In this Jan. 5, 2011, file photo, Tyrell Coley, 21, holds his iPhone displaying his Twitter account in the Queens borough of New York. A new poll finds African American millennials are just as engaged in getting news online as their white counterparts, further debunking a long-held belief that people of color are at risk of being left behind technologically. The AP-NORC study found no evidence to suggest that African Americans and Hispanics lag behind in terms of technology use with nearly all millennials across racial and ethnic groups using a smartphone, and half using a tablet. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

African-American consumers are enjoying a remarkable period of influence, cultural expression and entrepreneurship that is manifesting digitally and trending mainstream, according to global researcher Nielsen.

With the highest smartphone ownership and usage of any demographic group and an unyielding desire for self-expression and image control, African Americans are leveraging digital platforms and technology to move from consumers to creators of platforms, products, content and financial ecosystems.

“African Americans are leveraging innovations in technology and social platforms to level the playing field and get ahead in a marketplace unencumbered by corporate barriers to entry,” said Cheryl Grace, Nielsen senior vice president of U.S. strategic community alliances and consumer engagement. “African-American influence has long resonated cross-culturally, and now it’s being delivered directly from creator to consumer. Give talented, creative people unobstructed access to the world stage and, inevitably, they will shine.”

According to “From Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers,” the eighth annual report in Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series on African American consumers, Black influence on the economy and pop culture has been intensified by participation in the digital universe and adoption of social media and technology platforms.

From video streaming and podcasting to gaming and shopping for food online, African Americans are leaning into digital know-how and open-source innovation — with unprecedented impact on brands, elections and what the country watches, buys and listens to.

Black consumers are boldly galvanizing in the digisphere to critique, connect, collaborate and create.

Nielsen said that African Americans, representing 14 percent of the U.S. population, or 47.4 million people, are using unfettered access to technology as a means to broaden their reach and express themselves on their own terms.

Streaming is a primary source of entertainment for African Americans. They stream videos more frequently on all devices than the rest of the population, especially on phones.

Black consumers’ music streaming habits played a key role in R&B/hip-hop unseating rock as the No. 1 music genre in the U.S. in 2017.

African-American shopping habits also are shifting in the digital age.
Their buying power is at $1.3 trillion currently and based on gains in population, income and education, it’s estimated to rise to $1.54 trillion by 2022.

More than half (54 percent) of all African Americans have lived their entire life in the digital age. The tech-savvy Generation X, millennial and Generation Z consumers represent a coveted market segment whose interconnectivity is central to their everyday lives, Nielsen said.

One digital creator highlighted in the report is actor, activist, and digital gaming co-creator Jesse Williams.

“As a company, visibility knows that our strengths are also the market’s weaknesses: Black ownership of Black creativity,” Williams said. “Technology is an opportunity to make decisions that no longer divorce people from their power. We set out to empower our culture — to lead and learn without fear.”

The key findings of the report:

– 90 percent of African Americans live in a household that owns a smartphone.
– African Americans make up 19 million (28 percent) of Twitter’s 67 million users.
– African Americans 18 and older are increasingly tuning into podcasts, with 70 percent growth in engagement from 2014 to 2017.

“The breadth of Black America’s digital footprint has grown exponentially with the rise of smartphone technology and increased access to new mediums for content exchange,” said Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code and a Nielsen External Advisory Council member. “The access to technology among Black consumers is a lightning rod for innovation that’s opening doors of opportunity to creativity, entrepreneurship and financial independence.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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