IAC's Black Web Enterprises finally unveiled their online initiative targeting black people this evening with its launch of Rushmore Drive. The launch party, held in the magnificent IAC building, was a gather of the who's who of African-American internet and media spaces.
Johnny Taylor kicked off the party with an introduction of the Grammy award winning singer Regina Bell. Regina opened by singing a "A Whole New World", which seemed to be an overall theme of the launch party. At the conclusion of Regina's performance, we heard from some of IAC's executive team including CEO of IAC Barry Diller.
On to the product
The Rushmore Drive demo started with a keyword search using the Rushmore Drive search engine. The keywords were selected by audience members, prior to the demonstration, to prove that the site was fully functional. The keyword, in this case diabetes, returned a number of results on the topic, but what sets Rushmore Drive apart from other search engines was the black sites and topics ranked higher than other topics in the search results. The engine is built using the Ask search algorithm, but Johnny made it clear that the engine does more than append "Black" or "African American" to your keyword. Instead the Rushmore Drive search engine ranks results based on its relevancy to black people.
Another key feature is the ability to rate search results. If the user is satisfied or dissatisfied with a particular result Rushmore gives them the ability to rate the result between 1 and 5 stars. The rating system helps the search engine grow smarter with the help of the users. Users can also directly interact with the search engine by suggesting sites they feel should be indexed by the Rushmore Drive search engine.
Johnny stressed that, "Rushmore Drive is not in competition with other media outlets", instead their goal is to promote black media outlets, but with the introduction of Rushmore Drive Detour, I am not so sure. Detour is the Rushmore news and editorial site utilizing freelance writers. Detour covers topics in Entertainment, Family and Religion, Health, Money, Politics, Race and Racism, Sex and Relationships, and Sports. Sounds like competition with other editorial sites to me. If Rushmore truly wanted to promote sites, they should have consider direct partnerships with content distributors to display content a la Google News or Yahoo!
Rushmore Drive also allows you to create your own "news website" call MyNews. MyNews allows you to choose your favorite news topics and share them using a number of social tools including the share this widget, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, and others.
Rushmore Drive includes a Job Network Section powered by Jobster. The job network seems to be a mini mix of Linked-In and Monster. The network allows users to select any professional or social affiliations, and includes the ability to link with friends and share jobs. A quick search for jobs in my area returned quite a few entries, but I really haven't had the opportunity to really dig into some of the features, but as soon as I do I will update.