What Will We Really Be Losing in the Ebony/Jet Share Buyout?

July 12, 2011  |  

By Charing Ball

The end of an almost 70-year legacy is upon us as the last bastion of black-owned media space known as the Johnson Publishing Company, owner of  Ebony and Jet magazines, will now only be partly black-owned.

Johnson Publishing announced last week that JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s special investments group has acquired a “substantial” minority stake in the company.  It is the first time in the company’s history that it will not be fully family-owned.  No one should really be too surprised by the announcement considering that Johnson Publishing has been struggling in recent years with declining circulation and advertising sales.  At one time Ebony and Jet averaged respectively, 1,294,824 and 900,000 in circulation.  But by the end of 2010 the circulation numbers dropped to 997,173 and 703,944.  Moreover, Johnson has seen a substantial revenue-drop from more than $472 million to $120 million.

The black-owned publishing company has been trying to turn itself around with structural changes such as a workforce reduction, the sale of the building that served as the company’s headquarters for four decades and the hiring of Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary, as its CEO.   And according to Richard Prince’s Journal-ism, while it has yet to be revealed how much stake JPMorgan will gain in the acquisition, Johnson is citing that it is enough to “[give] us the capital to move forward with the plans we’ve been working on.”  Those plans include “rebranding” Ebony and Jet,  remaking a digital platform for both publications and marketing Fashion Fair cosmetics more effectively.

It may feel like a half-mast day for some in the media world, however perhaps this investment will give Johnson Publishing the financial boost needed to navigate through the ever-changing and evolving black aesthetic.  The internet has become a black hole, gobbling up what’s left of print publications.   Likewise, most black readers who continue to subscribe, do so out of loyalty or some sort of romanticized sentiment of what they believed the publications stands for.  Seriously, when was the last time you quoted or referenced an article in Ebony?  Matter of fact, when was the last time, you actually read Jet?  The reality is that the modern day black family hasn’t been supporting either publications they way that we should.  And there is a reason behind that.

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  • guest

    its too many black celebs "making it rain" and opening clubs in europe and the UK to have ebony/jet go to a white company for a partnership.

  • shelly

    I can't say I'm too sorry to see the end of these magazines.Like many others, I "grew up" reading them. It was exciting too see articules aimed at people of color. As I got older, I began to see the light. They were still geared towards people who looked like me, but,now they had to look like me and have deep pockets. The clothes etc advertised were econonmicly beyond my bank account balance.I might as well read Harpers or Vogue.Hopefully the high and mighty "o" mag will be next

  • Neada H

    Was there ever a call to Johnson Publishing 's consumer audience to invest in the corporation itself? What cry was made when the revenues and readership dropped? If the community that has been loyalty to these publications were made aware of the financial distress, would there have been an investment response? There are African Americans with money who look for worthwhile investments. These questions are quite mute because that is not the road taken. Con't………
    Yes, the deal has been made and staffing changes may cause the tenor of content to change. Finances do control the editorial response of not only Johnson Publishing's magazines but all publications. Would letters to the editors cause any changes in staffing and content submissions? I personally don't think they will. The deal is done, who won? With severe drops in subscriptions and readership before these changes, will the loyal readers continue subscribing? This decision is up to the individual reader and subscriber.

  • Regeena

    I do not agree about the comment made about no one reading Jet or Ebony. At 47 years old, both magazines are subscribed to and have been coming to my house for many many years. My children are grown now, but they also continue to read both magazines.

  • Semmi Algostin

    I suppose it would be impolite to suggest that by saying on one hand that you never read these publications and then decrying their content on the other, you are trafficking n the same ant-intellectualism that you accuse them of.

    • C. Ball

      No it would be dishonest and ill-informed considering that I've never said that I have never read these publications.


    Continuation: The point is that black ownership in media must be considered to be an issue of cultural security. The same way the U.S. doesn't allow to much foreign ownership of its airlines or nuclear power plants (without regard to how much extra money they can make by selling out), African Americans must understand the value of keeping specific assets within the control of black people. No matter how well intended a partnership may be on the surface the truth is that when the hard decisions are being made and that white editor comes into your office to tell you that your article is too radicle, you have no choice but to stand down. An old African Proverb says that "He who pays the fiddler calls the tune". Power comes with ownership, nothing less. Blacks folks need to learn this valuable lesson.

  • Dee

    I still subscribe to Ebony and Essence, and I purchase a Jet magazine weekly. But you’re absolutely right, it is mostly out of loyalty. I’ve been reading Ebony and Jet for nearly 40 years.

  • R……

    If I become rich within next year…..(Money) I will buy Ebony & Jet company……

    Mr. G Q…..~ R

    So, it is say, So it is writer…………..