Vibe Media Group to shut down

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Vibe Media Group (VMG), parent company of Vibe and the newly launched The Most Mag, will shut down at 8pm tonight, June 30. All properties, including its Web sites, will be discontinued.

Vibe, the flagship magazine, had a total paid and verified circulation of 817,825 as of December 31 — a slight drop from a high of 879,072 in 2007. Per MRI, Vibe's readership was split evenly between men and women, and median reader age was around 29.

The Most Mag, which launched on newsstands earlier this month, had a circulation of 300,000. It targeted the same young, urban audience as Vibe, but focused on celebrity lifestyles rather than music. The tabloid, rolled out in single issue tests in 2008 and 2009, had been Vibe's top-selling issue for the past two years.

As with many recent magazine closings, the Vibe shutdown was attributed to the economy. According to a staff memo from Steve Aaron, CEO of Vibe Media Group, the company had been working with its bank to find investment sources, but the collapse of the capital markets made it difficult for VMG to restructure its debt. Lack of funding also hurt the company's online growth initiatives, which have been the refuge of many companies seeking alternatives to print revenue.

In addition, wrote Aaron, “The print advertising collapse hit Vibe hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business. It's also unfortunate that in a recession many companies reduce the multicultural campaigns. These facts, coupled with the continuing decline of the music industry not to mention the newsstand wholesaler consolidation in early 2009 all negatively impacted our business in a significant way.”

The magazine initiated serious cost-cutting measures earlier this year: in February, Vibe cut employee salaries and scaled back its work week to four days. That month, it also announced plans to trim its rate base by 25%, to 600,000, and its publishing frequency from monthly to 10 times a year, effective with the June/July issue. The company shut down its women's magazine, Vibe Vixen, in July 2007. 

VMG's circ management company is ProCirc. A decision on how to fulfill outstanding Vibe subscriptions has not yet been made.  

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