Afrofuturism: Customer Development In The Digital Age With Jamarlin Martin

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Afrofuturism
Jamarlin Martin, CEO of Nubai Ventures at the Afrofuturism Summit at Venture Cafe Miami | Image: Anita Sanikop

Digital media entrepreneur Jamarlin Martin stressed the importance of owning your customers and cautioned against betting your company on someone else’s platform.

Avoid having so much concentrated risk on one particular platform that all it takes is an update or an algorithm change to sink your business, Martin said during a presentation at Black Tech Week Miami 2019.

Martin cited examples of Zynga, Demand Media and Little Things, which bet their companies on Facebook or Google and made a ton of money until Facebook did an update or Google changed the algorithm.


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Here are some excerpts from Martin’s presentation, titled “Afrofuturism: Customer Development In The Digital Age.”

On derisking your platform:

“Before there’s a crisis at your company — (entrepreneurs take risks, creative people, go-getters take a lot of risks) — you have to think about de-risking your employees, your platform, your business model, where you do not want to have a lot of marketing concentration on one platform.”

On diversifying and establishing a direct connection with your customers:

“Talking to your customers on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or even Youtube — that’s not enough today. You don’t control that customer. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. How do you have direct connections with customers? One idea is collecting email (addresses). Facebook can’t take that away from you. Google can’t take that away from you. That’s your customer. You earned it, you developed the product, you developed the business model. You should own that customer, you should be able to talk to that customer directly. So, in this environment, this social media environment, I think it’s really important to have that direct connection.”

Afrofuturism
Jamarlin Martin, CEO of Nubai Ventures at the Afrofuturism Summit at Venture Cafe Miami | Image: Anita Sanikop

Other ways to connect directly with your customer:

“Browser notifications: some businesses or content companies don’t have a mobile app. They don’t want to invest in the infrastructure of a mobile app. Some smart folks innovated a way where you can send a notification to your customer if they opt into the browser notification. You can send messages on their phone without having an app where you can deliver.

On what history taught us about BuzzFeed and New York Times:

“The consensus in digital media, three, four years ago, was BuzzFeed and social media publishers were the future. New York Times, they were having trouble, they had an old model, people ‘don’t read articles anymore’. If you talked to 80 percent of your digital media CEOs, they would have bet that the Little Things, the BuzzFeeds, the social media publishers were going to win out. What happened, of course, was New York Times announced that they get over $1 billion in subscription revenue. They were able to pick from a digital perspective in terms of the old media, where they execute very well on locking in monthly subscribers who are going to pay for access to their content. So the consensus in the market — they were all wrong. New York Times is still skating and they’re hiring more editors right now.

On segmentation:

“You can’t connect and communicate with everybody with the same message. There’s too much technology and tools to allow you to personalize information. You need to know which of your customers are interested in what. You need to understand and be intimate with the interest of your customers. Segmentation is a big deal. It’s proven to be effective for me.”

On opportunities for ad-supported content:

“There’s no big opportunity for ad-supported content. I’ve been in the game for over 10 years. Google and Facebook, they’re taking about 80 percent — 80 cents out of every mobile digital ad dollar. The game has been automated and scaled to death. Essentially the media industry, in terms of the duopoly of Google and Facebook — that is the game. That is the advertising game. There’s not enough crumbs, I believe in most cases, for an ad-supported content company to be sustainable. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would not bet on publishers who depend 100 percent on ad revenue. (I would not bet) that 10 or more are going to be around in 10 years at scale. There’s very limited opportunities for ad-supported media … I’m talking about if you’re a media or content business, if you invest in content and you rely on 100 percent on advertising, I think that’s going to be a very bad trade over the next five to 10 years. Essentially I would put that in the same lane as record stores.”

On subscribers and the next wave in content:

“I think the next wave and what I’m investing in is you need to create content that could set up a sell. That customer, that email, that subscriber — you’re going to need to sell something to your subscribers, to your fans, to your users. You need to sell something and use the content to set up a sell. Within that, there’s a platform called The Information — it’s subscriber only. A reporter from the Washington Journal who focused on tech, Jessica Lessin set this up. You’ve got to pay like 30, 40 bucks a month. It’s profitable. The venture capitalists will say, ‘Hey, we can’t get $1 billion,’ but we see what’s happening with these BuzzFeeds and Mashables and a lot of these VC-backed media companies. They’re going bust. So you need subscribers essentially. You need to be able to develop differentiated quality content to a level where that user will pay. Particularly with Black media, where it’s always been harder, the impacts of the duopoly between Facebook and Google taking over and taking more and more market share, it’s been devastating. You should prioritize how to make money from your readers in the content business at this point.”