had asked me about what the ultimate goal was for Racialicious. It’s a tough question to answer, since it’s such an evolving space. Here’s what I said:
[T]here’s not enough minority-controlled media. There just isn’t. There aren’t that many spaces controlled by minorities, controlled by women that have the power to push back and have the power to discuss issues that are critical to us. To look at things through a different lens. There’s tremendous power in that. In being able to have a stage and to use it for what you will.
So I found myself shifting a bit. At first, my goals were to be financially comfortable, eke out a living and have a job I didn’t hate that was flexible. And now it seems like there’s a bigger responsibility in that I’ve been able to acquire this huge platform and grow it. Now I’m asking, “OK, What can we really do with this?”
Can we provide people with the job training they need? Because that’s one of those things people are up against. They don’t have experience. They don’t have training. They don’t have their first published clips. Can we be that for some people? Can we grow this into something larger? Can we grow this into a media company?
So, I think that’s the direction we’re moving. What does this new media marketplace look like? What does entrepreneurship in media look like online? I feel like there’s tremendous potential in this space to do it.
Q: Why is it important for there to be more Black-owned media and, in particular, women-owned?
A: One reason is the corporate control of media in general: media consolidation. Just the fact there are thousands of media outlets but when you start tracing it’s really owned by basically eight people. (laughs) There just a few companies that control about 85 percent of what you watch and see. And there’s just a few families in control. It’s a small number, maybe 40 or so that have access into the ridiculous range of how we consume media.
And since media is how we understand ourselves and society, media helps to project not only things that provide understanding, like the news, but also projects things that stereotype. And so the media is this very powerful tool and it’s really disconcerting that there aren’t that many institutions dedicated to representing minorities in a fair light.
And the employment practices also reflect that. There’s always a very dismal representation (percentages) of minorities on television, radio and news. It doesn’t matter the format. It’s all the same problem. It keeps going.
So when you have minority-owned organizations, you can help not only become a pipeline for people to receive training to move on, but also as an alternative voice. And you can use that very powerfully.
There was a lot to be said for BET, despite how it’s been in the last 10 years or so. Because Bob Johnson was able to create that from scratch and Cathy Hughes is trying to do that with TV One and Radio One, the One Network. We really want to grow that and have it broader and have something that really reflects the new America.
The America we’re growing into in 2050, which is multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. And seeing that reflected, we should not have to wait for anybody else to lower the gate to allow us in. We should be able to make things on our own terms.
Q: And you see the Internet as a gateway?
A: Oh yeah. Now, that gateway is closing. Because just like anything that’s been seen as profitable, it starts getting corporatized. There’s all these battles around net neutrality. It’s got a huge impact because, once again, if corporations control the Internet the way they control the airwaves and media, we’ll have the same problem with very little minority representation, very few things being made for and directed toward people of color. The things we want to make, programs, news items, whatever … things that impact our communities being marginalized because they don’t feel it appeals to a mainstream demographic.
But that’s not the case right now. I feel like if there’s enough of us making a concerted effort to change it, then it won’t be the case.
Q: It sounds like when you speak of corporate media, you’re saying these are the White power brokers.
A: Well, that’s more of a function of how our society was set up.
For a long time only White people were allowed to access these corridors of power. And then it expanded a little bit to include others types of White people. There wasn’t a shot for anyone else.
And while we created small things, like the African American newspapers, African American-focused media played a huge role in reporting on segregation and things like that when White newspapers would not report on it.
And when you look at things like the Ebony-Jet archives … when you look at this huge wealth of knowledge … this was Black life, then. And you can see how much of our history has actually been erased just because there was nobody documenting it. It (Black life) wasn’t treated as important as, for example, the New York Times archives.
If the Google project had never come by and scanned all of that and made it available, it would be lost. And I think of the dozens of African American papers that were doing amazing things, that may now be sitting in someone’s basement in a box. They’re fading. These are pieces of our history we won’t get back. And this will continue to happen until we have equitable treatment in media. [...]
[Ed Note: Here, Mike asks a bit about the projected side of the growth of Racialicious - revenue, dollar amounts, target readership, etc. - LDP]
For Racialicious, the philosophical side of who we are is everything we do. And we have a lot of really weird beliefs. We’re not hostile to capitalism, but we don’t necessarily embrace it. So having projections and world takeover stuff … I don’t know … it’s not what we’re looking at.
We’ve noticed there isn’t an Internet revenue model. All the revenue models (new media) are based upon what people were doing with print. There’s the magazine revenue model with subscriptions and ads. Or there’s the newspaper model with ads and the occasional subscription. You pay for the archives. And there are some people trying to do other things with grant funding, which means you’re at the mercy of whatever your funding foundation is. We decided we’re not going to do that.
So, right now, we’re in this really interesting exploratory phase in terms of what does it mean to try and make money on the Internet and not have a financial backer?
We’ve operated on no budget and no cash all this time. Our money was wrapped up in the extra stuff we’ve been able to do. If Carmen got a speaking gig, that was money that fed the blog. It was loosely unorganized around teams of volunteers who cared enough about it to do it.
We’re now trying to create a sustainable funding model for people who are into the greater good and social justice in media. Because there isn’t that big of a market for advertisers on anti-racist websites. There isn’t that much money in it.
So we’re trying to figure out what’s the magic formula. What is the composition that will allow you to sustain yourself and grow? Is it consulting? Is it a combination of consulting and ads? Is it consulting ads and grants? What is it that allows you to have your blog and your mission, and have you meet that; and at the same time, you’re sustained, your employees are sustained and we’re growing from that?
We’re not aiming to be a corporation. We’re aiming to facilitate a way for other folks to be sustained while doing something they love, considering journalism is crumbling, the traditional media industry is crumbling and these things no longer have a designated career path. So we’re kind of just pushing our way along and seeing where it goes.
But that answer is a bit vague – so I wanted to share a bit more into the behind the scenes stuff. As part of our fund raiser, I also want to provide a service to readers, being able to go behind the scenes of the blogging/writing world and understand things like:
- The issues surrounding monetizing a blog
- Becoming a non-profit, with 501(c)3 status vs. becoming incorporated vs. being a non-entity
- Other ways people can leverage their blogs into income
- The current issues with advertising based profit models
- The issues that social justice blogs in particular face
- The situation in commercial and public media
- New ways of thinking around the web
- Opportunities for niche media
Starting next week, we’ll reveal a bit of the behind the scenes stuff. If you have any special requests, let me know.
And, if this information is useful to you, please consider making your $2 pledge to support Racialicious.
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