By Lynne Marek
Johnson Publishing Co.’s new CEO Desiree Rogers plans to reach out to historically black colleges, sororities, fraternities and churches to help reverse the circulation slide of the company’s flagship magazines, ‘Ebony’ and ‘Jet’ .
“I’m going to go to the community — I’m going to go direct,” Rogers said in an interview following a speech to the American Magazine Conference in Chicago.
Currently, the average age of a ‘Jet’ reader is 37; the average age for ‘Ebony’ is 41. Rogers wants content of the magazines to expand their appeal to younger readers by incorporating more social media and interactive options, she says.
Rogers, who took her post at the Chicago-based media and cosmetic company in June after leaving her job as White House social secretary in February, aims to beef up the iconic African American magazines’ content, web presence and events. She’ll seek new advertisers at a time when the industry is trying to stem the flow of ad revenue to alternative Internet options.
She’s already signed up New York-based Citigroup Inc. and Schaumburg-based Motorola Inc. as first-time Johnson advertisers. The company also will roll out an iPad app next week.
Average circulation for ‘Ebony’, a monthly, fell 14 percent to 1.11 million for the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2009, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Weekly ‘Jet’ s circulation declined 12percent to 762,250, ABC said. The privately held company doesn’t disclose profitability.
“I’m not trying to be a hero here,” Rogers says. “I’m trying to take my time and really make certain that we do what we need to do to be solid.”
Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice, whose family founded the company, hasn’t stepped back from operations since tapping her friend, Rogers, to take her former CEO job, she said. She attended Rogers’ speech and said afterward that the two are working closely together.
Rogers wants to use circulation and content improvements to lure more advertisers and refine the way the company customizes ad sales across the publications, events and digital space.
As for the company’s Fashion Fair cosmetics line, Rogers hopes to expand the appeal of the make-up beyond African-American women to other women of color. The company is also working on a new website for the business, she said.
Rogers may also revive the company’s one-time nationwide Ebony Fashion Fair, which was cancelled last fall and in the spring, partly because of economic difficulties facing some sponsors. The company’s 8,000 pieces of couture clothing from past shows is an asset that won’t sit idle, Rogers says.
In addition, she’s exploring how Johnson Publishing could further monetize other archived material. While the company has a partnership with Google Inc. to make magazine back issues available online, Rogers said Johnson Publishing is mulling how it might sell hard copies of archived material, such as past ‘Ebony’ or ‘Jet’ magazine covers.