Tech Entrepreneur Helps People Find Colored-Content Web Series: It’s A Tough Sell For VC, And Why That Doesn’t Matter
When marketing expert Victoria Coker cut her cable service subscription, she realized that there was a need for one centralized place where people could find information about web series focused on colored content.
The easiest way to start, she thought, was to create her own platform.
“It was all available online already but you would have to search a bunch of different places to find all this content. So, I created Colored Content,” Coker said in a Moguldom interview.
Coker made a platform for black web series that serves as a centralized showcase for about 150 black filmmakers.
In the beginning, it was all about knocking on doors, Coker told Moguldom. As word gets out, film makers are starting to come to her.
Working in marketing for more than a decade, Coker was wowed by the growth of platforms like Twitter. She was inspired to start a tech company by “tech industry folks” — that’s not necessarily how she would describe herself.
In addition to Colored Content, Coker has created Black Web Fest, an event that brings together and features digital filmmakers from around the world.
A mentor told Coker, “Whatever you start, make sure it’s really small, and then build off of that. You can always build it bigger, like Twitter did.” That’s Coker’s goal: to grow bigger.
Coker relies on advertising for revenue. She discovered that subscriptions aren’t feasible for her niche content. She talked to Moguldom about race, gender, funding and how she’s grown her site and festival.
Moguldom: What’s your background and how did you transition to the tech industry?
Victoria Coker: I’ve been doing marketing for the last 10 to 12 years. After working for an architectural firm, I got laid off because of the recession. Then I got a job at a tech company.
I was working with people who had gone to Harvard, started their own companies and used to work at Yahoo. I thought, “Wow. Tech is the future. I need to start my own tech company.”
In 2014, I cut my cable service. I realized that there was a need for one centralized place for black content. I thought the easiest way to start was to create my own platform with a web series. It was all available online already but you would have to search a bunch of different places to find all this content. So, I created ColoredContent.
Moguldom: You have a lot of stuff on there. It’s high-quality, professional stuff. How did you gather all this talent? What was that process like?
Victoria Coker: At first, it was me playing and reaching out to people. It was cold calling. In the last two years, I’ve built an underground reputation with a lot of media makers. A lot of people contact me directly, and I respond.
They will say, “Hey, I have this new web series coming out. Could you help me? Could you take a look at it? Could I get an interview?” It’s really great because now people are recommending me. They say, “Yes, you should go to her.” Then I have a small community of other digital platforms that help me out. There are a lot of people in this space trying to make it grow or be the next great platform. We’re all on the same level. I’m trying to meet the needs of people of color.
Moguldom: How many media makers you’ve worked with since you started doing this?
Victoria Coker: I feel like it’s 150. There are close to 40 series on the site, and more coming. I have an intern, but aside from that, I’m doing a lot of the work. It takes me time to post everything on the site and get all of that together. I have a queue of content that should be on my site.
Also, there are people with series who haven’t fully completed a series that want to be on the site. They say, “Once I get my series together, I would love to be on your platform.” There is room to work with other people. If someone contacts me, I want to give everyone an opportunity. Even if they’re not on my platform, I love to give people opportunities. I will do an interview with them. Anyone who contacts me, black media makers and people from the African diaspora, I interview them for the site and I post it on the blog.
Moguldom: How have you been able to generate revenue from doing this?
Victoria Coker: Ads. That’s really the only source that makes sense at the moment. It’s really hard, aside from ad revenue, to make any money in this space because it’s really niche. A lot of people don’t want to pay for services online. Most people share a Netflix account. Most people share a Hulu account. That’s different content from places that are more reputable on a bigger brand. It’s hard to charge people.
It’s hard to ask people to pay. You’d have to teach them a new behavior. I don’t have the brand capital to teach them a new way. I think there are other unique ways.
Until we find other ways to make revenue, I don’t think the subscription model is the best model for a niche audience like this. Most companies are media companies anyway, or becoming media companies and creating video content. People want to consume so much content. Having something for free is important. Freemium would work best.
Moguldom: What are working on now?
Victoria Coker: I was working with people mostly online and in New York, because I’m from New York. (Last year) I decided to start my own festival.
I wanted to build a bigger brand and work with a bigger community of people. I named it the Black Web Fest so that it can encompass anyone who has a digital platform. There are some other platforms with color content. I wanted to bring the whole community together to celebrate black media makers and digital content. I also wanted to put an emphasis on digital.
A lot of media makers aren’t thinking about the future of technology. To them, their big break is going to be TV. As you can see, a lot of networks are moving to digital. If you look at Hulu, they have live TV. If you look at YouTube, they have live TV. This is all digital. It was really important that I also educate people about the opportunities that are available. There are a lot of companies paying for content. You don’t have to worry about getting that deal on TV. I wanted to educate the community as well as entertain them.
Moguldom: What would an attendee experience when they come to Black Web Fest ?
Victoria Coker: For the day, we have people who submit films. We had 51 people submit this year. We had people from Zimbabwe, Brazil and France. We picked the best out of the submissions. Then we screened those films during the festival.
We had panels. We had Andrea Lewis from “Black Actress.” She was on “Degrassi” too. She was one of our panelists. We also had someone from Vimeo on the panel. Someone from Interactive One was on our panel. There were some marketing industry people. We had people who talked about emerging technology, like VR/AR and IoT. It was really important. There are companies like Facebook that are doing stuff with VR and paying media makers in this space just to learn. Because they’re so new, there are so few people in that space. We were bringing up conversations and talking about things that people didn’t know about.
We also just did an event in Atlanta — a short film contest. People collaborated and created together within four hours. They were really short films, under eight minutes.
I’m trying to create these satellite events under the same Black Web Fest title to make sure that I’m helping underserved communities throughout the U.S. and even globally.
Moguldom: Do you feel like you’ve had any additional struggles because of your race or gender?
Victoria Coker: I think it’s a huge struggle. Because I’m serving such a niche audience, a lot of people don’t even give me a chance. It’s hard. A lot of funding is coming from people not of color. They want to see that you’re “poppin” before they give you a chance. By the time you’re popular, you think, “I can access this capital by myself.”
I think race plays a part. As a female, to me, that’s secondary. I think race, especially because that’s the platform that I’m standing on, trying to help people of color, it really makes it a hard sell for people to invest in technology. Especially with this being such an emerging technology, you need capital. You need to evolve because things are changing so quickly. I think that’s one of the biggest struggles.
Moguldom: What are your plans for the future?
Victoria Coker: I plan to be a mogul. That’s my life goal. I’m going to have a Wikipedia page. I’m not going to create it myself. People can Google me. They’ll see the whole thing with who I’m related to. Maybe it will list what companies I’m affiliated with. That’s the big goal.
I want to create more opportunities for people. That’s what I want to continue to work on with this platform and brand. I see unique ways to monetize it that other people aren’t doing. I want to develop partnerships. I feel that Black Web Fest is doing well, especially being that it’s the first year. A lot of people want to help. A lot of people want to be involved. I’ve spoken to people at Google and different agencies that said, “We’re willing to help. We’re willing to be a part of this. This can be something big.” I’m really excited about that. I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.
Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know about reversing inequality in tech, delivered straight to your inbox.