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END NOTE: Urban music magazine Vibe is closing after 16 years. “It is with great sadness, and with heads held high, that we leave the building today,” said editor in chief Danyel Smith. Staffers on Tuesday morning, said Smith, were “assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news.” AOL’s Daily Finance first reported the title’s closing.
In a memo to the staff, Steve Aaron, Vibe Media’s chief executive officer, said the inability to receive additional financing to “restructure the huge debt on our small company” and the collapse of fashion, automotive and multicultural advertising were the main reasons for the magazine’s collapse. In 2008, Vibe had 779 ad pages, a 20 percent decline from 2007, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Through June, the magazine registered 224 pages, a nearly 40 percent loss from the year prior.
This story first appeared in the July 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The urban music magazine launched by Quincy Jones in 1993 was the hip-hop Rolling Stone in its heyday. By the turn of the decade, Vibe encompassed a magazine, Web site, an awards show and an on-demand television network. It later launched a fashion and beauty spin-off, Vibe Vixen. But as rap music became more mainstream, its artists slowly received more coverage in other titles — Beyoncé in the Nineties would have been a regular Vibe cover star, but in recent months, she was Vogue’s. And Forbes’. And Self’s. Vibe’s audience migrated to the Web and other publications. In the second half of 2008, circulation declined 9 percent, to 817,825, but 112,071 copies of those were public place issues. Newsstand sales declined 11 percent, to 100,318, in the second half of last year, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.
In 2006, the magazine was sold to the Wicks Group for a reported $20 million. But the new management struggled to bring Vibe back to its glory and folded Vibe Vixen in 2007. In February, Vibe said it would cut its rate base to 600,000 from 800,000; frequency was reduced to 10 times annually from 12 issues, and a four-day work week and a 10 percent salary cut were mandated for employees. Vibe in June launched a twice-annual tabloid magazine, The Most, but that too will fold. — Stephanie D. Smith
QUICK STINT: Susan Reed is departing O, The Oprah Magazine only a year after she was hired as its editor in chief. She will be succeeded by Susan Casey, a former creative director at Outside magazine and editor in chief of Sports Illustrated for Women. Most recently, Casey was development editor of Time Inc. from 2003 to 2007, where she worked on new magazine and Web concepts for the women’s market. Though Reed oversaw a big news event when Oprah Winfrey in January decided to address her weight gain, sales for the magazine during her tenure fell substantially. In the second half of 2008, single copy sales declined 25 percent, to 625,961. Single-copy sales for the first five issues of 2009 are 3 percent lower than sales for the same issues in 2008, but are nearly 20 percent smaller than sales registered in 2007. — S.D.S.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: If TMZ is the town crier of celebrity deaths, People is the eulogy. And readers have been eager since Thursday to see how the Time Inc. weekly would cover Michael Jackson’s death in print a week after it happened. This week, People will publish a double issue that will feature a flip cover and special 27-page photo tribute to Jackson. People will produce two back covers of the issue, one with a young photo of Jackson, the other of the singer in his adult years. The issue will also have a higher newsstand price — $4.49, compared with $3.99 for a regular issue. The Jackson issue will be on newsstands for two weeks, but People will publish a new issue next week as scheduled. — S.D.S.