Over the last year, the broadband-adoption gap between blacks and whites has been cut nearly in half," according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Broadband is generally defined as high-speed Internet access.
"Broadband adoption by African Americans now stands at 56%, up from 46% at a similar point in 2009," the study said. "That works out to a 22% year-over-year growth rate, well above the national average and by far the highest growth rate of any major demographic group."
The increase has implications for media targeting African Americans, black-owned and otherwise.
In a piece Friday on theRoot.com, Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Co., owners of Ebony and Jet magazine, told E.R. Shipp, "Today, outlets are charged with deciding which form of technology best suits the story. For instance, black consumers can now receive stories via iPads, satellite radio and the Web in addition to traditional print."
Johnson Rice said her major challenge is "to stay relevant on the newsstands while establishing a timely and engaging presence on the Web."
Shipp noted that "in that arena, her company faces competition from The Root, the Grio, Black America Web and AOL's Black Voices, among others" and that "Jet recently rolled out a jazzed-up print edition and a digital version called MyJet247.com."
BET Networks has partnered with the National Urban League, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, HealthCentral, Kaplan Ventures, MedHelp.org, One Economy Corporation and Tutor.com in a proposal to the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration for a grant under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, Ann Brown reported in June for the Network Journal. That effort is a part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus package.
"Under the proposal, BET wants to increase the adoption of broadband technology amongst African-Americans through its National Sustainable Broadband Adoption Project," Brown wrote.
African Americans are consuming cell-phone technology in large numbers as well.
Pew reported last month that 64 percent of African Americans surveyed in May said they access the Internet over their laptop or mobile phone, an increase from 57 percent who said they did in 2009.
Overall, according to the new study, released Wednesday, "After several consecutive years of modest but consistent growth, broadband adoption slowed dramatically in 2010. "Two-thirds of American adults (66%) currently use a high-speed internet connection at home, a figure that is not statistically different from what the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found at a similar point in 2009, when 63% of Americans were broadband adopters."
In addition, "By a 53%-to-41% margin, Americans say they do not believe that the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority. Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections. . . .
Mark Hachman added on PCMag.com:
"When asked why African-Americans reported such a large jump," Aaron Smith, research specialist with Pew. "said that Pew's research didn't examine the reason. 'But we've been picking up on it for a couple of years now; not necessarily with broadband, but with higher levels of engagement with the Internet in general,' he said.
"Pew began noticing higher levels of engagement within the African-American community since the 2008 election, Smith said; since blacks hadn't embraced broadband as quickly as whites, the lower baseline allowed a more dramatic increase, he added."
*William Reed, syndicated: Broadband Access Needed for African Americans' Advancement (March 9)