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Russell Simmons Sets His Sights on YouTube with 'Post-Racial' Programming

March 10, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226025

Known for revolutionizing the music industry with his hip-hop label Def Jam, as well as the comedy and fashion worlds with Def Comedy Jam and Phat Farm, entrepreneur-icon Russell Simmons is now setting his sights on the digital space.

At CES 2013, Simmons announced that he is partnering with veteran TV and film producer and Awesomeness TV’s CEO Brian Robbins for the upcoming “All Def Digital” YouTube network. Simmons projects that the endeavor will help prop up and widen the appeal of lesser known forms of entertainment.

“In terms of just taking artists and broadening them across different media, I think that there’s no one really there managing them properly,” Simmons says. People these days tend to consume content in a variety of ways -- whether it’s through TV or Tivo or instantly on the web.

“I just think that there’s a hole in the market,” he says.

To close the gap, Simmons and a slew of other content producers (including myself with What’s Trending) are launching or have already launched networks on YouTube, which is owned by Google. Among others, Rainn Wilson of NBC’s The Office fame also launched his own YouTube network SoulPancake in 2012.

Related: How Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton is Bringing Storytelling into the Digital Age

Though betting on YouTube to act as a conduit to tomorrow’s viewers is hardly a sure thing, Simmons’ brand of entertainment, which he describes as “post-racial” could very well catch on.

In 2008, Simmons founded GlobalGrind.com, a site that claims to focus on celebrity entertainment, music, culture and politics in post-racial America. According to Simmons’ bio, Global Grind logs more than 2.6 million unique visitors a month, and in the site’s first year of operations, it generated $1.2 million in sales.

“It’s this pop-urban phenomena that is really the driving force of American culture,” says Simmons. “This is post-racial America, and it’s underserved.”

Indeed adds Robbins -- who is currently riding the recent launch of his own Awesomeness TV channel, which has emerged as YouTube’s destination for teen/tween content -- Simmons can’t miss. “This is an opportunity for someone like Russell, someone like myself to build the cable networks of tomorrow,” he says. “Who better than Russell to speak to this audience?”

Related: Social-Media Maven Amy Jo Martin on Working Hard and Being a Renegade

For “All Def Digital,” which will officially launch in the spring, Simmons is taking that penchant for churning out professional content and mapping it onto a platform for an urban, millennial audience. “I want to brand people across all forms of media,” he says. “Hollywood lacks the understanding of how to integrate properly to really speak to this post racial America… and that’s what I want to do.”

Besides YouTube’s effort, how do you think the content channels of tomorrow will change? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.