Ebony is Growing

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Personal
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ebony magazine has been a part of my life since I was a child.  My mom has always been a subscriber, and she passed the enthusiasm down to me.  I barely knew what half the words were, but all I knew was that it made me proud.  I wanted to be like those celebrities and musicians that graced the covers.  It was probably the first publication that jump started my journey to becoming a magazine editor.  Last semester here at the University of Alabama, I had to write a research paper for my History of Journalism class.  Without a doubt, I knew I would write about Ebony magazine and its coverage of the Civil Rights Movement because it played such a significant role in the coverage of that historical event. It was through my research for the paper when I learned that Ebony’s circulation was declining.

Ebony stood on its own for decades as the primary publication for African Americans, but with publications like Essence and other competing magazines, it was losing advertising and circulation.  Another reason for the decline was Ebony had not adapted well to the digital convergence.  So, with a new staff and building their web presence, as well as changing the design and layout of the print editions, I am pleased to report that Ebony is finally seeing a rise in their circulation and website visits.

Editor-in-chief, Amy DuBois Barnett (who I absolutely admire and adore) has done wonders for the magazine since joining the staff in 2010.  According to a recent article from the Chicago Tribune, unique visitors to Ebony’s website have doubled and circulation rose from 1.1 million in 2010 to 1.26 million in the second half of last year.

One thing Barnett mentioned in the interview with the Tribune was transcending age and positioning the magazine to reach different generations, which was why Ebony struggled to keep its prominence in the 90s and early 2000s.  Many young adults thought the magazine was boring and dated, and many older adults thought the magazine focused too much on “soft” topics or celebrities.  Sure, the layout and design of the magazine and its website have improved drastically, but I have no idea how Barnett will achieve the goal of bridging the gap between generations.  At the end of the day, it always comes down to content.  You can have the best logos, section headings, or web pages, but Ebony needs to find the thing that once made them stand alone in a crowded market. I think once the staff finds it, Ebony will continue to grow and achieve that happy medium for not only my generation, but my mom’s too.

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