Wasow directs movement of Blackplanet

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Who: Omar Wasow, 29, was a pioneer in the world of Internet communities: He began tinkering with online bulletin board systems in the 1980s at the age of 12. Today he is the executive director of Community Connect's BlackPlanet.com, an African-American oriented site launched in September. Community Connect also operates AsianAvenue.com. Mr. Wasow estimated BlackPlanet's traffic at 100,000 visits per day.

Strategy: "Most sites targeting African-Americans are designed to connect you to information, while our goal has always been connecting people to other people," Mr. Wasow said.

Tactic: Competition among Web sites targeting ethnic consumers is becoming intense, but BlackPlanet.com differentiates itself by integrating users' feedback into content. For example, more than 225,000 visitors to the site have supplied detailed information used for marketing and shaping content. In exchange for the information, BlackPlanet.com offers each visitor the chance to create a personalized Web page within the site.

"We want to become the place people go to learn more about using the Web by giving them the tools," Mr. Wassow said.

Challenge: BlackPlanet already has achieved strong awareness through word of mouth and limited online advertising. Now it plans to build a strong platform of sponsors. Advertisers on board include BellSouth Corp., General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Army. Several others are expected to be named soon.

"Our growth has primarily been `viral' as we've gotten noticed and word has spread about the power of our content. When we do advertising, it is very targeted," Mr. Wasow said.

Last fall BlackPlanet.com toured colleges and universities with a high percentage of black students. This spring, BlackPlanet will do it again with "The Heavy Rotation College Tour," visiting 15 colleges from April 5 through May 11. It will promote its site and give away free copies of a music CD featuring songs by popular artists, as well as "our users, creating a real two-way street of creativity between our site and the real world, giving our site visitors exposure and a chance to be heard," Mr. Wasow said.

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