American Airlines will launch BlackAtlas.com, a social networking site for "sophisticated African-American travelers" later this month. The Web site will feature commentary by filmmaker Nelson George and allow visitors to share pictures, video, stories and travel tips.
American spokeswoman Stacey Frantz didn't reveal how much the company is spending on BlackAtlas, but said American's goal is about "building brand loyalty in the African-American community."
This isn't American's first foray into ethnic marketing. In June, American marketed itself as the Latino airline, buying several 30-second spots on Spanish-language networks and set up an online soccer, or fÃºtbol, game targeting Latinos. (As a card-carrying Latina, I'd say on a scale from 1 to 10, the innovation is about a 4.)
So far, BlackAtlas.com is a bit spare, but asks the questions, "Do you know where to find blues music in Moscow?" or "How about a Jamaican restaurant in Milan?"
My worry is that these Web sites seem to play on stereotypes rather than truly speak to each ethnic experience. Do all African-Americans truly want global blues and jerk chicken? Are all Latinos obsessed with fÃºtbol? I'd say not, and I hope that any social networking site will soon show American Airlines how truly diverse everyone's experiences are.