Vibe narrows focus on young readers

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Vibe magazine is making a number of changes in an effort to maintain ad revenue and build loyalty among young, urban readers.

As of the June/July issue, the urban lifestyle magazine will cut its rate base from 800,000 to 600,000. The flagship title also is trimming its frequency from monthly to 10 times a year, but is launching two annual celebrity tabloid titles, which will be distributed at the same rate base and to the same readers as Vibe. The tabloid, rolled out in single issue tests in 2008 and 2009, has been Vibe's top-selling issue for the past two years.

"I think this comes from what everybody has been observing in the print ad industry over the last year,” said Olivia Scott-Perkins, associate publisher of marketing, Vibe Media Group. “We knew we needed to brace ourselves for even more decline in the market to position ourselves for future growth and keep everybody's job."

As for the circ cuts, Scott-Perkins noted, “The essence of the brand is for the multicultural youth sector, ages 18-24 — the hip kids that influence their friends. That's who we really want to maintain. We probably could have let go of some of these subscriptions a couple of years ago, but no one wanted to do it because of the effect on the rate base. That's the least concerning move because it needed to be done.”

To maintain this core reader group, Vibe is working closely with its circ management company, ProCirc, on a variety of events and online marketing opportunities. One such campaign is built around homecoming week at historically black colleges; Vibe will hand out samples at homecoming events, but it also will be asking people to fill out forms for three-month subscriptions. Another upcoming campaign features Vibe cover girl Keyshia Cole and offers readers a Vibe makeover, a phone call from Cole and other goodies if they write in telling how Keyshia's music has impacted their lives.

The magazine also will maintain its strong online presence, which already includes Facebook and MySpace pages and a Twitter feed, as well as music-based social networking on Spiral Frog and Imeem. Many of these online spaces host regular contests for Vibe readers to keep the community engaged.

To expand the Vibe brand footprint, Vibe Media Group is realigning its editorial department. The goal is to place more content across more channels, including Vibe.com, social networks, partner sites, music sharing platforms and television. Vibe TV, an online video platform, is relaunching in April, and the magazine is launching a mobile platform at the end of February.

The brand also is exploring more media partnerships and is working on a partnership with iTunes.

“Our overall events strategy is something I've been seriously rethinking over the last month because, as ad dollars become more uncertain, I am still looking for ways to connect directly with the audience for advertisers and my brand outside the magazine with limited dollars,” Smith-Perkins explained.

All these moves follow an overall trend in the media space where publishers, unable to gather the print ad revenues they need, are turning to new media platforms that may be more appealing to advertisers and readers.

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