Looking Back at 360HipHop, Considering Global Grind

Lynne d Johnson shares two pieces on the hip hop/urban portal scene, circa 2000, that she wrote for publications helmed by Jason Calacanis.

She also offers a challenge:
Let me know how much any of this sounds familiar.

The big comparison here is obviously 360HipHop and Global Grind (globalgrind.com):

Both were founded or cofounded by Russell Simmons during a heated period of Web-related M&A activity.

Each concept involves a content play from different generations of the web.  360HipHop focused on editors selecting the content while Global Grind has users selecting the content.

Each company attempted to position themselves as the key starting place or destination for those seeking hip hop.

360HipHop is said to have overreached its users by being too cutting edge with technology.

Global Grind doesn’t seem that technically out of reach though a Google search currently returns the following:
Global Grind – Incompatible Browser
Oops, Global Grind is not accessible in your browser yet. We are still building this out, however in the meantime try to launch the site in Firefox or …
www.globalgrind.com/ – 3k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

But there are obvious differences as well:

Bloggers still reference 360HipHop as an example of what not to do.

Bloggers aren’t talking much about Global Grind.

Additional issues with Global Grind:

The current landing page, if you don’t have one of their cookies installed, does not reference hip hop or anything else related to their stated positioning.

If one clicks through without choosing content, the article currently featured is titled "Hillary Snubin’ Sikhs??" under the section heading "The News You Need".

If one searches Google for sites that link to www.globalgrind.com one gets around 36 results.

I don’t know what exactly to make of the last point.  It’s been puzzling me since they launched and that number certainly doesn’t reflect the coverage that I’ve seen but I haven’t yet dug into Google watcher blogs to try to figure out what may be happening.

However, the content related points seriously undermine Global Grind’s attempt at positioning itself as one’s core destination for hip hop.  I appreciate the fact that there are no garish graphics on display but hip hop is not the place to be coy with one’s intended audience.

If you read the coverage that appeared mostly on tech and business websites when Global Grind officially launched, you’ll see that they were also strongly targeting such sites with the message that Global Grind would take the Ajax and Flash powered start pages like Netvibes and Pageflakes out of the realm of geeks and into the mainstream.

Combine the somewhat unfocused content with the fact that a site like Netvibes may initially make more sense to newbies than does Global Grind with the fact that GG focused their biggest publicity wave on tech and business media outlets with the fact that we’ve heard no announcements regarding great leaps in membership numbers and you get a business headed for a similar fate as 360HipHop.

Sure, there are many differences as well but 360HipHop was a success for those who sold it and Global Grind seems likely to follow that route except for the fact that it doesn’t appear to be gaining traction and that nobody really seems to care enough about Global Grind to even come out and bother dissing it.

I’ll be honest, I’ve actually avoided heavy criticism of Global Grind because I wanted to see what they could do without making any kneejerk assumptions regarding Russell Simmons’ involvement.

But my most consistent feeling has been that Global Grind would fail.  It’s certainly not over yet and they could very well prove me wrong but that’s always been my core response.

As I mention in passing above, there have been no follow-up announcements of great gains at Global Grind.

One of the things I’ve learned following hip hop related companies is that many can get a lot of buzz initially but, if things aren’t working out, they just stop making announcements and quietly disappear.

This pattern of initial buzz and quiet disappearance is one I’ve noticed most frequently with businesses tied to Russell Simmons.  That’s due in part to the fact that he wants in on everything, he can get publicity for whatever he does and he’s employed a consistent pr strategy of covering up failures.

Such a pr strategy usually works out quite well, in part, because hip hop business news is usually dealt with by entertainment reporters and they ain’t looking back for failures that no one’s talking about.

On that note, whatever happened to:
DOD?

DefJamMobile?

Yoga Live?

I’m particularly interested in talking with folks who know the backstory on the demise of DefJamMobile.

On the publicity tip, I was initially impressed by the tech media coverage gained by Global Grind but I was always underwhelmed by their outreach to hip hop sites or to any audience of likely users.

In retrospect the outreach to tech media now looks more like a pr strategy focused on investors rather than users.

It’s smart to include tech media if there’s a tech angle whether or not you’re looking for the big buyout but doing so without a strong campaign focused on your potential user base after one has already received serious funding positions one for failure.  To get bought, you’ve got to have something people want.  At this point in time, a niche site using me-too technology needs a rabid user base.

Absent something startling and fresh, Global Grind may actually end up a bigger failure than 360HipHop because not only does it not meet people’s actual needs or desires but it may well not reach a successful liquidity event.

Related Hip Hop Press Coverage:
Rumor: Global Grind’s Heading for the Dead Pool?
Global Grind’s Navarrow Wright & Failures in Web 2.0 Communication
Global Grind Reboots, Abandons Opening Position

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