Is There Such A Thing As A Black Female 'Voice'?

Essence magazine has announced plans to re-launch Essence.com and make it a daily destination for African-American women 18 to 49 years old. Two media units of Time Warner are teaming up with the 38-year-old magazine: Warner Brothers Television Group (Extra) and Telepictures Productions (The Tyra Banks Show). The number of African-American internet users is expected to grow to 25 million in 2011, up from 19.6 million in 2006, and advertisers are taking note: according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, African-Americans will spend $1.1 trillion in 2011, up from $799 billion in 2006. While it's great that the industry recognizes that black people (gasp!) use computers, can one website hope to capture this "under-served" market?

"Survey after survey has shown there isn't enough content reaching African-American women," says Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications. "African-American women say they are looking for more content reflecting their voice and lifestyle. This partnership gives us the opportunity." The problem: Is there an African-American voice and lifestyle? I'm black and I never watch Oprah or Girlfriends (although my mom loves Girlfriends). My brother doesn't watch basketball (my friend Jonathan, who's Jewish, does). I have black friends with no interest in Tyra Banks and an Asian friend who loves her. Are the people who read Essence the same people who read Sister 2 Sister, Vibe and Black Enterprise? It's like targeting "women" with a site like Shine. Are they working women? Moms? Single women? Beauty-obsessed women? Bitter women? Does being a woman mean you automatically give a shit about Kate Bosworth? (I'll answer that one: No.) Black women come in a myriad of tastes, styles and voices. Can a website attract all black women? It'll be interesting to see them try.

Essence Enlists Warner To Reach Black Women On Web [Crains]
Essence Mag Uses Some Synergy to Turn Past Printed Page [AdAge]
Essence Magazine To Go Multiplatform [MediaWeek]
Overhaul for Web Site of Essence Magazine [NY Times]