Friday, October 7, 2005

African-American Magazine Summit Draws More Than 100 Publishers, Ad Execs  

Target Market News

(November 16, 2005) Target Market News' third annual African-American Magazine Summit attracted a capacity audience at the Time & Life Building in New York this week. The event was co-sponsored by Time Warner, Essence Communications and Magazine Publishers of America. More than 100 publishers and marketing executives heard presentations and panels offer insights on the latest trends in black magazine publishing.

Special Report: The African-American Magazine Summit
More than 100 publishing and marketing executives attended this third annual conference produced by Target Market News, and co-sponsored by MPA, Time Inc. and Essence. The full-day event, which took place November 15 at the Time-Life Building in Manhattan, examined the latest research, trends and opportunities for African-American magazine publishers and advertisers. Following are selected coverage of the event. Click here to view the African-American Magazine Summit photo gallery.

The African-American Magazine Market: Interpreting the Latest Trends and Research Data

Aiesha Powell, Research Director of Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Ebony and JET, presented the latest research that examines the relationship between black consumers and magazines.

Citing MPA research, Powell stated that 18 consumer magazines targeting the black/ethnic community launched in 2004, a 63% increase over the previous year. She noted that there substantial opportunity in this market, referring to the wide breadth of publications addressing the evolving needs and passions of African-American consumers.

“African-Americans have a passion for print that other racial/ethnic groups cannot rival,” said Powell.

She revealed that African-Americans spend 30 more minutes a week reading magazines than non-Blacks; that nearly half of them have read a magazine the previous day; that in a typical week, an African-American adult will read approximately 4 magazines—reading more magazines that Non-Hispanic Whites, Asian/Other Races, Hispanics or all U.S. adults; and that in a typical month, African-American adults read about 15 magazines, nearly 30% more than the national average. A number of other studies done by Mediamark Research Inc. reinforce the fact that African-Americans are avid consumers of magazines.

African-Americans are also heavy consumers of other media, including TV, newspapers and radio. Powell remarked that many times, advertisers feel that by executing a media plan comprised only of TV, newspapers and radio, they are in fact already over-delivering the African-American population. Powell warned that while from a data standpoint that assessment is accurate, the media plan actually delivers “exposure” rather than “effect.”

Powell pointed to the unique relationship African-Americans share with their magazines. “Our biggest and greatest opportunity lies in our ability to prove to advertisers that there is a difference between “reaching” and “selling,” she said. Consumers’ trust in a magazine enhances the value of media exposure, which in turn leads them to take action.

Powell then presented new research from the MPA-commissioned Northwestern University Magazine Reader Experience Study, which illustrates the intimate connection between African-American readers and their magazines. The study shows that the top experiences that motivate them to read magazines are: “I build relationships by talking about and sharing it”; “I’m touched”; and “It grabs me visually.”

The Relationship Between Editorial Excellence and Business Success

(l-r) Angela Burt Murray, Essence; Derek Dingle, Black Enterprise; and Sheryl Tucker, MONEY

In a panel moderated by Target Market News President Ken Smikle, Black Enterprise VP, Executive Director Derek Dingle, MONEY Executive Editor Sheryl Tucker, and Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt Murray discussed financial coverage in their magazines, brand longevity and hiring African-American talent.

Tucker shared that a few years ago, MONEY did a lot of investing coverage, but when the market started to crash, people were no longer as interested in the financial world. MONEY then had to reevaluate the needs of their readers. “We found there are two kinds of people: those who believe in planning, and those who don’t,” said Tucker. MONEY is a magazine for the former, and the editorial focus has since shifted to stories that address their readers’ financial well-being.

Dingle described the evolution of Black Enterprise from a magazine for entrepreneurs and African-Americans in corporate America to what it is today, a magazine focused on the accumulation of Black wealth. “Our end game is to build multi-generational wealth,” stated Dingle. In light of this, the magazine has lately increased its coverage of investments and home ownership. And, Black Enterprise has expanded beyond the magazine to a radio program, TV program, Internet portal and events, all of which are driven by the magazine’s editorial mission to be “the ultimate guide for financial empowerment.”

Murray said that they are also increasing financial coverage at Essence, as women are starting their own businesses in record rates, and are buying homes—and even second homes. This however, is not the publication’s primary emphasis. According to Murray, Essence uses fashion and beauty to tell the world the story of the African-American woman.

In terms of brand longevity, Tucker believes while not all brands offer a lifestyle component or foster an emotional connection, it’s still vital to the success of a brand to be personally relevant. “Without [that], a magazine is going to die,” she warned.

Murray, on the subject of African-American talent, stated, “Companies should be held accountable for holding them in the ranks.” She remarked that recruiting and retaining top talent is critical to success.

Dingle also expressed the need for more African-American talent, especially writers, in the magazine industry. At Black Enterprise, they are working on creating a pipeline by teaching the younger talent about business. Dingle also encourages publishers to share talent to grow their pool of talent.

Grabbing the Internet Dollars and Other Ways to Leverage Your Brand for Cash

(l-r) Tariq Muhammad, Black Enterprise, and Roy S. Johnson, Sports Illustrated

Tariq Muhammad, Director-Interactive Media, Black Enterprise, and Roy S. Johnson, Assistant Managing Editor, Sports Illustrated, were bullish on economic prospects of migrating hard copy brands to digital platforms.

“We help our readers 24/7,” said Muhammad. “That’s the mantra of our site.”

Johnson stated, “Right now, most of my efforts are focused on creating broadband content for It’s become a huge profit center for us.”

As an example, he pointed to the “Inside the NFL” three-minute video program on, featuring Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King. The segment is edited from the HBO program of the same name. While HBO does not sell ads, the feature on was sold, according to Johnson, for a six-figure sponsorship deal. “It was new money that was just found,” he said.

Johnson also urged Summit attendees to create new products even at the risk of cannibalization of the hard copy magazine. He said photo galleries were popular, and he advised enhancing them with audio content. After Rosa Parks died, Johnson called friends at Essence and suggested that they create a photo gallery with audio on the magazine’s website about the civil rights pioneer.

Muhammad advised Summit attendees to analyze their web traffic and pay particular attention to interactive functionality on their sites. “The community tells you what they want to read,” he observed.

Muhammad also said that magazine executives did not necessarily need any specialized training to become more deeply involved in the digital side of publishing.

“My technical background comes from Captain Kirk and ‘Deep Space Nine,’” he joked.

Click here to view more photos from the African-American Magazine Summit.

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