Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fade To Black: Is Ebony Magazine in the Red?

According to Newsweek, Ebony Magazine, one of the country's longest running and most well renowned African American publications, may be up for sale, another print media victim of the recession. From the article:

"It's been a year of excruciating decisions for publishing companies—layoffs, pullbacks, closures. Now it appears Johnson Publishing’s chairman and CEO, Linda Johnson Rice, has reached what must have been an agonizing decision: Johnson Publishing is seeking a buyer or investor for its flagship publication, Ebony, in an effort aimed at securing the survival of the nation's oldest magazine devoted to African-American life. It's unclear whether the company's other properties, including Jet, would be part of a possible sale....

The economic downturn has killed off scores of magazines, including such prominent titles as Condé Nast Portfolio and Domino, while forcing others onto the auction block, including BusinessWeek. But the historic Ebony has fared worse than average amid the industry's woes. In fact, Ebony's advertising pages and ad revenues have declined in each of the last three years, even during periods when the industry was flat to positive. Among the 243 magazines tracked by the Publishers Information Bureau, ad pages plunged an average of 28 percent, with revenues falling by 21 percent, in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier. But Ebony's decline was sharper, as advertising dived almost 35 percent, dragging revenues down almost 32 percent, to $18.8 million from 2008's $27.7 million. And the deterioration of Jet magazine, Ebony's sister publication, was even more severe—about 40 percent in ad pages and revenues."

Yesterday, while visiting my mom, she said she was renewing her subscription to Ebony- after not subscribing for well over ten years. I laughed and asked, "What, is it 1992 again?" It's unfortunate, but I suppose plenty of other people view Ebony similarly. Well-respected, yes, but outdated. Essence has been the voice of the 30/40 something Black woman for years now, and I'm sure that has eaten away at Ebony's dwindling readership. Twenty somethings (are a ficle group- we liked the defunct Honey and Vibe Vixen, but I guess not enough to actually support them. And obviously, the fact there are so many great sites- for free- on the web has taken a huge toll, like with other publications.

Still, teasing aside, I hope Ebony makes it. It truly is a classic.


Joseph Flemming said...

Excellent piece. I know that the availability of free information coupled with the immediacy of internet news, blogs and discussion boards, really put a hamper on magazine subscriptions across the board. I do think that printed publications still have a lot to offer though. In a world filled with PC's Macs, laptops and Kindle readers;
I believe there is still something special about holding an actual paper product. there is something about flipping through the pages, that an electronic device just can't replace. I will admit that I have become very selective about which publications I would sink my money into nowadays, but I for one look forward to my monthly subscriptions I still care to receive.

Perhaps a different model is needed to entice consumers to pick up a magazine. Take for instance Game Informer it is sold with a discount card at Gamestop & EBGames stores. The card saves you 10% off of select purchases, and you get the magazine for a year. Most customers really wanted the discount, and didn't care for the magazine, however in time the value of the magazine became apparent and it is now recognized as a legitimate news source for games. They follow up this strategy by offering enhanced features on their online site with expanded content from the latest issue.

If other publications can find away to enhance the prints value then perhaps the industry can pull itself out of this downward spin.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Glad you liked it, but please note that everything in italics is from the article (the link is provided in the opening).

I agree with everything you said- fine commentary! I am wondering though, is this the end of print media as we know it? Far too many magazines and newspapers have gone under lately. It's disconcerting...

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