Category Archives: Parikhal

AdAge.com: Do African-Americans Need a Separate Search Engine?

What Went Wrong With Rushmore Drive

As posted on AdAge.com today, an article co-written by Pepper Miller and John Parikhal:

RushmoreDrive.com, the first black search engine, recently shut down only a year after its launch. This raised the question about whether there is a market for a black version of Google.

Rushmore Drive was the brainchild of Barry Diller’s IAC, which just reported a “first-quarter net loss of $28.4 million compared to a profit of $52.8 million in the same quarter a year ago.”

Too bad. Rushmore’s failure is not only another negative statistic from the fallout of the economic downturn, but also from questionable planning.

Early on, several folks from both the black and mainstream blogosphere balked at the idea of Rushmore. Bloggers criticized Rushmore for being racist and separatist while others didn’t understand the concept at all. Additionally, a few questioned why IAC, whose focus is e-commerce websites, would even consider such an idea. Importantly, naysayers wondered how Rushmore would compete with the powerful Google brand?

At Hunter-Miller, we understand why and how Rushmore (and even Blackbird, the black web browser) traveled down that path. Many African-Americans — be they business owners who target African-American consumers, students or those who want a deeper understanding of black culture — look for specific black content, resources and stats. These black-consumer information searchers often complain that the web isn’t delivering. We discovered several types of African-American content that appeared on earlier pages of Rushmore’s site but appear a lot, lot later on Google and on Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. Thus, it appeared that Rushmore was better than Google at collecting, organizing and disseminating Black information.

There are some who are sorry to see Rushmore go.

Donna Smith-Bellinger, co-founder-VP of PCG Technology Services, a digital strategy company, says: “We need special search engines like Rushmore Drive to make it easier to identify and locate African-American information online. An African-American search engine not only helps other African Americans find Black-owned business websites, but it can also aid corporations looking for minority companies to hire.”

Additionally, Donald Moore, newly appointed president of Burrell Digital, added: “I believe that ethnic search engines have a place in the digital space. What I do question is how will they build scale and sustainable profitability?”

However, business strategist Jaclynn Topping doesn’t agree. After learning about Rushmore’s failure on Huffington Post, Topping questioned Rushmore’s strategy. “There was nothing missing [from using Google] as a Black person. The concept of a race-based search engine (or browser) is ridiculous, especially in the face of the move to open platforms. The world-wide-web is color-blind, gender-blind, disability-blind. No barriers. It’s all about the tag, keyword density and linking strategy. It’s the Internet’s greatest strength. What is Rushmore giving me? What’s Black about browsing?”

John Parikhal, co-author of this post, and an expert on both the internet and black consumer preferences, provides another perspective: “Rushmore’s failure is really about a lack of consumer understanding. They didn’t recognize the difference between search and engagement. Search usually starts with utility — just give me something I want. That’s what Google, Yahoo and Bing are fighting over. It has less to do with color. But engagement (which really makes ads work) is different. That’s where understanding Black America really pays off.”

~ ~ ~
John Parikhal is a “practical futurist” and consultant specializing in media strategy, marketing, research and consumer trends.

Pepper Miller is founder and president of the Hunter-Miller Group, Chicago.

A Look Ahead to 2009 From John Parikhal

Last month, fmqb published their year-end issue asking various media leaders their thoughts on the state of the radio industry. Here is what John Parikhal wrote:

The necessary steps the radio industry should take to ensure the future growth and viability of the business begins with low-hanging fruit: cheap and easy ways for radio to make more money.

1. Dump bad initiatives and start good ones: HD is DOA. Spend your time and energy tapping everyone except the most senior executives, who seem to spend too much time with each other and not enough in the trenches. Stop surrounding yourselves with `suck-ups’ who agree with bad ideas because they are afraid for their jobs.
2. Push hard for a 30-59 demo buy: For decades, radio has been driven by advertiser’s demands for 25-54. It’s so out of date. Get modern. Already, 16 million Baby Boomers are 55-59. They spend billions and radio ignores them. In the next four years, another 16 million will be 55-59. Meanwhile, 25-29 year-olds are less interested in radio than ever. Get real. And, if I hear `we can’t tell advertisers what to do’- stop acting like a victim.
3. Encode song ID: A simple, inexpensive fix. Make sure that when you play a song, the title shows up on car radios. iPod does it. Satellite does it. But some stations won’t spend the money, even though 50% of radio listeners want to know the titles each time they are played.
4. Tap into your 2.0 employees: Get serious about innovation. It’s usually `bottom up’. Radio has proven you can’t do it top down. The best ideas come from those closest to the customer. Put a process in place to listen to your employees who actually interact with your listeners and advertisers.
5. Advertise: Stop acting like poverty stricken corner stores who cut their ad budgets when sales are down. Act like serious players. Let people know what you’re doing, what’s new and why you matter. You have to spend the money! Build it into the budget and don’t cut it if times get a bit tough. Yes, it’s a financial crisis now. If you plan to be here in three years, you have to act like it now or you won’t be here in three years.
6. Learn about your customers: Do you know that fewer than 4% of your listeners ever text a radio station? Do you know that almost 25% of those who go to a station Web site are also listening to at least one other Internet-only station too? You learn this by researching your customers. I do a lot of market research for clients ranging from radio to Internet companies. The reason for the market research is because I learned 40 years ago that if you take your eye off the customer, they take their eye (and ear) off you.
7. Get serious about your Web site: Update at least every day. Optimize search. Make it easy to find the `listen’ button. Include a phone number in your `contact us’ information. Post lots of photos. Do usability testing.
8. Adapt to the new world: Drop the clichéd slogans and connect with the real world. Accept that 30+ listeners are the future for at least another 5-10 years and figure out how to make them really happy with you.

Leaders today have to find broadcasters who want to encourage younger people to come into the industry. Decide if you plan to be in business in three years. If you do, then stop getting rid of your intellectual capital like human beings who actually come up with the ideas and do the work. Without fresh blood, the industry will become almost completely networked and syndicated. At that point, it’s nothing more than a transmitter business. Like the oil pipeline business instead of the business of finding oil.

A Look Ahead to 2009 From John Parikhal

Last month, fmqb published their year-end issue asking various media leaders their thoughts on the state of the radio industry. Here is what John Parikhal wrote:

The necessary steps the radio industry should take to ensure the future growth and viability of the business begins with low-hanging fruit: cheap and easy ways for radio to make more money.

1. Dump bad initiatives and start good ones: HD is DOA. Spend your time and energy tapping everyone except the most senior executives, who seem to spend too much time with each other and not enough in the trenches. Stop surrounding yourselves with `suck-ups’ who agree with bad ideas because they are afraid for their jobs.
2. Push hard for a 30-59 demo buy: For decades, radio has been driven by advertiser’s demands for 25-54. It’s so out of date. Get modern. Already, 16 million Baby Boomers are 55-59. They spend billions and radio ignores them. In the next four years, another 16 million will be 55-59. Meanwhile, 25-29 year-olds are less interested in radio than ever. Get real. And, if I hear `we can’t tell advertisers what to do’- stop acting like a victim.
3. Encode song ID: A simple, inexpensive fix. Make sure that when you play a song, the title shows up on car radios. iPod does it. Satellite does it. But some stations won’t spend the money, even though 50% of radio listeners want to know the titles each time they are played.
4. Tap into your 2.0 employees: Get serious about innovation. It’s usually `bottom up’. Radio has proven you can’t do it top down. The best ideas come from those closest to the customer. Put a process in place to listen to your employees who actually interact with your listeners and advertisers.
5. Advertise: Stop acting like poverty stricken corner stores who cut their ad budgets when sales are down. Act like serious players. Let people know what you’re doing, what’s new and why you matter. You have to spend the money! Build it into the budget and don’t cut it if times get a bit tough. Yes, it’s a financial crisis now. If you plan to be here in three years, you have to act like it now or you won’t be here in three years.
6. Learn about your customers: Do you know that fewer than 4% of your listeners ever text a radio station? Do you know that almost 25% of those who go to a station Web site are also listening to at least one other Internet-only station too? You learn this by researching your customers. I do a lot of market research for clients ranging from radio to Internet companies. The reason for the market research is because I learned 40 years ago that if you take your eye off the customer, they take their eye (and ear) off you.
7. Get serious about your Web site: Update at least every day. Optimize search. Make it easy to find the `listen’ button. Include a phone number in your `contact us’ information. Post lots of photos. Do usability testing.
8. Adapt to the new world: Drop the clichéd slogans and connect with the real world. Accept that 30+ listeners are the future for at least another 5-10 years and figure out how to make them really happy with you.

Leaders today have to find broadcasters who want to encourage younger people to come into the industry. Decide if you plan to be in business in three years. If you do, then stop getting rid of your intellectual capital like human beings who actually come up with the ideas and do the work. Without fresh blood, the industry will become almost completely networked and syndicated. At that point, it’s nothing more than a transmitter business. Like the oil pipeline business instead of the business of finding oil.

Transitions in Media Trend Watching

Recently, the Jointblog passed 500,000 total page views to our site – and we are less than 3 years old. It’s hard to believe that our site is older than YouTube.

This blog was started and developed by Chris Kennedy as a way to focus on Media Trend Watching – a core competency at Joint Communications.

It surfs the wave between pop culture and business insight, a world of instant fame or shame where old media power is challenged by new media behaviors. There’s never a dull moment.

After working with me for over 15 years, Chris decided to return to his first love — radio — joining Corus Entertainment, a multi-media leader in old and new media, as Program Director of Montreal’s Q92.

Chris has kindly agreed to continue the Jointblog so that we can keep an eye on media trends – big or small – from NBC’s rearguard action against Apple (refusing them content) to YouTube’s unpredictable effect on the upcoming Presidential elections.

And, the most significant trend we’re watching right now is the digital divide – the gap between those who are online (especially with high speed connections) and those who aren’t. America’s lagging behind many developed countries in broadband per capita, including South Korea and Iceland.

The beauty of today’s digital world means Chris and I will maintain our high-speed association with one another — efficiently transitioning us from the Joint connection to a new digital connection.