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A New Flavor for Essence

NEW YORK — Essence magazine is celebrating its 33rd anniversary with a new look and fresh features to bow in its May issue, slated to hit newsstands here next week and roll out nationwide by April 22.<br><br>The redesign includes bolder display...

WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Essence magazine is celebrating its 33rd anniversary with a new look and fresh features to bow in its May issue, slated to hit newsstands here next week and roll out nationwide by April 22.

The redesign includes bolder display type, a cleaner look, expanded style and beauty sections, and new regular features. These include Issues, a front-of-the-book column in which African-American thinkers will sound off on timely topics, beginning with mentoring; Good to Grow, a gazette-style page addressing the concerns of parents and their children, and Said, a back-of-the-book feature providing a platform for public figures to answer 10 questions. (In May: comedian Steve Harvey.)

The style section has been enlarged to accommodate such additions as Notebook, reporting fashion news; Trend, showcasing fashion choices at a wide range of prices; Solutions, explaining how to incorporate a trend into one’s wardrobe, and Details, spotlighting shoes and accessories.

Also in the 294-page May issue is the second Essence Girl supplement and The Essence 2003 Career Guide, the first in what will become an annual analysis of Fortune 1000 firms that offer a comfortable and productive working environment for black women.

The Essence makeover comes against a backdrop of almost-flat paid circulation for the title in the six months ended Dec. 31, 2002, at 1,061,681, up 0.8 percent from 1,053,484 a year earlier. Single-copy sales in the second half advanced 18 percent to 247,220 from 209,681, but subscriptions slid 3.5 percent to 814,461 from 843,803.

The trend did not propel the redesign and content development, insisted Michelle Ebanks, group publisher at Essence Communications Partners, who noted those efforts have been under way for the past six months. “We wanted to refresh our look to engage the reader; I think readers expect that,” she stated. Despite the decline in subscriptions, Ebanks noted, Essence has maintained its rate base at slightly over one million — reflecting subscriptions taken by 14 percent of black women and readership estimated at 40 percent of that group.