All Articles Tagged "african american magazines"
Ebony and Jet have been major mouthpieces for the African-American community for over 60 years. As an integral part of the black landscape, the magazines have often been seen peppered among barber shops, churches and other central institutions since the ’40s. But when John H. Johnson and his wife Eunice founded Johnson Publishing in 1945, they wanted to create “a movement” through their magazines according to Desiree Rogers, it’s current CEO. The former White House social secretary — who took the helm of Johnson Publishing in 2010 — was brought on to take that movement into the 21st century. She is already creating a new wave of success.
In the first half of this year, Ebony has seen an increase in readership of 11%, while Jet’s reach has expanded by 8%. This stellar growth is due to efforts made by Johnson Publishing management to address circulation by hiring outside consultants to increase subscriptions, and revamping the editorial staff. Both moves aim to help the brands appeal to a much younger demographic with greater spending power. But to make these expansions, the black-owned stalwart chose to accept a minority investment from JP Morgan Chase to fund these opportunities. NPR.org has more on this critical business decision:
This summer, Johnson Publishing took a crucial step—selling an equity stake to banker JP Morgan Chase. Speaking on NPR’s Tell Me More, Johnson Publishing chairwoman Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of the company’s founders, said that it was not a decision taken lightly.
“I really wanted this business to grow, and I really stopped and I thought, if we really want to expand and we want to expand Ebony and Jet and Fashion Fair Cosmetics as brands, right now we just can’t do this alone,” Rice said. “It’s too challenging of an environment.”
Rice added that the investment allows the company, which remains black-owned, to accelerate its plans. For more than a year, Johnson Publishing has been setting up a new management and editorial team, recently hiring a new editor-in-chief for Jet magazine and a new director for Ebony‘s digital operations. Additionally, there’s a new president of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, and celebrity make-up artist Sam Fine will lead efforts to create new products. Next year the company even plans to consider reviving some form of the Ebony Fashion Fair style show.
Ebony and Jet have seen a remarkable increase in their circulation over the first six months of 2011. Ebony’s readership has increased 10.9% to 1,235,865, while Jet magazine saw a 7.6% rate of growth to 820,557. This improvement comes after Johnson Publishing had decreased its promised circulation numbers to advertisers for Jet and missed previous quotas for reader guarantees for about two years for both tomes. Leaders in the advertising and publishing industry see this growth as a big win for Johnson Publishing and its CEO Desiree Rogers, who took the helm of the company about a year ago. Rogers is challenged to grow the magazine business at a time when the industry in general faces declines in advertising, subscriptions and newsstand sales. These 8-11% increases in circulation mark a stunning coup.
How did she do it? For Ebony magazine, Rogers employed a creative combination of input from outside circulation experts and a regenerating redesign. Ad Age reports on Rogers’ ability to grow the iconic Johnson Publishing title despite the harsh magazine business environment:
[Johnson Publishing ] places most of the blame on its prior circulation management, which it says it has improved by outsourcing it to circulation veterans last October. Their diagnosis found insufficient direct-mail campaigns and prices that were occasionally more aggressive than other magazines.
“If you’re not constantly reaching out and asking people to come back on, they fall off,” said Rodrigo Sierra, senior VP-chief marketing officer at Johnson Publishing, which owns Ebony and Jet.
Last August Johnson Publishing named Desiree Rogers, the former White House social secretary, to take over as CEO, just one of several personnel changes that might play a role in Ebony’s effort to rebound.
Ebony’s latest step is the redesign from Amy DuBois Barnett, who was named editor in chief last June, and Darhil Crooks, who joined in January as creative director from Esquire, where he had been art director.
Ebony revamped every aspect of the magazine from the logo to the layout. In addition an effort was made to shift the editorial focus of the book to reflect the desires of the modern African-American audience for self-improvement and inspiration. Jet also benefited from the outsourcing of circulation management, and saw its numbers increase.
By comparison, other black magazines like XXL and Essence have seen readership declines of 22% and 2% respectively, according to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms™.
From purely casual observation, it is clear that Ebony and Jet are both featuring younger stars, and are more on the pulse of trends in African-American lifestyle and entertainment. This month’s cover features hot actress Zoe Saldana, for instance — a celebrity who is not strictly African-American — who discusses the implication of her more complicated black identity for her cover story. It’s hard to imagine the Ebony magazine of two years ago placing someone who is neither strictly “black,” nor an old-guard African-American luminary on the cover.
Clearly these risks — using hot stars and stirring a little controversy — are working out for Ebony magazine. The numbers prove it. Jet is making similar moves to remain relevant to an Internet-trained audience that craves conflict to fuel Facebook discussions, mixed with a sense of immediacy. If Johnson Publishing can continue to take editorial risks and modernize its approach to information delivery, their well-known black brands will flourish for another half-century.
This kind of longevity is sorely needed in a world where most black media is owned and controlled by mainstream companies without a direct interest in serving black audiences as part of a heart-felt service to our community.
KING magazine was a much beloved iconic title. Representative of the high life aspired to by many young black men, it was considered the GQ of the hip-hop set. Even though some considered it merely a “booty magazine” due to the scantily clad women that always graced its covers, in truth the makers of KING attempted to make the publication intelligent and fun. This was (and still is) a mix rarely concocted in media for black men, who many stereotype as only being interested in big behinds — not stimulating their minds. KING was successful at doing both, flourishing in its niche to reach a circulation of over 271,000 in its heyday. It’s demise in 2009 saw the end of a rare cultural moment that united quality and popularity in a black-run entity.
BlackVoices.com has chronicled the rise and fall of the only black lad mag of quality in an in depth article. On the business end, the reasons for the folding of KING are stark and grim:
In its first four years, KING‘s circulation more than doubled, from 132,851 a year after it launched to 271,298 in 2005, making it one of the fastest-growing magazines in America at the time, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which tracks magazine sales. Then as the economy worsened, things fell apart.
The liquor, rims and clothing advertisers that the magazine leaned on so heavily were hit especially hard during the recession. And former employees of KING and Harris Publications said there was reluctance and sometimes “laziness” on the part of the sales team, who never committed to courting more lasting, higher-end advertisers. But at the same time, more traditional advertisers were wary of the saucy content or of targeting the black male market at all.
Former KING editors also describe an environment within Harris Publications that sought to push the magazine away from its content complexity. KING’s directors combined that fun barber shop vibe with a classy approach to presenting pictures of beautiful women. Even during the height of KING’s reign, Harris would have preferred that the creators up the ratio of cheaper booty-baring images over well-curated articles. It is possible that the expense of paying talented writers and photographers was deemed superfluous by Harris Publications as profits thinned during the recession.
After KING folded in 2009 due to economic pressures, it resurfaced in 2010 as Women of KING, taking advantage of the brand name editors had built up to focus exclusively on presenting near-naked girls. Harris Publications got its wish. The hip-hop community lost an important expressive outlet.
(AdAge) — There are definite advantages to publishing a magazine aimed at a black audience. That’s the opinion of Earl G. Graves Sr., the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise and one of this year’s inductees into the Advertising Hall of Fame. ”Because there’s such a paucity of African-American magazines that are out there, I don’t think we are going to have the diminution that some of our fellow publishers might have,” Mr. Graves told me in a video interview. There’s Ebony and Jet, Black Enterprises and Essence (no longer African-American-owned). ”And so there’s a paucity of publications that are really first class that are reaching an audience more and more hungry for information.” But, he added, that audience wasn’t always appreciated.
(Black Enterprise) — After nearly 70 years as a family-owned independent publishing firm, Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. (No. 30 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE list with $120 million in sales) announced that it sold an equity stake in the company to JPMorgan Chase’s Special Investments Group (SIG). And while the undisclosed, but certainly multi-million dollar, infusion provides the company with much-needed capital to refocus the brand, it also marks the first time the family business has taken outside investment. In an exclusive interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Chairman Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of founderJohn H. and Eunice Walker Johnson, says there was no trepidation about selling a portion of the company’s equity and giving another firm a voice in the business. “We have the management control and the operational control of the business,” asserts Rice. “I believe that not only are they [JPMorgan Chase] savvy investors but I think they will be strategic partners for us.” She also stated adamantly that there are no plans to sell a controlling interest in the company.
By Alexis Garrett Stodghill
JP Morgan Chase has made a minority investment in Johnson Publishing Co., one of the last black-owned media companies in America. The publisher of the iconic magazines Ebony and Jet has decided to accept outside capital for the first time in its history to meet aggressive expansion goals. Declines in circulation, coupled with the necessity of building the company’s online presence, have made growth through a large infusion of dollars critical for the firm’s future. The Chicago Sun Times reports:
Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, said JPMorgan Chase’s Special Investments Group will become an investor in the company, the first outside investor at the family-owned business. The investment “positions Johnson Publishing for continued growth,” by “providing financial resources to take our iconic Ebony and Jet magazines to the next level and accelerate our growth strategy for Fashion Fair Cosmetics,” Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of the company and daughter of its founder, said in a statement.
The Johnson Publishing Co. has an impressive 69 year history. Started in 1942 by the late founder John H. Johnson and his wife, Eunice, it remains the largest black-owned publishing house in the world. With a robust books division, the well-loved Ebony Fashion Fair showcase (that raises money for charities), and its international cosmetics brand, it makes sense that JP Morgan Chase would find this stable company worthy of receiving more capital. It is also confusing that such a well-positioned entity has not received mainstream funding sooner.
When Cathy Hughes bought her first radio station, she used everything she owned as collateral for a $1 million loan needed to make the purchase. This mogul managed her primary investment well, and grew her company to include dozens of radio stations, creating the Radio One empire. Now her corporate interests include the cable station TV One, her Internet play Interactive one, and other related media brands. To expand to this level, Hughes needed more money than she could possible have raised through any means except corporate financing. And that is she the route she went. Today, Cathy Hughes is the chairperson of her holding company, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
It’s pretty amazing that one woman created a powerful media company with a market capitalization of almost $100 million in just a couple of decades, while Johnson Publishing Co. is just dipping its toe in the pool of outside investment after almost 80 years. This shows the importance of integrating with the larger business community. More important black companies need to take advantage of these capital markets — while retaining ultimate control. Hughes and her son, Alfred C. Liggins, III, still lead Radio One as the primary officers, ultimately making key decisions that affect how their media brands portray black America.
It’s wonderful that Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing and daughter of the founders, retains similar control. If Johnson CEO Desiree Rogers is able to use the monies provided by JP Morgan Chase well, there might still be time for this aging black conglomerate to grow its brand reach and appeal. Johnson Publishing Co. might be late to the corporate finance market, but it is still possible for the company to catch up.
(PR Newswire) — Today, ESSENCE.com, the daily online destination for African-American women, unveils a bold new design. The new ESSENCE.com promises to offer even more of what its audience craves — celebrity news, beauty, fashion, hair and relationship content. In the spirit of the ESSENCE brand, the site will feature engaging commentary and user-generated opportunities on topics that affect Black women and the African-American community. Offering its audience up-to-the-minute exclusive access to celebrities, experts and thought-leaders, the new ESSENCE.com will provide a daily experience that is “fierce, fun and fabulous!” Debuting with exciting guest editors — including R&B star Kelly Rowland and legendary supermodel and businesswomanIman — users can expect to see several exciting new features, exclusive content and get the inside scoop on music, fashion, beauty and more. Additional contributors will include author and TV producer Susan Fales-Hill and life coach Lisa Nichols.ESSENCE.com will also integrate its successful Makeover Magic as well as its Hot Hair tools; comprising an extraordinary interactive beauty platform.
(ThyBlackMan.com) When I went on Essence Music Festival’s website and looked at the speakers listed under “Empowerment” I was stunned and quite embarrassed! The Essence Music Festival is the nation’s largest annual gathering of Black musical talent in the U.S. It is a 3 day event filled with cultural celebrations, empowerment panels, and nightly entertainment by some of the biggest names in music. It is held in New Orleans, LA every July. The event attracts more than 200,000 people. One of the speakers listed under “Empowerment” is “NeNe” Leakes. She is one of the main characters of the reality TV show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta“. The show is about the private lives of women who are dating or is married to successful men in the Atlanta area. Leakes is a foul mouth, angry, nasty person on the show and from media accounts in real life also. She is also the founder of Twisted Hearts Foundation (which focuses on domestic violence against women). They were forced to close down last year after being suspected of money laundering. Leakes is also a former stripper.
(Huffington Post) — The future was now. And the revolution has been Tweeted. The mainstream print industry is under a digital assault, so what’s to become of Black publications? ”There’s no such thing as real-time, there’s only the millisecond,” states Munson Steed, publisher of Rolling Out, a national urban weekly. “Everything else is history. When you read the weeklies and the monthlies, you’ve already heard, saw, and received it on Twitter. And a lot of people don’t want to say that.” A lot of people don’t want to recognize that African-American publications are at a crossroads either. Recently, the Columbia College Association of Black Journalists presented a dynamic panel of print media professionals to dialogue with Columbia journalism students about the current and future state of Black media.
The recession devastated many businesses – most notably, magazines. With advertising budgets having plummeted, magazines that were most affected by declining add dollars had to cease publication including Vibe magazine (which was later resurrected as a quarterly publication), Domino, and Men’s Vogue among many others. But some have managed to stay afloat, including some Black mags that have managed to stick around for the long haul – magazines we can’t even remember living without. Here is a look at the Black glossies which have informed, inspired and survived through the decades.
Right On! and Black Beat
These magazines targeting the Black teen market have held on for decades – four decades that is. Right On! debuted in 1971, with the Jackson 5 on their first cover. It was the first magazine to cater to Black teens and was the African-American version of mags like Tiger Beat and Bop. It can rightfully claim to be one of the longest running urban magazines in the country. The two publications are currently owned by Dorchester Media, LLC, but the history of the founder(s) remains a mystery as Dorchester Media is keeping quiet on the exact origins of the pubs.