WHEN TIMEWARNER-OWNED Essence magazine announced plans to refashion itself as a multimedia brand with a new website, it was the fourth in a line of similar launches this year by media companies looking for Black online users. IAC/InterActive Corp, the media group that owns Match.com, introduced RushmoreDrive.com, a new search engine directed at a Black readership; The Washington Post Company launched TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; and TheDailyVoice.com went live with news for Black readers.

Writer and media analyst Roberto Lovato attributes this spate of online products to the “Rupert Murdoch-ization” of the media industry, which consolidated outlets and created a vacuum that new online magazines are rushing to fill. “What remains to be seen, though, is how these outfits will approach NAFTA’s effect on the Black community, globalization, issues of gentrification and immigration,” Lovato cautioned. “If they don’t speak about these issues in a realistic way, these sites are really about making money and not much more.”