Media Giant Targets Blacks
Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
NEW YORK (AP) â€” When Africana.com launched on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday last year, the company cast itself as a maverick effort to draw black Americans to the Internet.
But the Web site surrendered its independence Thursday in exchange for a deal its founders say will ensure that goal is met, agreeing to being acquired by Time Warner Inc. and turned into a keystone of the media giant's bid to target black consumers.
The deal could soon lead to content from Time Warner's magazines and music library appearing on the Web site. It could also give Africana.com greater distribution through America Online Inc., the nation's largest Internet service provider, when AOL's acquisition of Time Warner is completed, executives at both companies said.
``My goal is to get more and more black people using the Internet and that's Time Warner's goal as well,'' said Henry Louis Gates Jr., a noted Harvard University professor who is co-founder and chairman of Africana.com.
The site is valuable to Time Warner because, together, the companies will be able to develop new means of reaching black households, said spokesman Edward Adler. Neither company disclosed terms of the deal.
The deal calls for Gates and co-founder Kwame Anthony Appiah to stay on as consultants and run the site, whose 20 employees will continue to be based in Cambridge, Mass. Gates said Africana.com will stick with its business plan of generating revenue by seeking sponsorships rather by running advertising.
Africana.com went online early last year offering articles on the history and culture of the African diaspora, educational materials and services like Radio Africana, which links consumers to live feeds from 80 black radio stations worldwide.
The site set out to become the leading black portal on the Internet, and it now draws more than 500,000 monthly visits from viewers and more than 50,000 people use its free e-mail service.
Gates said that Africana.com was not looking to sell, but Time Warner approached them with an opportunity worth seizing, he said.
``What we gain in terms of resources just catapults us into a potential leadership position as a black portal on the Internet and that's exactly where wanted to be,'' Gates said.
Adler said the site would complement Time Warner's existing effort to cater to black consumers. He pointed to the black artists signed to the company's record labels, programs like the Chris Rock Show on the company's HBO cable network,and a deal with Essence Communications to develop magazines or other ventures together specifically geared to African-Americans.
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