Is a Search Engine for African-Americans a Step Backwards?



Last week, IAC introduced a new search engine, Rushmore Drive, aimed at the roughly 12.4 million African-Americans online in the US.

My question for any African-American reader–and anyone else who has an opinion–do you really want such a search engine?

Moving to the US from England, I’m constantly learning about ethnic divides that were not as apparent between blacks and whites in the UK. So, just when I thought I had it all figured out–we’re one America and there should be no segregation/segmentation based on the color of our skin–Rushmore Drive launches.

So, comments are open and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • http://www.tealmontgomery.com Steve Teal

    This is ridiculous! So if I wanted to be listed in their search engine I’d have to be African American or have services for the black community? I agree this is a step towards “online segregation” especially because the use of search engines have not typically been racially targeted. It seems to be a scheme for Advertisers in the black community to get a more targeted audience. This search engine brings up a lot of issues that need to be addressed.
    ~Steve

  • http://www.thinkseer.com/blog/ Wil Reynolds

    Beal my man, you are off here.

    “Just when I thought I had it all figured out–we’re one America and there should be no segregation/segmentation based on the color of our skin–Rushmore Drive launches.”

    This is about marketing dude, you know that. Products and services have been marketed to people of different wealths, races, sexual orientations, etc. BET for instance makes sense.

    However this idea is awful, for once simple reason…relevancy.

    People, regardless of color, wealth, sexual orientation, height, etc want relevant results.

    Would I be more likely to use this search engine because I am black – YES – if it did a better job than Google. Which it won’t do, because if they could do a better job than Google they would not focus their search on one race and instead do for do it for the whole world – thus increasing revenues.

    If this is a portal then fine, a search engine? STUPID!

    If I type in a query I want the best result, searching for a coupon or a medication? Just get me the best result, I don’t want coupons only for blacks or only black doctors to return in my results for a medication.

    Let me go short IAC, they are reaching for straws!

  • http://www.thinkseer.com/blog/ Wil Reynolds

    I just meant you were off on that quote. Not everything else.

  • reginold

    as with all else it’s only segregationist if it’s white only….you should know that by now

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Brick Marketing

    We agree that if you’re going to target products or services to a certain race, a search engine simply isn’t a type of thing that should be geared towards one race. Creating this search engine could be considered “racist” in itself to some?

  • http://treatmentsearch.co.uk rishil

    How is the search engine that differentiates by race or colour its results any different from an offline magazine or directory targetted at the same niche?

    From a marketing point of view its a good idea – its niche marketing.

  • http://www.arthurfreydin.com Arthur Freydin

    I agree with Wil – a portal, yes; a search engine, no.

    Networks like BET and other online portals geared to that demographic are very successful. In the same way the Forbes targets successful [predominantly] white businessmen, a portal that targets black individuals can certainly see success.

    A search engine, on the other hand, just doesn’t make sense. I wonder if their algorithm takes into account the type of people that are performing searches. Is “black” news and portals receiving higher relevancy scores to begin with?

  • http://www.copywritingace.com nourisha

    i agree with wil that this is all about marketing. i don’t see how it’s any different from a search engine that targets women and all of the results are relevant to women. or any other niche for that matter. i’m a brown woman and i’m not upset by it. i think it would be nice to do a search for blood pressure medication, skin care or breast cancer and get results relevant to african americans because research has shown that blacks are affected very differently by those things. but i can just as easily do a similar search on a regular search engine for black high blood pressure medication, black skin care or black women and breast cancer and potentially get the same results. so, it’s not necessary in my opinion but it’s not the racial coup that you are thinking it to be. and i like the idea of it being more portal than search engine. but aren’t all search engines based as portals now-a-days?

  • http://www.stepforth.com Ross Dunn

    There is no question this is a step backwards if I understand correctly that the goal of US society is equality. I don’t see caucasian-american only search engines (lol fanatical political correctness is a laugh) out there. If the site gets popular though I think the answer will be clear that those that use it enjoy the option of segregation by choice. Perhaps that is good though… maybe fanatical policitical correctness will take a blow.

  • http://www.ncsearchengineacademy.com Mike Marshall

    Good idea for a portal, definitely about niche advertising. I agree with others that it’s not what I would look for in a search engine per se.

    I’m sure, however, that there are many folks would find it very appealing and think perhaps they’d get better, more relevant (remember, relevance is subjective – hence the push towards personalization on the part of search engines and the push towards behavorial targeting on the part of advertisers) results from their searching. Rushmore Drive is obivouly targeting a specific audience – not just the Black community – the segment of the Black community that likes things like FUBU merchandise and subscribe to slogans like “the Blacker the college, the sweeter the knowledge”, or just want an online community for the black community. What better way to reach that community for that purpose than targetting one of the top activities online – search.

    For that niche within a niche, this is just the kind of search engine they would find useful and “more relevant”. I’m sure it is filling a felt need for some. In so far as they do that well and the audience is large enough, they will sell some good advertising space.

    Regarding the segregation angle, it seems clear from the site that they do not limit advertising to Black-owned companies and organizations, nor limit news to that which impacts only the Black community, nor restricts search results to listings from Black-owned or Black-targeted companies and organizations.

    It is the community aspects of the website which are tailored to the Black community. Specialized, niche online communities is just where the industry is headed anyway. There are all kinds of portals and online communities segmented by groups (professional, hobby, religious, and ethnic). From what I can tell, you don’t have to be Black to use the search engine or to be found in the search engine, but specific member features (this is where the portal and community aspect comes in) are restricted to members (surprise, surprise).

    Like any system, it could get abused and what was once just a machine to facilitate something useful could become a monster. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • http://christianfiction.blogspot.com Dee Stewart

    Andy, American is different than the UK. We say one thing, but mean something else entirely. We are united, but have cultural differences.

    In American society the African American enclave is diverse and far reaching. However, there are some aspects of life that are similar and sensitive only to this group just like any other.

    Ross, in my mind, Google is a search engine for mass with European Americans being the mass. If you look at Google News the main page, as an example. Since this election process have I seen so much attention paid to African Americans.

    I would like to see more news or information about black people that aren’t negative or demeaning, which is what you see on most local and national news, except black news sites.

    I just played around with it. There is news section there relevant to African Americans, news that we rarely see on mainstream television, but hear on black radio.

    It seems tailored for African American online readers. I think any business who wants to understand this demographic should use it. Any business that wants to reach this market should advertise there.

    If someone created a search engine for children, I would like that, too.

    So from what I’ve seen at a glance, this search engine service is fulfilling a niche just like black radio, television, retail, and any other company that recognizes these differences.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Thanks to all the feedback – please keep it coming. I’m learning a lot from you.

  • Reading

    The site engine isn’t segmented based on race, as the online portal is geared more to provide news stories of interest to African Americans, job listings for companies that promote diversity, user communities that cover a myriad of topics, etc.

    Just as I go to Adage.com or Adweek.com to get my daily news about what’s going on the advertising world, I would go to RushmoreDrive.com to learn the latest on things happening within my community. I’ll stick with Google and Yahoo for general searches, using RD as a supplement. It’s a niche site and great marketing tool for advertisers seeking to reach my demographic, nothing more…

  • Dylan

    I’m with Reading on this one. I searched for a variety of subjects (mostly non-African American) and the results mirrored those of Google or Yahoo. It’s just a redesigned portal with content of interest to African Americans.

    It’s not segregation, it’s not racism, it’s just good marketing sense for IAC. African Americans as a whole have been underrepresented online for many years.

  • http://www.hbcuhighlights.com Myron McDaniel

    I don’t think it’s a step backwords. I think it more like a natural progression. If you look the internet has made segments already. Look at entertainment sites TMZ.com and Gwaker.com and Bossip.com and ConcreteLoop.com. In the Business Magazine world there is Forbes.com then Blackenterprise.com. The list can go on. Would search be any different?

    There should be equality for all. I am for it and want it. But there is not. The internet does blur the lines of who you are dealing or who made what product. However, RushmoreDrive.com put it up front. I do see where this site will work if they can get the traction behind it and market it the right areas. If RushmoreDrive.com return result better for what black people (me) are looking for they will use because it relevant to them. IMHO I don’t think they will stop using the other engines either.

    The main reason why ICA backed the site… Money.

    However, some questions to be asking is:

    Did they come up with a good way to get a portion of $900 Billion dollars Blacks have to spend? Yep, it’s about niche marketing.

    Will advertiser pay big money to get in to this niche market? Yep.

    Will you see spin off of this? You Bet. Asian Search, Spanish Search, and more.

    Is RushmoreDrive going to stop people from using Google, Yahoo, Live and Ask? Nope, more than likely not.

  • http://www.seoresults.co.za Web Marketing Man

    This one is an interesting can of worms. Having grown up in apartheid era South Africa I’m very aware of peoples sensitivity around the race issue, but at the same time have to say that 14 years on issue of identity and identifying with one’s peers and culture is very relevant.

    There is a market of 12 million odd people from a specific group that is being targeted by this service. Niche targeting is nothing new, and if the service adds value to the targeted demographic there is nothing sinister about it imo.

  • http://www.terryhoward.net/ Terry Howard

    Black Hat sites are going to have so much less competition on this engine!

  • http://www.hbcuhighlights.com Myron McDaniel

    Maybe you are right. Right now it looks like there are using the Ask.com engine.

    Myron McDaniel’s last blog post..Spring Sports Championships KickOff April 16-20

  • Nicole W.

    RushmoreDrive.com is not a step backwards; it is a step forward in my opinion. I believe they have leveraged the Ask.com (an IAC company) search technology to create better access to search results for interested stakeholders. Who are these stakeholders? Anyone who wants to know what is relevant within and to the African American community. Does it create segregation/ segmentation? No, it does just the opposite; it confronts the systematic digitial divide challenges, which have been created through other technology vehicles. Looking beyond the search component, it is a networking site serving up useful content enabling a community-based model. I think what we will need to wait and see is how many other search engines/portals follow suit.