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.