Lily: Niche Market and Worldwide Community
Oddly enough, it all started with a Facebook status.
Actually, it went back a little farther than that.
Keith Bardwell really started all of this. Long story short, this Louisiana judge refused to grant a marriage license in October 2009 to a mixed-race couple because he was concerned for their future children. Bardwell thought that if their children were of mixed races, they would be excluded from both groups.
Suzy Richardson thought this was uncalled for, so she uploaded a portrait of her own happy mixed-race family to Facebook, saying she planned to send it to Bardwell in a Christmas card. Almost immediately, her friends who were also in mixed-race families jumped on board. The niche community, and mixedandhappy.com, was born.
The idea went international, and what started out as one mother sticking up for the happiness of her children became a worldwide phenomenon.
“And so it turns out that a bad decision sparked a Facebook status that sparked a movement,” Richardson says on her website.
Bardwell received 130 photos of mixed-racial families from around the world that Christmas.
Richardson said in an interview that she is still defining the role of mixedandhappy.com.
“We talk about anything and everything mixed-race families would want to talk about,” she said. She wants mixedandhappy.com to be a community and a news site.
“People need to connect,” she said.
Mixedandhappy.com attracts traffic through its content, according to Richardson. While she uses social networking to spread the word about new stories, many times people find her website by entering phrases like “products for mixed hair” and “mixed relationships” into search engines like Google.
Richardson said she knows of a website called interracialfamily.org and sites this as the only real competitor of mixedandhappy.com. To compare, Mixed and Happy defines itself as “…the first news site dedicated to the mixed-race community.” Interracialfamily.org says its mission is to “facilitate the culture recognition of interracial/multicultural families and disassociate this culture from longstanding stigma by exposing and discrediting stereotypes.”
Richardson said that “interracial” was used more in the 1990s, and people seem to be getting away from that term.
“I decided to use the word ‘mixed’ even though people have bounced around it for so long because they thought it was a bad word,” she said. Her little sister was mixed, so she wanted to embrace the term.
“It makes people want to be a part of it,” Richardson said.
She is currently working with the City of Gainesville to hold the first Loving Day in the city the weekend of June 12, the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case in 1967. This decision made anti-miscegenation laws illegal. The celebration would bring together a local group of people who are members of the niche market mixedandhappy.com appeals to. In addition, mixed-race families in Australia want to start a Mixed and Happy chapter there.
“As I was writing (the card to Bardwell), I realized that this project was all about love,” Richardson said. “Because, when all is said and done, that’s what changes hearts and lives.”
Shannon: Using Social Media and Balancing the News with User-generated Content
Mixed and Happy, while it does focus on the news, is also meant to serve as a virtual community center. One way the site does this is through social media, like Facebook and Twitter. During our interview, Suzy Richardson, the founder and editor of Mixed Happy, talked about the various roles the social media sites have played in throughout the site’s history. In fact, it was a Facebook post that moved her to create a blog dedicated to covering issue related to mixed-race people and families. The post received so much attention from friends that created a Blogspot, which eventually became a full-fledged website.
The Facebook page also allows readers to connect with one another by sharing family photos, posting on the discussion board and generally showing support and love for Mixed and Happy. In this way, the Facebook page is an extension of the website in that it offers readers a place to not only discuss Mixed and Happy stories, but also to bring in outside influences which could possibly serves as story ideas.
Richardson went on to describe how she and the site’s reporters use the Facebook page to attract traffic to the site. She says she understands it would be ridiculous to expect people to be able to extensively connect socially on the site when most people already use Facebook to do so. Therefore, she uses the Facebook page to promote stories on the website.
Balance User Generated Content & the News
Mixed and Happy is unique in that it is dealing with issues that deeply affect people. The story about the mixed-race couple being denied a marriage license, a cross burning at a mixed family’s home, how a family is dealing with a transracial adoption: these are all very emotional stories to the authors and the readers. When I asked Richardson about how she tries to balance the site’s news stories with content contributed by users (like photos and personal stories), she said it can be difficult. As one of the few websites dedicated to mixed-race families and issues, many users expect it to do and be everything. Richardson said, as an alumna of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, she has a passion for journalism and wants her site to reflect that commitment.
Part of what Richardson is doing to make sure the site maintains a strong news presence, is to bring in outsiders to help revamp the site. For example, she recently found two interns through the College’s Job and Internship Fair. Bringing in communications students, who are familiar with writing news stories and would do the internship for academic credit, allows her to have contributers who are committed to helping the site grow. One issue Richardson discussed was the inability of finding reporters and contributors who would stick around after expressing initial interest. “I have to be careful on screening people. In the beginning, I let people write if they wanted to. What I found is that if there’s no exchange, financial or credit, people will stay with you briefly and kind of disappear.” Richardson’s commitment to keeping her site a news site is very apparent in the carefulness she uses when choosing whom to bring into Mixed and Happy.
Johnelle: A website with no advertisements?
Usually, free websites and newspaper sites use advertisements as a way to generate profit. While news sites and websites in general usually have ads to the top or sides of their web pages, Mixed and Happy displays no ads whatsoever, in turn, generating no income. This is one of the first things our group realized when analyzing the site, and we found it to be unique. But while other sites are concerned with getting loads of web hits, in turn gaining money from advertisers, the motive of Mixed and Happy is just to dedicate itself to news and the community for mixed-race families and allow this sometimes overlooked group of people to connect with one another. The founder, Suzy Richardson, has a passion for journalism, which helps keep her motivated to run the site.
Though it seems as if there are purposely no ads on the site, Richardson says it’s actually this way because she needs help making it happen. She says she is not the most tech-savvy person and is a one man band, basically doing everything on her own when it comes to supervising the site. However, she says she, along with the contributors, is in the process of reconstructing the whole face of the website, which will include ad space and ad campaigns in the future. With the new interns hired, there may be a sooner change with advertisements being placed on the site.
Between now and last week, actually, our group has observed this revamping taking place. Before, there were multiple links that would link to the same destination, and the links were a little disorganized. Now, instead of having multiple links at the top of the screen with drop box menus leading to the same page, there are now only designated links entitled “Home,” “About Us,” “Submissions” and “MH Around the World.” A lot of times we may notice that advertisements in newspapers and websites reflect the given content. Richardson says part of the revamping process will allow people to advertise what they want on the site.
But just because there are no ads doesn’t mean there is no traffic. Richardson says the site actually gets a pretty decent amount of traffic, and the social media outlets are key factors in attracting people. Surprisingly, the site attracts many viewers just through simple Google searches, such as “products for mixed hair” or “mixed relationships.” Including advertisements on the site will definitely be a positive change and would probably help to generate some sort of profit in the future.