Black Folks Monetizing Black Culture

I’m writing this while sitting in peace after listening to Seinabo Sey’s latest album, I’m a Dream. It’s a very strong project you should give a listen.

It’s fitting that album put me in good mood, because a recent interview media critic Jay Rosen did with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had me shaking my head.

Dorsey has been doing something of a press tour to provide more transparency into what the company is doing about things like abuse on the platform and improving engagement.

As Dorsey talked about new product ideas the platform was considering, he mentioned innovations that have emerged from #blacktwitter several times. #Blacktwitter isn’t monetizing the strategy it’s providing Twitter. There has got to be a way to change that not only on Twitter, but on Instagram, SnapChat and other platforms.

In saluting the McBride Sisters for their Black Girl Magic line of wines, Richelieu Dennis pointed out how dope it was for black people to monetize something from our culture.

I think platforms like Blavity and LOL Network could quickly crowdsource folks who create cool video and written content and pay them for content. iOne Digital and Revolt could do this as well. I could also see Macro Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures and New Voices Fund supporting folks who refine their craft and put out longer form content or build their own platforms.

What ideas do you have for how black folks can monetize the content we generate on social media platforms?

On Going Home to Ghana

Kwame Anthony Appiah’s excerpt on Amo Afer is fascinating. I had never heard of Amo Afer, a Nzema man, who became a philosopher in Germany in the 1700s. After gaining relative stature for his thinking, he decided to move back to his family’s village on the Gold Coast, a place he hadn’t been to since he was my daughter’s age.

The piece tugs on my heart desire to eventually spend a good chunk of my time back home. It also reminds me of my confusion with James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates who sought and found solace for their identity as black men in France, as opposed to an African country.

I recently met a man whose Nigerian mother and African-American father married in Nigeria back in the 70s. His 87-year old father just moved back to the U.S. after enjoying life in Nigeria for forty-plus years. I look forward to hearing his story and finding other African-American folks like him. It would be cool to tell their stories for other African-American folks to hear. I think there are a lot of us who wonder what it would look like for a critical mass of us to move to countries to the continent like Amo Afer.

What are your thoughts about moving to Africa?


What Happens When AI Meets Africa’s Demographic Boom?

Africa is projected to have more people at working age than the rest of the world’s population by 2035.

By 2045, artificial intelligence is projected to reach the singularity, where it will be self-improving rapidly rather than being dependent on human inputs.

On their own, these two developments are concerning. For years now, policymakers have braced themselves for what could happen once there’s this critical mass of working age folks in countries like Nigeria and South Africa with no jobs. I’ve heard the term “tinder box” more than I care to.

Artificial intelligence learning on its own is something very hard envision unless you want to leave that to your pick of scariest movie about AI. All of the advances we see in AI currently are still in the realm of supervised learning where humans input enormous amounts of data. Yet, AI is already able to some pretty incredible things. My Google Home is in constant use in my home for music, information, games, story time, and more.

What happens at the intersection of these two shifts? They’re supposed to happen within a decade of each other. Are African policymakers thinking about curriculum that could prepare their populations to be able to work alongside a robot?

For example, Rwanda, Kenya, and South Africa are investing a lot in growing their automotive manufacturing industries. The price of industrial robots is dropping rapidly and could make the development of those industries a lot more realistic. Just this year, Volkswagen and Nissan have launched assembly plants in Rwanda and Kenya respectively. Are the workers at these plants ready for an increased use of robots?

If you’ve seen examples of analysts and policymakers thinking through this issue, I’d appreciate you sending that info my way!

African Banks: 1920 vs. 2018

I’m working through “Negro With a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey,” and it’s fascinating to learn more about life in Jamaica during colonial times and Garvey’s experience trekking to Europe. While living in London, Garvey got a job at The African Times and Orient Reviewa paper published by Dusé Mohamed Ali. The paper carved out a reputation as unabashedly African nationalistic.

Ali was ambitious and launched a number of other initiatives outside of the paper. One of those in 1920 was an attempt to set up an independent bank in Ghana that would compete against European banks in West Africa. The venture wasn’t successful and got me thinking about Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa (UBA). This year, they got approval from Britain’s Prudential Regulation Authority to operate as a wholesale bank in Britain. The bank plans to use this approval facilitate trade finance deals in African markets. In 2018, UBA is the only African bank with this approval. That shouldn’t be the case and is a reminder of how much work there is still to do.

Top Podcasts of the Week – March 18-24

Here are some of my favorite podcasts from this week.

1. Uber Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John and Daymond John have a nice conversation about Bozoma’s origin story, her approach to work, diversity in the corporate world, among other topics.

Takeaway: Believe that you are attracting good outcomes, and act accordingly.

2. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman has a great conversation with Spanx founder Sara Blakely about how she got her big idea for Spanx.

Takeaway: Keep going.

3. My quest to scour the earth for every bit of information I can get my hands on about Axios’ business continues. Axios CEO Jim VandeHei (pictured above) provides a lot of helpful information in this conversation with Digiday

Takeaway: “Don’t ever tether your business to the benevolence of another company.”

What were some of your favorite podcasts from the past week?

Building a Diverse Newsroom

This tweet exposed the work Axios has to do to improve the diversity of its news room. It was jarring to see how few people of color the startup had working there at the time. Alexi McCammond, one of their top reporters, wasn’t in the shot, but that’s not much help.

If you click into the tweet, you’ll see folks going in on the lack of diversity at the startup. So, I was glad to see Axios partner with Howard to host one of their excellent Axios360 events. They recently hired a black journalist and I look forward to them making a concerted effort to adding more underrepresented journalists – of which I imagine this event is part of the strategy.

Building a newsroom is one of the things I’m most excited about in building CultureBanx. It’s been fantastic having Kori on board and I’ve got my eye on some other really talented business journalists. If we can execute on the vision for this thing, I’ll be able to recruit one of the most special news rooms out there.

Who are your favorite black business journalists?

Advertising vs. Subscriptions

In a world where advertising rules everything around me, how do I keep CultureBanx’s subscribers front and center while growing this business?

Financial news streaming startup, Cheddar, announced yesterday that they raised $22 million. As part of the announcement, they declared that they are doing away with paid subscriptions. My mind went back to their constant stream of infomercially Instagram posts. That’s one of their revenue streams. If you see anything close to that from CultureBanx, please throw something at me!

I want CultureBanx to resonate with what our readers want, even as we push forward on our planned revenue streams. Late last week, I heard a publisher state that a media business has to decide between paid subscriptions and advertising. You can’t do both well. I think the New York Times would beg to differ. I mean, they did $1B in paid subscription revenue last year, and they still advertise.

I want CultureBanx to reach black professionals around the world. I’m not convinced paid subscriptions is the way to accomplish that. But I love the concept of subscriptions focusing us on delivering for our readers. We’ve got a handful of paid subscribers we’re testing this with, and I think about them all the time. I email, text, call them to be sure the content is resonating.

Contrast that with an advertising partnership we’re working on. Our potential partner has some great ideas for content they’d like to share with our readership. I’ve got to be conscious to keep what I know of my readers wants in mind while shaping the partnership, but ultimately this potential partner is writing the check.

Now, expand that if we place display ads on CultureBanx’s website, allowing another company to place ads with us. While we would have some control there, I’ve seen some pretty troubling ads on reputable media companies’ sites. I don’t want that near us and I’ve got remain focused on our readers even when the advertising money looks tempting. At the same time, I want CultureBanx to reach a lot of professionals as quickly as possible.

Clearly, I’m still working through this in my head and conversations with readers and other entrepreneurs. I look forward to figuring it out!