There's a new black web user -centric site comin' to the block. This one's adopting the "griot" moniker (How original?) and is tailoring its new offering to the 30-plus tech savvy, educated African-American consumer.
Here's a sales letter that Grio.com has been sending out to agencies... Get ready for the media blitz. If they actually do what they say they're going to do in this letter, then this thing will be huge or hugely disastrous.
Needless to say, I've got some issues... My commentary follows the exclusive letter.
We are writing on behalf of NBC News working in reference to the Grio, a new news and information website for the African American community that is already becoming -- all hype aside-- the #1 black news and information online site in the nation.
We are just beginning to present the Grio to potential commercial partners and we wanted your shop to have a good look on behalf of your clients. Bottom line, NBC News seeks to build exclusive partnerships with a limited number (5-6) of category leaders, to better serve a client’s marketing and corporate needs. Grio is prepared to build out branded “verticals” that match up with clients areas of interest in generic sectors such as health/fitness, financial services, education, food, fashion, grooming, entertainment, etc. etc.
The genesis: NBC News (and parent GE) felt that in the Age of Obama, and this was borne out by their recent survey of the AA demo, that African Americans were being underserved by the existing news and information channels available to them. They believed that with the right partners, that they could do much better, based on their vast news gathering resources and multi-platform promotional ability. Voila, the Grio, West African for “story teller”!
The Grio is the first “video-centric” news site, by and for the AA, community that will aggregate related video and news stories from NBC News, NBC major market owned-and-operated TV stations, affiliates and MSNBC, both cable and internet (MSNBC is the most visited news site on the web with millions of page views daily). Finally, the Grio can also draw upon almost a century of filmed reports from the NBC News Video Archives: A unique trove of news clips that chronicle the black experience over the decades.
The exciting part is that the Grio will offer an extremely uncluttered advertising environment. As mentioned, NBC News is seeking to develop a limited number of category exclusive partnerships with companies that have shown an interest in diversity and are leaders in their respective business categories. We believe the Grio has much to offer the right clients as both an advertising channel and a way to expand a particular firm’s diversity commitment and outreach.
Our first exclusive partner, Ford Motor Co. has bought out the site over the past four months during our Beta phase. They have been very pleased with the initial results and click through which exceeded our projections and their expectations. The Grio is already enjoying unparalleled, explosive growth. Indeed, it is on track to exceed its competitors in Year I, having delivered significant moth to month increases. It attracted, for example, 50,000 unique visitors in June, which had grown to 285,000 (almost 600% increase!) by July. June-July page views went from 173,000 to 617,000!
In sum, based on its minority ownership (its black partners own 51%, with NBC at 49%), and powered by NBC’s resources, the Grio is quickly becoming the most robust and impactful black news and information channel in the nation: The only one to offer a daily, serious analysis of all the important news of the day as it relates to African Americans. As an example, Grio was the only black news internet channel to travel with President Obama on his recent historic journey to Ghana. Focusing on the key issues of importance to the community, such as the economy, healthcare, education, and also including coverage of entertainment, fashion, and culture, the Grio will be the definitive web-based resource for growing numbers of African-Americans who have long sought -- heretofore unavailable -- high quality news coverage of the impact of key events on America’s black landscape. NBC NEWS has been using its’ multiplicity of promotional platforms to drive interest and build excitement for the Grio. Promo spots are currently running on NBC broadcast channels (Today Show, NBC Nightly News) and live Grio features are broadcast regularly on NBC premier broadcast and cable channels. Additionally, NBC News/Grio is planning a series of “summits” on key issues impacting the black community: The NBC Grio Forum will be held at 30 Rock and feature America’s best and brightest thinkers in dialogues on key economic, health, social, and cultural issues of interest to the black community. These will also be sponsorable and will be major news-making events.
Newark-born David Wilson, the Grio’s founder is a former broadcast news producer and filmmaker, whose documentary, Meeting David Wilson, about his ancestry, was one of MSNBC’s highest rated shows, when it aired last year as a special. (As you may recall, this was my NBC project last year)
Please take a moment to access the below link and review the site. There is also a four minute video clip on the Grio that ran on NBC News, accessible from the site.
Thanks for your time. I will be in touch to follow up.
Bottom line: the Grio offers a unique, ground floor opportunity for a limited number of exclusive advertisers to partner with the site that will certainly become the #1 online news source for the AA market…and the only one that is minority owned and powered by NBC News.
Now based on perusing theGrio.com there appears to be two glaring problems with the site, both of which run counter to the site's name, positioning and possibilities:
1) NBC as a key partner. NBC's a big boy. But they've already invested in Hulu.com. From a psychological standpoint, I think Hulu is where their hearts and minds are when it comes to online initiatives. Not saying NBC can't walk and chew gum at the same time, why when you don't have to?
Save for the Cosby Show, Different world and the occasional sports event, NBC hasn't exactly gone out of its way to reel in African American viewers, not in the casting or content the shows it carries. Now we're talking about investing 49% in a alternative media upstart targeting a community that you didn't even really push to reach with the old media vehicle that you were actually good at. Hopefully this is just a case of NBC trying to branch out and make a real commitment. Hopefully..
2) Second major problem here is theGrio.com itself. For a self-proclaimed "video centric community" promising interaction, there doesn't seem to be a way for users to actually upload their own video. What kinda community will griot have when users can't contribute to the stories shaping their own images/community? Not to say that people are dying for a more geeked out BlackPlanet or some sort of TheRoot-YouTube hybrid, but I think the apparent lack of user input could make theGrio a really big swing-and-a-miss.