At a recent meeting, a representative from Verizon and a former BET executive were discussing the seeming contradiction between the fact that African American males were early adapters of mobile technology, yet have a very low rate of posting videos on internet sites such as BET.Com and Youtube.
BET tested the waters with two experiments. One involved fashion/entertainment and the other involved politics. Neither resulted in a flurry of posts, such as the ones MTV receives when it puts out a call for videos.
What makes this interesting is that by all accounts African American males are not only early adapters, but also the mobile technology has a high rate of penetration in that community. So the failure to post cannot be blamed on the digital divide of either race or class.
In some ways this reminds me of newspapers and ad agencies first forays into Spanish language content. Both industries simply translated their product directly from English to Spanish, without taking into account cultural differences. Since then, most businesses have learned that much can be lost in translation and you have to tailor the product for the audience.
The question arises, is this happening here, and are we missing a valuable opportunity to look at how the web can bring us closer together.
Part of the genius of this current time period is that technology is being invented to do one thing and then used to do another. Think of the USB flash drive. Originally invented for data transfer between computers, now commonly used by friends to swap their music collection, circumventing the music industry’s old business model.
Now that we know what African American males are not doing with mobile technology, perhaps the time has come to learn what they are doing with it. At the least, the ensuing discussion will be interesting and it very well may yield new models of spreading news that we would not otherwise have thought of.
Would love to hear from you if you have any insights and/or answers.