Automotive is the leading advertising category on African-American sites, followed by package-goods; financial services and fashion marketers are close behind according to the leading Web sites who note traffic is heavily skewed to women with children and above average incomes who have a penchant for online shopping.
A PLACE TO SHOP
"Shopping is important to African-Americans, and now we're seeing that compared to white consumers, blacks use the Internet more for gathering information about products and shopping than for leisure, indicating there's a huge e-commerce opportunity out there for marketers willing to go after them," says Hal Quinley, exec VP at Yankelovich Partners, which just completed a study of African-American's attitudes toward computer and Internet issues.
The study revealed that 39% of Internet-connected African-Americans have household incomes exceeding $50,000; 34% have attended some college and 44% are between 24 and 49 years old. About 23% of African-Americans surveyed have access to the Internet, compared with 37% of white consumers, according to the study. The study also shows 14% of Internet-connected African-Americans usually shop online at least once a month, vs. 5% of white Internet users surveyed.
But just as advertiser support arrives, competition among the top black-oriented sites is heating up and new sites are mushrooming daily, creating fears of cannibalization of African-American Internet audiences within the category.
The Internet search engine EverythingBlack.com now lists more than 4,000 African-American sites, double the number tracked last February, with thousands more expected to debut in the next few years, says Patrick McElroy, CEO of Freedom Group, the site's operator. EverythingBlack.com has no site-specific advertisers, offering a mixture of ads from an New York-based Internet aggregate media buying agency Venture Direct, but Mr. McElroy says the site will have its own advertisers starting next year.
Launched in early 1997 with a listing of 300 black-oriented sites, EverythingBlack plans its first ad campaign next year (an agency has not been named yet).
"We need more quality sites to come into the African-American space to grow the category, but there's a chance that a plethora of new sites coming in just to capitalize on commercial opportunities will cannibalize existing sites," says Barry Cooper, president of Tribune Co.'s BlackVoices.com, an early site that only began drawing advertisers last year.
Boasting a huge reach of more than 20 million online page views per month, BlackVoices.com has advertisers including GM, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Chase Bank and P&G aboard plus a sales force of 29. BlackVoices.com claims an estimated 20 million page views per month.
BlackVoices.com is now on a mission to raise $25 million from investors by yearend, which it plans to pour into promotion next year through a variety of channels including Tribune Co.'s 19 local TV stations and several radio stations.
But newcomers are making fast moves behind BlackVoices.com. BlackFamilies.com, launched last January by Cox Interactive Media, is another fast-growing site with key sponsors including Colgate, P&G and American Express Co.
COLGATE JUMPS IN
"By sponsoring major areas of the BlackFamilies.com site, we want to reach these African-American women with kids who are smart, savvy and make most of the household decisions about purchases," says Phyllis Woolley, Colgate's director of African-American marketing. Colgate also is developing content for African-Americans on its own web site (www.colgate.com).
She adds that online, "blacks who sometimes feel uncomfortable shopping at malls are free to explore and express themselves without fear of prejudice, expanding their shopping opportunities."
BlackPlanet.com, operated by Community Connect, was established in September and advertisers include GM and Fleet Bank.
The industry is watching as BET Holdings prepares to unveil BET.com. Backed by $35 million from Microsoft Corp., News Corp. and USA Networks.
"BET.com could be a real plus for the category if it brings in more African-American Internet users," says Mr. Cooper.