Why Data Is The Currency Of The Future For Communities Of Color

Angela Benton
Written by Angela Benton
data ownership
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

During the Industrial Revolution, the movements that changed society — not just in trade and business but also in how we live our everyday lives — focused on solving infrastructure problems. There are a ton of different ways this is happening again with technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. You can set up a server with a few strokes of a keyboard or get an app into the hands of millions by publishing to an app store. But for communities of color, how does this affect us if it does at all?

When it comes to the diaspora there are some known things we do really well:

  • We’re masters of creating content. I’m not just talking about internet memes, though I’ll get to that shortly. It’s the music, films and quite frankly any other type of content on any platform. We adapt and create at a genius level.
  • We also consume internet content more than others. African-Americans specifically over-index in media consumption and have been for decades. It’s only in recent years with the rise of the internet that consumers are starting to morph into creators online.

In fact, we do these things so well it’s not a stretch to say that communities of color are the fuel for many of today’s largest internet companies. For consumer internet companies they are in the business of activity. The more activity there is on a platform (streams, pageviews, etc) the more money said company makes. They make money from the activity on the platform but also from all the data surrounding that activity like the time of day something was viewed, how often, and by whom. Over 70% of minority adult internet users are on Twitter, Facebook, and other top platforms. This doesn’t include the activity we’re responsible for directly, and indirectly by many of our creations going viral. Infrastructure is defined as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” Data is a key resource that is needed for many of these companies to operate. Without it the technology infrastructures are moot. Yet while we create the content that feeds the beast we have little ownership.

Items in purple denote areas where communities of color tend over-index in.
Items in purple denote areas where communities of color tend over-index in.

There are a few ways to have ownership in something. You can buy it outright or own a portion of it by purchasing stock. Or, you can also own the key resource that the business is built on, in this case the data that many big tech companies are built on. For all users, we usually don’t own our data. In fact it’s been something that has been ignored with many of us prioritizing consumption — be it a social media post, music, a movie, or downloading an app. The answer isn’t to stop doing these things though. We’re honestly too far gone as a society to consider that a viable option. But we can have a say in what’s done with it and who owns it. With what happened with the Cambridge Analytica data breach and Facebook things are changing rapidly. Tech companies are realizing that this can cause a lot of unnecessary drama for their businesses so, quiet as kept, many have been moving to give users access to their data. 

Previously, data brokers like Facebook would sell your data publicly (and with your consent per your agreement to their terms of use) on a marketplace (Facebook Ads) without you even having access to your own data first. But it’s not just Facebook that operates this way. It’s nearly every large internet company you can think of. There are even some companies who sell your data, or pieces of it, privately… sometimes even on the dark web where there is also a market for selling children’s data. The data brokerage market size is $200 billion. But the problem is not that it’s being sold. It’s that it’s being sold oftentimes without your knowledge and consumers should have a say on if their data is sold or not and quite frankly, have the option of getting paid to sell it. In the current model everyone is getting paid but you while your data is the literal infrastructure so many of these platforms are fueled by. It’s akin to a new kind of slavery.

“I could have freed a thousand more if they only knew they were slaves.”

Harriett Tubman

Internet usage of people of color

The collision of social media, mobile phone usage and faster data speeds has served as a hotbed for communities of color, making what we consume online that much easier. Pew Internet Research’s Social Media fact sheet shows us that the percentage of Black and Hispanic adults who use top social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and YouTube) outweighs that of Caucasians. Caucasians use LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Reddit more. Note: Facebook owns 3 of the top 6 most used social media platforms by people of color. 

Also unsurprisingly, Horowitz Research’s “FOCUS Black: The Media Landscape” report cited that nearly three-quarters of African-American viewers stream TV content and that two-thirds of Black TV streamers report watching more TV content now compared to five years ago due to video streaming. In fact, our own internal data at Streamlytics — my new venture — shows us that African-Americans prefer to stream video on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Prime Video the most and in that order. However more Black women prefer to stream on Amazon Prime Video (82%) while Black men prefer to stream on YouTube (51%). Preferences for music streaming are Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora in that order.

With data supporting our internet usage and our streaming behavior, it’s not surprising to see our influence in popular culture continue to rise. Internet culture drives popular culture and Black culture drives internet culture. So seeing memes birthed amongst Black culture online trend for movies like “Birdbox” which had viewership in the first week of 45 million is a no brainer. And this happens more often than we can count. 

data ownership
Angela Benton, founder and CEO of Streamlytics and Clture

What’s next

With my previous companies, I’ve had a history of being on the cutting edge when it comes to what people of color are doing (or not doing) in technology. With Black Web 2.0 I was amplifying what people of color were doing in technology in a time when everyone was telling me that Black folks weren’t into technology. I built something, a community, that said yes we are and inspired many others from that work to do the same. With NewME, people knew there was an issue with Black folks not getting funding but there were no solutions. So I came up with one. From there I was able to help some of the most talented entrepreneurs I know raise capital from Silicon Valley’s top investors. I was also able to wake up an industry and hold them accountable for what they weren’t doing. This work also inspired and supported a new wave of folks to become builders, investors, and innovators in the technology industry. In both businesses, I had to change perspectives and create a market… from scratch. Any entrepreneur will tell you this is one of the hardest things that you can take on as a founder. It’s also a long game. There are no quick exits because you have to literally wait for the market to catch up to your way of thinking. One thing I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to do that with the next thing I worked on. So I’m starting with what there is an abundance of, and that’s the changing way of how we’re consuming media. The streaming market has grown 450% over the last decade and 61% of households say they watch TV primarily through streaming.

My new venture, Streamlytics, uses data science to bring transparency to what people are watching and listening to across streaming platforms. We use highly targeted consumer-facing applications to access first-party media consumption data directly. We’re leveling the playing field by democratizing access to streaming media data for both users and companies who want to leverage it. Our first consumer-facing application, Clture, focuses on the demographics who consume media the most, helping minority consumers own and monetize their data. 

Simply put: We believe data is the currency of the future and users who drive many of today’s leading internet platforms should own their data and be compensated for it. 

Ownership is at the core of our business so I’ve spent the past year working on building the technology but also making sure that the theme of ownership is woven throughout the business in various ways. For instance one of the ways we help consumers actually own their data is by creating a data license for them. The license first and foremost says that you are the owner of your data and control access to your dataset. You also get paid for sharing access to it.

We’re in a unique moment in time where we have leverage as a community because of our power online and the tides turning in consumers’ favor for data ownership and portability. There has been a lot of positive energy around this thought of being “For the Culture.” It’s a great movement that brings together a shared sense of ownership and pride but it’s a feeling… not a thing. With Clture, our consumer-facing application, we want to turn that into something tangible… at an infrastructure level, with data. Communities of color already do so many things well, but without owning our data in a tangible way we’ll simply become slaves in a society built off our backs, again.

You can follow us here:

Instagram: @clturecapital @streamlytics

Twitter: @StreamlyticsNow @Clturecapital

LinkedIn: Streamlytics

If you’re interested in more insights from the data that we have, feel free to message me on any platform or complete the form https://www.streamlytics.co/contact.

This article was originally published on AngelaBenton.co. It is reposted here with her permission. Read the original.

Angela Benton is a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur. Producer-Author-Businesswoman-Cancer Survivor-Mother; throughout all her roles she embodies inspiration.At the helm of her latest venture, Streamlytics, Angela continues to uncover untapped spaces in technology and innovation. Streamlytics uses data science to measure what content people are watching and listening to across popular streaming platforms. Read more.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 05: Angela Benton

Angela Benton talks about starting NewMe Accelerator, whose Black and Brown founders have raised $42 million in venture capital. Super-early to Black tech media with BlackWeb 2.0, she discusses building her personal brand while being a single mother, battling cancer, and whether or not most of the “diversity” gains in Silicon Valley will go to privileged white women.