and Innovation

are the Future of

Black Media And


Words by Travers Johnson

Illustrations by Richard A. Chance

There are two words to describe the landscape of Black media and entertainment in 2022: ownership and innovation. Feeling disenchanted by rampant cultural disregard on social media, barriers to entry in the film and TV businesses, and inequitable coverage in the news media, many Black content creators, technologists, media entrepreneurs, and entertainers are turning to—and building—alternative platforms and publications that solve their problems and fill their needs. 

In corporate boardrooms, executives are pushing advertisers to spend more dollars with Black-owned media companies, resulting in some brands allocating as much as 8% of US ad spending with Black-owned media companies by 2025. On the blockchain, some Black entertainment moguls and independent artists alike are racing into the NFT (non-fungible token) market that hit $22 billion in 2021. And in Hollywood, Black content creators are riding the wave of increased diversity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From subscriber-driven newsletters to streaming platforms to NFTs, Black creators are building new ways to be seen, heard, informed, and paid. Read on for inspiration, insights, and opportunities in media and entertainment.

Blacktag is Building the Future of Black Entertainment

The new streaming platform aims to economically empower Black creators and reach a global Black audience

Words by Travers Johnson

Ousman Sahko Sow, Co-founder and President of Blacktag

When Ousman Sahko Sow was around 10 years old, he passed by a bookstore in East London, England, and saw something he had never seen before: a book with Black people's faces on it. He was so struck by the image that he began a daily routine of walking by the bookstore and stopping to stare in its window, hoping to get a glimpse of more Black faces and stories. 

Sensing his interest, one day the owner of the bookstore invited him in. He introduced the young Sow, who had spent his earliest years as a refugee of the Sierra Leone Civil War, to a world of books. In that bookstore he learned about photography—a medium that Sow would later adopt as a gateway career—leading him to delve deeper into his passion for Black images and storytelling through film and cinematography. 

Two decades later, Sow is still on a mission to uncover compelling narratives about Black people. Today, he is the co-founder and President of Blacktag, a new streaming platform aimed at a global Black audience. Sow and co-founder and CEO Akin Adebowale have merged their respective backgrounds—photography and film for Sow; art and computer science for Adebowale—to elevate the untold stories of the diverse African diaspora. Along the way, the pair have raised over $5 million, making Blacktag one of few Black-founded startups to receive venture capital funding.

As a product, Blacktag is comparable to other streaming platforms like Netflix or YouTube in that it offers a range of original series, creator-produced videos, and licensed short films, which can be viewed live and on-demand. But Blacktag differentiates itself through its mission to economically empower Black creators; the platform aims to share intellectual-property rights and, potentially, subscription-revenue cuts with creators.

This model could be a game changer for Black digital creators, who often don't receive monetary gain for the prolific and influential content they produce online.

“Black entertainment touches everyone,” Sow says. “But we need to catch up from both a product and an ownership point of view. Some of us are getting access into the entertainment industry and are being greenlit to create our own shows, but the next door is ownership. And not just owning your intellectual property, but also owning the platform that is going to then distribute to the audiences that are looking for it.”

In an interview with Travers Johnson, Sow shares more about his mission of Blacktag, how his curiosity helps him make key connections, and his vision for the future of Black media and entertainment.

Blacktag product screenshots

Travers Johnson: You left a high-powered director/producer job at the Google Creative Lab to launch Blacktag. What was it about the opportunity to build Blacktag that led you to leave that role and start your own venture?

Ousman Sahko Sow: Being at Google helped me understand what was missing from the market around Black media. I started thinking more and more about what the future of content meant for me and for Black and brown audiences, along with trying to find a way to connect creators globally. 

A mutual friend introduced me to my co-founder, Akin, who was in the early stages of building a B2B marketplace for Black creators. The lightbulbs just went off in my head; not only did it sound interesting, but it would offer a platform for Black people to be compensated in a much more straightforward way while exercising their creativity. The excitement of building something that we completely own and building something that was solving a real problem was enough for me to go for it––whether I failed or succeeded.

Johnson: That resonates. To launch a business like Blacktag, you need not only upfront capital but also upfront connections. Some of your investors and advisors include Creative Artists Agency, Issa Rae, and Common. Can you share how you were able to get heavy hitters like that on board?

Sow: I believe that when a community wants to see impactful ideas, there's a cosmic alignment that happens contrary to any belief. Connection and alignments tend to come together for meaningful action. I have always been super keen and interested in different types of industries. Although I don't come from finance or a traditional venture capital background, my curiosity for those industries created an opportunity to meet the right people. It's a bit of luck as well as being well prepared for when the opportunity presents itself. 

I believe my inquisitive nature probably has a lot to do with this also. Curiosity helps to build bridges for connection. As a result, my relationships and network shaped my career as I navigated on this path. Along the way I developed formative relationships that would be resourceful in the near future. I leaned into my community and my mentors that I met along my journey.

One of those individuals is a gentleman by the name of Cameron Snaith, the founder of Bleeker, which is an organization that connects underserved talent seeking and developing meaningful careers as well as connecting with established executives within respective industries. Without Cam and Bleeker, I certainly would have not been here today.

I believe that when a community wants to see impactful ideas, there's a cosmic alignment that happens contrary to any belief.
Photo submitted by Blacktag
Photo submitted by Blacktag

Johnson: Why do you think that a platform like Blacktag has not existed before? Do you think there has been a shift in the culture that could make Blacktag possible?

Sow: Social media has become an integral part of our lives, as it has fundamentally shaped the way we communicate via user-generated content. Despite all the content we create and share with one another, Millennials and Gen-Zers feel more disconnected than ever. Culturally, post the George Floyd incident, many industries saw the disparities in the Black community, including the lack of access for social capital and even opportunities for people to start thinking about ownership. It made us ask, do we continue to build on other people's products that don't necessarily reflect or give back to our community? Do we continue to support platforms that don’t reward the individuals that are driving them? Should we look at building alternatives? Should we start thinking critically about technology and the impact it can have within underserved communities?

Blacktag is very much rooted in the idea that Black creativity needs to be contained so that it can pour capital back into the community. The idea of Black creativity building economic power is very real. 

Johnson: From your perspective, what is the future of Black media and entertainment? How will it differ from the past and present?

Sow: I think the future of Black media and entertainment is creator-driven and direct distribution.

Creator-driven content is more honest, approachable, and interesting. It's coming from a very honest point of view. It's not contrived; it's not scripted or made in a factory. The future of Black media will also have to include platforms that can deliver directly to the community.

Johnson: What is your vision for the future of Blacktag?

Sow: My goal is to build a product that people love and that brings Black people closer together through content. Blacktag is that vision; I’ll put my entire energy behind it while continuing to experiment within those boundaries. I would love for Blacktag to be an entertainment platform that is as much of a household name as the BETs, the HBOs, and the Netflixes of the world. More importantly, I believe that with Blacktag’s unique model and focus on creator compensation, we can hopefully move the needle to a more honest approach around creator equity and how platform payout structure for creators should evolve with the creators in mind. This will take time, but I'm optimistic it can be achieved. 

Whether it's culture, food, music, beauty, or fashion, we're really striving to be a global media company. Creator markets like in Africa and Brazil are growing fast, so we want to identify, nurture, and connect those strongholds for greater impact. We hope that within five years, Blacktag is not only solving that need, but can be the utility to connect both audiences and creators globally.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles and quotes on this page are those of the speakers or authors.


We asked leading journalists, media entrepreneurs, policy experts, and intellectual property professionals to share their insights and predictions on the emerging trends, innovations, and business opportunities shaping Black media and entertainment in 2022.

The Blacktag Bookshelf

Check out some of Ousman Sahko Sow’s favorite reads.

What You Do is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business by Mark Robichaux, et al.

Community-Driven Media

“Subscriber-driven media platforms are really powerful. They create a level of accountability for communities to see themselves as not just passive readers, but community builders who are aligning over shared values.” 

Nicole Cardoza, Founder, Anti-Racism Daily

Watch: This five-part video series from the Meta Journalism Project provides insights for media entrepreneurs looking to build newsrooms and accelerate their digital subscription businesses.

Hyperlocal News

“I'm really excited about the smaller, hyperlocal newsrooms and their fight for survival to protect democracy and their local communities. Who we are as a society is captured through local news spaces, and there are significant efforts [to preserve these outlets] so that we can all access the history and the information from communities that we normally would never have access to.” 

Sherrell Dorsey, Founder and CEO, The Plug

Tap In: If you’re looking to start a publication covering your local community, consider joining one of these organizations that offer resources, training, and investment opportunities for local news entrepreneurs: 

Creator-First Media Companies

“I think that the creator-first approach to building media companies is something that we won’t be able to ignore. Smart media companies enable and support content creators in a way that makes sense for the brand but also makes sense for the creator. It’s a good idea to develop a media strategy that focuses on the areas that your audience is most interested in, finds content creators who are knowledgeable about those topics, and brings them on to work closely with the team in a way that maintains their creative freedom and supports them with guidance and mentorship.”

Brittani Hunter, Founder, Mogul Millennial

Crypto Content

“One of the big things that I’m looking at is NFTs, and there are a bunch of companies that are coming to the forefront to produce them, particularly in the music business. There are many potential opportunities for artists and creators.

“One of the things about NFTs that has a lot of people excited is that the blockchain technology [at the core of NFTs] allows the artist to continue to get paid every time the NFT is sold. As an example, an artist could put out a special-edition album as an NFT and sell a limited run of 500 copies for $500 each. After they sell those 500 copies, then the NFTs go into the resale market. But while the artist might have initially sold the NFT album for $500 a piece, the new owners of the NFTs might start side-trading in the aftermarket for $10,000 a piece. So the blockchain technology in the NFTs enables the original artist to get a royalty anytime the album is resold. I've seen deals anywhere from 10% to 25% of that future sale price.”

Lita Rosario, Esq., Principal WYZ Girl Entertainment Consulting

Further reading:

What is an NFT?

These Celebrity NFT Newbies Are Influencing Others To Tap Into The Digital Space

Monetization Models

“I think we’re going to start seeing movements toward monetization on social media platforms. So if I get 12K likes or 50K views—that’s great for TikTok’s bottom line, and I predict that will start having meaning for the bottom lines of individual creators. Platforms like YouTube have already started paying influencers and letting them keep a percentage of the money that they’re making the platform. And then there are direct subscription models like Patreon and OnlyFans that are examples of creator monetization.

“I think these monetization models are really going to take off. I think people will continue to supplement their main income or replace traditional streams of income with subscription-based and popularity-based presences through monetization programs on social media platforms.”

Antoine Prince Albert III, Government Affairs Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge

You Should Know: Fanbase is a Black-owned social networking platform that empowers users to monetize their content and earn revenue while also increasing authentic user engagement. Founded by Isaac Hayes III (son of the legendary soul music singer Isaac Hayes), Fanbase splits revenue with creators and enables fans to access exclusive content from each creator. It does this through a monthly subscription fee or by unlocking individual posts one at a time.

Metaverse & Web 3.0

“I think a lot of the infrastructure of Web 3.0 will be built in 2022, but I do think it's going to be such a small percentage of the population that we're not going to see a mass movement to it until a little bit later. And I think that's important.

“We still have a long way to go with Web 2.0, and Web 3.0 is just at its start. I think both Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 have the same pitfalls and promises about access, representation, and accountability of whose voices are heard and centered. So what excites me is that there's a lot of potential to build Web 3.0 in a way where we can address some of the challenges of Web 2.0. But I think it's going to take time, and we won't understand its true potential until more people are on board. It'll happen fast though—if not 2022, I'd say 2023.”

—Nicole Cardoza, Founder, Anti-Racism Daily

Further Reading:

Is Web3 the Internet of the future or just a buzzword?

Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Web 3.0

Pizza, mutant apes and a sea of NFTs: Web3 is here

Believe Web 3.0 is the Next Internet Revolution? Watch These 3 Stocks

Platforms and Publications to Keep on Your Radar

“There's a Black-owned NFT marketplace called Culture Shock that's working on limited-edition hip-hop trading cards. The concept is like baseball trading cards, but for hip-hop. They’re partnering with digital artists that are already having success selling NFTs and having them develop the artwork that'll be used for the recording artists who will be featured on the trading cards.”

Lita Rosario, Esq., Principal WYZ Girl Entertainment Consulting

Group Black is a new Black-led media collective and accelerator centered around helping Black media get access to greater deals from an advertising perspective. I think that's going to be pretty fascinating moving forward.”

Sherrell Dorsey, Founder and CEO, The Plug

Prism [an independent, nonprofit newsroom led by journalists of color] is doing a really great job of amplifying the right stories and the right voices. I love their work.”

Nicole Cardoza, Founder, Anti-Racism Daily

“I’m really impressed by N Lite, an up-and-coming Black-owned media company doing amazing work telling alternative Black narratives. They’re looking to lesser known parts of African-American storytelling in the US and across the diaspora to really bring visibility to communities that aren’t seen. They’re really trying to build an apparatus that brings meaningful insights on communities of color.”

Antoine Prince Albert III, Government Affairs Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge


Antoine Prince Albert III is Government Affairs Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, a Washington, DC-based public-interest advocacy organization that promotes freedom of expression, an open internet, and access to affordable communications tools and creative works.

Nicole Cardoza is Founder and CEO of Reclamation Ventures, an impact investing fund and studio that builds products aimed at increasing health and racial equity. Their flagship publication, Anti-Racism Daily (ARD), is a media platform that provides daily education and actions to dismantle white supremacy. Launched in June 2020, ARD has 250,000 newsletter subscribers and has raised more than $3 million for charity.

Sherrell Dorsey is the Founder and CEO of The Plug—a subscription-based digital news and insights platform covering the Black innovation economy. Her work has been featured in VICE, The Washington Post, Axios, The Information, and more. She is the author of Upper Hand: The Future of Work for the Rest of Us

Lita Rosario, Esq. is an entertainment attorney and Principal of WYZ Girl Entertainment Consulting, an entertainment- and intellectual-property law firm based in Washington, DC. Rosario’s client roster has included multi-platinum artists and producers Missy Elliott, Crystal Waters, Tank, Sisqo, Dru Hill, Peaches & Herb, Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force, The Moments, and Mr. Cheeks.

Brittani Hunter is the Founder of Mogul Millennial, a smart media company that empowers and educates Black entrepreneurs and professionals through actionable content, online courses, resources, and unique experiences. She has been recognized on the Forbes #Next1000 list, as a LinkedIn Top Voice, and on the Prairie View A&M University 40 Under 40 list.