Ways to support independent Black voices

MSR Editorial

By Troy Johnson

Guest Commentator


The digital divide, or the disparity between internet adoption rates between various groups, has been a topic of conversation since the internet became a commercial entity two decades ago. There is a great deal of warranted concern about the long-term impact on those unable to easily gain access to the internet.

In recent years, due in part to smart phone use, the disparity in internet access has narrowed. However, there are problems looming which makes the digital divide look like a minor inconvenience.

The most pernicious problem is the lack of diversity in the information we can easily discover online. For a casual observer or someone new to the web, this may not appear to be a significant problem because one can’t know what is unknown. However, as a keen observer of the World Wide Web for almost 20 years the impact has been devastating — particularly when it comes to Black owned, independent, content producers.

Try this experiment: Search for a news story on the recent 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Did a single story from a Black-owned newspaper or website come up on the first page of results, the second or even the third? It is worth noting, only six percent of searchers click on the second page of search results.

One can make the case that newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times or The Guardian (which topped my results) have more resources and therefore should be at the top of one’s search results. However, I’d argue that the coverage of this seminal event in Black culture by the local reporters of The Afro-American (www.afro.com), District Chronicles (www.districtchronicles.com or the Washington Informer (http://washingtoninformer.com) newspapers deserve to be returned higher in the search results.

The difficulty in discovering the websites of Black-owned newspapers has a direct and adverse impact on the viability of these newspapers. Conversely, search engines support large websites by returning the largest sites highest in search results — contributing to their growth. It does not matter whether search engines and big sites are deliberately colluding. The results are clear, Black independent websites are buried too deeply in the search results to be easily found.

Fortunately there are many things we can do to counteract this problem. Indeed the very tools which are crowding out independent Black websites can be used to uplift and support them. We just have to be willing to do something.

Here are five things you can do today:


1. Add the Huria search engine to your website (http://huria.org/able/public-search.html)

Huria Search is actually driven by a fee-based version of the Google search engine. Paying the fee allows me to strip out sponsored search results, eliminating all advertising. The results are curated — only independent, Black-owned websites are returned.


2. Add a list of Black-owned newspapers to your website using www.huria.org/newspapers

You can provide a valuable resource to your visitors by adding this database of independent newspapers who have a website, and are a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, NNPA, at www.nnpa.org. These newspapers are important because they provide local coverage of news that is relevant to the Black community.

3. Add Black-owned book stores to your website (http://aalbc.it/BookStores)

This resource is actually a full-blown website. Give your visitors the ability to search for an independent bookstore by state or name by displaying a feature rich website showing business hours, social media, video, directions, photos and more, all dynamically updated.

4. Add the Book Look to your website (http://huria.org/able/the-book-look.html)

The Book Look is a rapidly growing and popular online video program about Black books, authors, events and more. The Book Look video is updated twice a month. You simply place the code and we do the rest.

5. Add the Power List Best-Selling Books to Your Website (www.huria.org/powerlist)

The Power List is the only national bestsellers list focused on books written or read by African Americans. The Power List accumulates data on these books and compiles that information into a quarterly best-selling books list. It is a joint project established by AALBC.com, Cushcity.com and Mosaicbooks.com. “The Power List” is published four times per year, in the spring, summer, fall and winter.


Troy Johnson is president and founder of AALBC.com, LLC.