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Obama Networks on BlackPlanet.com


Sen. Obama on BlackPlanet.com


The Barocket has taken off online, no doubt.

While Sen. Hillary Clinton has consistently dominated national polls, Sen. Barack Obama has been the undeniable online frontrunner, with more supporters on Facebook, MySpace and Eventful, etc., than any of the Democratic candidates.

And now he's also a big hit on BlackPlanet.com, one of the grand-daddies of social-networking sites. Before MySpace launched in 2003, and before Facebook was founded in 2004, BlackPlanet has been a mainstay in the African American community, with partnerships with niche publications such as Vibe, Black Enterprise and Essence. Created in 1999, it has 17 million registered users, a vast majority of them in the U.S. According to Hitwise, which tracks online popularity, it's the 5th highest trafficked "socnet," behind MySpace and Facebook, and it's the only niche soc-net in the top 5. In an online poll conducted by the site itself, two-thirds of its members -- 66 percent -- say they are likely to vote next year.

In other words, being on BlackPlanet is a logical move for the biracial Obama, who's been courting the African American community in recent months. His wife Michelle is profiled in next month's edition of Oprah Winfrey's magazine, O, and he was the first politician to grace the cover of Vibe, Rolling Stone for the BET crowd. Even the rapper Common has featured him in one of his songs.

On Oct. 5 Obama was the first-- and so far only candidate -- to create a profile on BlackPlanet. His introduction reads: "I was fortunate to be able to grow up seeing America from varied viewpoints. My childhood was spent in Hawaii and Indonesia. After college I worked as a community organizer on the South side of Chicago focusing on improving living conditions in poor neighborhoods."

Three days later, he had 60,000 friends on the site. By Oct. 10, it doubled to 121,000. And as of Oct. 16, he's up to 192,000, surpassing his number of supporters on Facebook (154,000) and MySpace (182,000). There's overlap here. Some BlackPlanet members are either on Facebook or MySpace or both.

"It's really very smart of him to be on the site. He's killing two birds with one stone -- reaching out not just to the black community but also to a diverse age groups of black people who are BlackPlanet," 34-year-old Wanda Parham Payne, one of Obama's friends on BlackPlanet, told The Trail. The public health analyst from Upper Marlboro, Md. is supporting on Obama and plans to donate money to his campaign. "Usually, presidential candidates go to the same black churches, march with Al Sharpton and say they're reaching out to the black community. With this site, he can reach many more people simultaneously."

With Obama and Clinton fighting over the black vote -- especially the black female vote in the early voting state of South Carolina -- don't be surprised if Clinton, whose husband was dubbed the "first black president" by author Toni Morrison, joins BlackPlanet soon.

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

By Washington Post Editor  |  October 16, 2007; 6:37 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Barack Obama  
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