Vibe editor: Online is 'taking over'

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NEW YORK - Vibe Magazine editor in chief Danyel Smith discussed the rapid changes in publishing at a keynote during the Direct Marketing Association's Circulation Day on Feb. 7.

Ms. Smith chronicled her history in the publishing business and gave insights on how quickly things are shifting to digital as well as how to maintain a sense of humor.

"My experience with circulation has been a bit scary," she said. "You want to know the numbers and you don't. You just want good news." Vibe's circulation rate base is 850,000. Subscriptions account for 82 percent of that total.

"I think the reason Vibe grew was that it was for a critically underserved readership," Ms. Smith said. "When it began in 1994 there was nothing, so we had a wide open world from Run DMC to Janet Jackson." Vibe Media Group Inc. has extended its brand with Vibe Style; Vibe League, a sports publication; and Vibe Vixen, which targets young women. "Vixen is here to serve the younger female audience of color, yet people aren't thinking about race anymore," Ms. Smith said. "They're thinking about what's hot."

Vibe projects its hip image by updating direct mail pieces with the most popular song titles for each print date. The magazine also is expanding its Web site at www.vibe.com.

"Vibe.com exists because of our magazine, but in five years I think the opposite will be true," Ms. Smith said. "I am constantly going upstairs and asking for more bandwidth rather than pages at this point." Ms. Smith spoke of the Web's impact on the publishing industry. "I think that magazines will eventually come out less frequently, as a big book with better paper, and be more expensive," she said. "Magazines will become more like books and trophies because online is completely taking over."

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