Ebony Pins Hopes on Redesign
Friday, March 4, 2011
Ebony magazine, sustaining circulation and advertising losses despite injections of new blood and a new look launched in 2009, unveiled what it called a "cover-to-cover, page by page" redesign for its April issue and promised to meet the circulation figure it has guaranteed advertisers by the June issue.
Rodrigo A. Sierra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the parent Johnson Publishing Co., also told Journal-isms that the company was close to hiring a new editor for Jet magazine, had requested proposals Friday to redesign its online presence and was hoping to revive the fabled Ebony Fashion Fair show, "though it won't be in 2011. There is too much work to do and [we want to] do it the right way."
In addition to helping local community groups and charities, the Ebony Fashion Fair boosted the circulation of Ebony and Jet. Those who bought a ticket received a subscription to one of the magazines, though that won't necessarily be the case if the fair is revived.
The company suspended its fall 2009 production "in light of the overall economic challenges," then canceled its spring 2010 show, citing the January death of the show's 93-year-old creator, Eunice W. Johnson. However, the show was revived for a 10-city tour last month in conjunction with Macy's department stores.
About the magazine, an announcement Friday said, "EBONY magazine has evolved for a new generation. With the goal of reaching a new generation of readers, the brand that represents the absolute best of Black America has taken it to a new level, beginning with its April 2011 issue . . .
"The top-to-bottom redesign introduces a stylish evolution of EBONY’s classic logo, four distinct and exciting new editorial departments, and a new design. The redesigned EBONY promises to entertain, inspire and inform its more than 11 million monthly readers as it highlights issues in a way that will ignite conversation and empower communities."
Declining circulation and advertising pages, however, suggest that many of Ebony's problems have been on the business side.
"Ebony missed its guaranteed rate base of 1.25 million by an average of 6.5% in the second half of 2009, 10.8% in the first half of 2010 and 20.2% in the second half of 2010, according to its statements with the Audit Bureau of Circulations," Nat Ives reported Friday for Advertising Age. The rate base is the circulation guaranteed advertisers.
"It 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" that failed to reach out to readers to extend their subscriptions, Ives wrote.
"If you're not constantly reaching out and asking people to come back on, they fall off," Sierra said in the piece.
Last year saw advertising dollars for Ebony and Jet decline more steeply than for other magazines targeting African Americans or Hispanics that are tracked by the Publishers Information Bureau. The decline was 8.4 percent for Ebony and 20.8 percent for Jet.
However, Sierra said, "We're starting to see the turnaround" and added that when readers and advertisers "take note of the change in the look and feel" of the publication, they'll see "that we have a real powerful story to tell advertisers."
The redesign was chiefly the work of Amy DuBois Barnett, hired as Ebony editor-in-chief in June. Darhil Crooks, art director at Esquire, joined in January as creative director.
"This is everything from introducing an evolution of our 65-year-old logo to really taking apart every single page in the magazine and putting it back together with an eye to the brand pillars that we now think best reflect our target demographic," Barnett told AdAge.
On the business side, Stephen Gregory Barr, the former publisher of OK magazine, is in his second week as senior vice president and group publisher. He is based in Johnson Publishing Co. offices at Radio City in Manhattan to be closer to the advertising industry.
Both report to CEO Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary and friend of Chairman Linda Johnson Rice. Rice "is involved every step of the way" in the redesign, Sierra said.
He also said the company is making progress on its digital and social media efforts.
"It has been a progression, just like the social media outlets ... but the biggest leap for ebony.com has been just in the last month," he said.
"Through a focused effort at ensuring fresh content on the site and by tweeting and posting on [Facebook] links and messages back to the site, we went from about 150,000 weekly page views to more than 225,000 weekly page views in February.
"Similarly, we were at less than 1000 Twitter followers in August 2010 for @ebonymag. We steadily increased that month-by-month to just over 4,000 in early January. Today we crossed the 6000 followers threshold," he said by e-mail.
Sierra said he envisions the websites as repositories for Johnson's historic photo archives, which might provide a lucrative advertising environment.
Asked whether all the activity might mean additional jobs for journalists, he said, "Someone's got to provide content for the website," though he said employees would create most of it.
- Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune: Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers trying to breathe new life into Ebony, Jet magazines (March 6)
The same advertising climate that saw dollars for Ebony and Jet decline boosted advertising dollars for a Hispanic parenting magazine by 25 percent. Ser Padres, published by the Meredith Corp., which also produces Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Parents magazines, rose from $12.4 million in advertising revenue in 2009 to $15.5 million in 2010, according to January figures from the Publishers Information Bureau.
"Ser Padres (circ: 700,000/8x per year) is a Spanish-language parenting mag for families with children up [to] 12, though it focuses on pre-schoolers and other younger kids," according to Inside Health Media. "Launched in 1990 as a spin-off of Parents, it absorbed Meredith's Healthy Kids in Español in February 2008. Most readers are women between 20 and 45. It's distributed through pediatricians and ob-gyns."
Three years ago, Della de Lafuente wrote for the now-defunct Marketing y Medios, "Meredith anticipates that its Latino-targeted parenting titles will become increasingly important in the lives of new moms since one in three infants is expected to be born to a U.S. Hispanic woman in the next decade, according to U.S. Census estimates."
Among other magazines aimed at African Americans and Hispanics, Black Enterprise rose by 10.5 percent, Essence by 18.2 percent, Latina by 9.7 percent, People en Español by 8.1 percent and Siempre Mujer by 8.0 percent.
"In the fourth quarter of 2010, consumer magazines recorded a 4.2% revenue increase and a 3.5% page gain compared to 2009’s fourth quarter. It was the third quarter in a row that consumer magazines posted gains in both pages and revenues," the bureau said.
Editors and other journalists from the Caribbean, wooed by the Chinese government, smile for the camera as a young chaperon, Eric, gives the thumbs up. (Credit: Gwyneth Harold via Epoch Times.)
"Police threats to revoke foreign journalists' visas and require advance permission for newsgathering are disturbing new efforts to restrict reporting on protests in China," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday.
"Police told some foreign journalists they could lose their accreditation and residence permits if they conduct 'illegal' reporting in parts of central Beijing and Shanghai without permission, according to Reuters and other international news reports. Some journalists reported being told that advance consent would be required for any filming in China going forward. The warnings were given to journalists from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the BBC, and other news outlets, in meetings held Wednesday and today, according to international news reports.
"Wangfujing, a downtown shopping street in Beijing, and a section of Shanghai near the People's Square, were apparently ruled off-limits because of unsigned online calls for Sunday afternoon protests in Chinese cities modeled on recent popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the reports. Turnout in response to the calls, which were first issued February 19, has been weak. Yet police and plainclothed security officials flooded Wangfujing last Sunday, detaining at least a dozen foreign journalists and injuring two.
"The order contravenes regulations issued in advance of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 that allow foreign reporters to interview any consenting subject."
- Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Clear view of China from Tibet
- Louisa Lim, NPR: China Cracks Down On Reporters, Potential Protesters
- Reuters: China tightens reporting noose on foreign media
- Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times: Caribbean Journalists Courted by Chinese Regime: Junkets seek to change coverage of authoritarian state
"The public remains deeply frustrated with the federal government, but fewer Americans say they are angry at government than did so last fall," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Thursday. "Overall, the percentage saying they are angry with the federal government has fallen from 23% last September to 14% today, with much of the decline coming among Republicans and Tea Party supporters."
Racially, the decline comes among whites, according to Michael Dimock of the Pew Center. The anger level among that group stood at 23 percent last year but declined to 14 percent this year, while remaining at 12 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 17 percent for Hispanics.
The poll of 1,504 people, including 144 non-Hispanic blacks and 127 Hispanics, found that 62 percent of blacks had no opinion about the Tea Party, with 3 percent agreeing with the movement and 32 percent disagreeing. In the general population, the figure was 25 percent agreeing, 24 percent disagreeing and 50 percent having no opinion.
President Obama registered an 86 percent approval rating among non-Hispanic blacks, 64 percent among Hispanics and 42 percent among non-Hispanic whites. (PDF)
"Ted Tajima, a noted journalism instructor who was a mentor to many professional journalists, passed away on Feb. 20. He was 88," J.K. Yamamoto wrote Thursday for Rafu Shimpo — Los Angeles Japanese Daily News.
"Tajima, Alhambra High School’s journalism advisor for 35 years until his retirement in 1983, was a founder and president of the Southern California Journalism Education Association, which named a scholarship after him, and a national vice president of the Journalism Education Association.
"The California Newspaper Publishers Association gave him an award for outstanding teaching in 1967, and the JEA presented him with the Medal of Merit in 1970. He was also a recipient of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
". . . One of his protégés is Los Angeles Times staff writer Elaine Woo. 'He was the kind of teacher you never forget, compassionate but strict, particularly about adhering to the facts, writing without affectation, and learning all aspects of newspaper production, including selling ads,' she recalled. 'Many of his lessons have remained with me . . .
" 'It’s sad that he could not become a reporter or editor for a mainstream newspaper. He finished college right after World War II and anti-Japanese sentiment was a huge barrier. I never heard him express bitterness about this, although I’m sure he felt it.' "
Cheryl Imelda Hampton, director of journalism recruiting at NPR, is leaving the network on March 11 after 13 years, she told colleagues on Wednesday.
"Like almost everyone at NPR, I’m a mission-driven person. I was a huge fan of NPR before I ever came here, and now I’m surveying my passions so that my next step can be for another purpose I really care about. My tool box of NPR skills is overflowing — and I’m open to new ways of using my talents in my next post. Maybe it will be journalism, maybe recruiting, maybe even marketing and communications – a field I’ve gained valuable experience in during my time here," she said.
Jeffrey Dvorkin, then NPR's vice president of news and information, told Current magazine in 1998 that he hired Hampton from the Orange County (Calif.) Register that year in part because of her "strong commitment to affirmative action and equity in hiring."
"She leads the group charged with recruiting and retaining NPR’s journalists, who are based in 21 places around the country and 18 more around the world. She supervises the division’s administrative staff and advises the vice president on personnel and policy issues. In addition, from 2004-2007, Hampton developed and implemented the strategy which revitalized NPR libraries and significantly increased online services to staff."
Hampton said in her farewell memo, "A big part of my job was to get the best and brightest journalists into our newsroom. As I look back on my career, I’m proud of what the people I brought into NPR have accomplished."
"Twelve year vet at the LA Times, Maria Elena Fernandez, is no longer with the paper as of yesterday. She was a reporter in the [Calendar] section covering television for nearly seven years," Tina Dupuy wrote Thursday for FishbowlLA.
"Fernandez tells FishbowlLA, 'You just need to read the Calendar section and look at the Web site to know that in the last two years something has gone terribly wrong. The Times is moving in the wrong direction, and it’s been painful to see. Calendar is not the joyous, inspiring place it once was and the paycheck just wasn’t worth it anymore. I am sad about leaving so many good friends behind and wish them only the best.'
"Fernandez told us she has a gig lined up but can’t tell us the details yet."
"The American Society of News Editors is coordinating two working sessions on diversity in the news business — one in conjunction with its annual convention in San Diego in April and another concurrent with the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Orlando in June," ASNE announced on Thursday.
"The sessions, entitled Leadership in Diversity: New Models for Growing Audience, Talent and Revenues, will involve more than 100 top news, digital and business executives, and selected non-news executives whose companies have executed successful efforts to reach communities of color.
". . . Participants will leave both of these two-day sessions having worked with and learned from media and nonmedia company executives about the business advantage of increasing audiences of color, and with new information and tools about how to reach those new audiences.
". . . While the sessions are being convened by ASNE, partners in the planning process are the leaders of several newspapers and news organizations, including the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Newspaper Association of America, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Unity: Journalists of Color, and its member associations.
". . . ASNE members who would like to participate in the sessions should contact Walt Swanston, email@example.com or 703-402-0955, by March 11."
- "A scary moment in Libya yesterday, as CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman and his crew were nearly bombed by the Libyan military," Alex Weprin wrote Thursday for TVNewser. "Wedeman was speaking to anti-Gaddafi forces in Brega, and a Libyan Air Force jet dropped a bomb just a few hundred feet from where they were standing."
- "Arianna Huffington scoffed at a group of unpaid Huffington Post contributors that announced on Wednesday they would stop contributing content to the site, weeks after its $315 million sale to AOL was announced," Dylan Stableford reported Thursday for theWrap.com. ". . . 'The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,' Huffington said. 'Go ahead, go on strike.' "
- "AOL's content acquisition spree continues: it's bringing Queen Latifah on board to produce and star in original Web series," Geoff Duncan reported Thursday for digitaltrends.com.
- In the Florida Panhandle, WMBB reporter Kevin Character, 22, was arrested early Tuesday for disorderly intoxication in a public place, resisting an officer without violence and felony obstructing justice after drinking alcohol at a bar in Miramar Beach. "He cursed deputies from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and reportedly told them, 'I’m going to have your jobs. You’re only arresting me because I’m black and this is going to be on the news tomorrow,' " the Walton (Fla.) Sun reported on Wednesday. Character, the only black reporter at the station, told Journal-isms Friday, "I did not lose my job. However, I've been given the option to stay with the company off-air as a producer. I have not decided yet if I will accept this position."
- "The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Hispanic Media Coalition want the Federal Communications Commission to shut down 'Jose Luis Sin Censura,' a raunchy talk show that might best be described as a Spanish-language version of Jerry Springer's program," Joe Flint reported Monday for the Los Angeles Times. "The show, which airs in the afternoons across the country, including on KRCA-TV in Los Angeles, often turns into a shouting match between young men who often insult each other with anti-gay slurs. Fists fly as well."
- The National Association of Black Journalists congratulated CBS News President David Rhodes Thursday on his promotion of Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews to vice president of news. "NABJ began meeting with CBS in 2008 about the lack of progress in hiring, promoting, and retaining journalists of color, especially in management," said a letter from NABJ President Kathy Times and Bob Butler, vice president/broadcast. ". . . As a result, CBS News has sponsored a workshop in Baltimore and web training in conjunction with NABJ. This year, we are working with Josie Thomas and Crystal Johns [of CBS] to expand the relationship and expose all of our members, including public relations professionals to careers within the CBS Corporation. CBS News has increased diversity in several areas since our initial meeting, and Ciprian-Matthews’ promotion is most welcome."
- "When Latoyia Edwards was growing up in Dorchester, she made sure to watch Liz Walker anchor the nightly TV news," Johnny Diaz wrote Thursday in the Boston Globe. ". . . Now Edwards is the only African-American on an evening news anchor team in Boston, the nation’s seventh-largest TV market. . . . 'In some ways, I don’t think Boston has changed since the days when I was on the air, and I think that is sad,’ said Walker, who now hosts 'Better Living,' a regular lifestyle program on WCVB-TV (Channel 5). 'There is no pressure, there is no incentive to try and make your television station reflect the world.' "
- "In your unusual charity pairing of the week, Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama teamed up to raise nearly $750,000 for the Fisher House Foundation, a charity which supports military families," Alex Weprin reported for TVNewser. The two made the deal during O'Reilly's pre-Super Bowl interview with Obama.
- Howard University has created the "Sheila Brooks Entrepreneurship Trailblazer Award" recognizing a deserving student at its annual business plan competition in the School of Communications. Brooks, a former news director, reporter, anchor and documentary producer, is founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, LLC, a full-service media and communications agency and post-production facility in Washington.
- Sonya McNair has been promoted to head of communications for CBS News, "overseeing all media and talent relations, as well as public affairs for CBS News, including strategic planning, day-to-day publicity, internal and external communications," CBS News announced on Thursday. She reports to Jeff Fager, chairman, CBS News, and Gil Schwartz, executive vice president and chief communications officer, CBS Corp.
- "From 2008 to 2010, Marie Mortera was a regular contributor to the KTLA Morning News," Richard Horgan wrote Thursday for FishbowlLA. "In between, she has worked for Las Vegas NBC affiliate KSNV Channel 3, as a weekend and now weekday anchor of the channel’s 4 p.m. newscast. All in all, it’s been a pretty meteoric rise for the Filipino-American San Francisco native, who won an Edward R. Murrow Award during her first career stint in Yuma. What makes it all the more interesting is that Mortera’s return to Vegas aligns her with Sin City’s large, growing Filipino-American community."
- Sportscaster Charlie Neal was to be among the 2011 class of inductees Friday who were joining the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame.
- "When you're a black man married to a white woman, society's odd ideas about interracial relationships come out in strange ways," media critic Eric Deggans wrote Friday on his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog. "It's not often top of mind; but the world has a way of reminding you sometimes how romance across racial lines doesn't sit well with some people on both sides of that equation. And that's the thing I see missing most often in modern portrayals of interracial relationships on network TV." Deggans delivered a commentary to that effect on NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday.
- "A court in Angola's southwestern province of Namibe sent a journalist to prison today without due process over his coverage of a sexual harassment scandal that implicated the province's top judicial official, according to local journalists and news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported. "Judge Manuel Araujo sentenced Armando José Chicoca, a freelancer who reports for U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) and private Angolan newspapers such as Folha 8, Agora, and O Apostolado, to one year in prison and a fine of 200,000 kwanza (US$2,100), according to news reports."
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
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