NEW YORK — After publishing only three issues, Essence Communications said Wednesday it was suspending publication of Suede, the urban fashion magazine launched last fall as a spin-off of Essence.
The news comes six weeks after Time Inc., which had been a minority partner in Essence since October 2000, agreed to acquire the remaining 51 percent of the historically African-American-owned publisher.
At the time, the move was presented as strengthening Suede’s prospects for survival. Noting that the title has struggled to sell advertising, Time Inc. executive vice president Nora McAniff told WWD at the time, “Knowing that the people who bring you In Style are also bringing you Suede — that could have a powerful and positive impact on Suede.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Essence group publisher Michelle Ebanks said Suede is not being folded altogether, but rather being put on hiatus with the intention of reintroducing it at some point in the future.
“We were trying to move too far, too fast,” Ebanks said. “We need to pull back and evaluate whether it’s time to go monthly. We’re speaking to a woman of color and it’s less efficient to market to her. We have to figure out how to sustain our marketing level more efficiently.”
Ebanks said Suede editor in chief Suzanne Boyd and publisher Enedina Vega will both stay on at Essence. Efforts will be made to place the remainder of Suede’s 46-person staff in jobs elsewhere at Essence or Time Inc.; those who are laid off will receive six weeks’ severance pay. Employees were notified at the end of the business day Wednesday. Many did not learn of the shutdown until after a press release was issued.
Bad timing appears to have played a part in Suede’s demise: Time Inc. and its subsidiaries launched five new titles last year, and several are struggling. Life, reintroduced as a weekly newspaper supplement, has carried only a handful of ad pages per issue, while All You, a women’s service title distributed exclusively through Wal-Mart, has sold only moderately well despite heavy promotional support and a low cover price of $1.47.
As part of Essence’s sale to Time Inc., which is scheduled to close next month, Essence founder Ed Lewis surrendered his executive duties in exchange for a role as non-executive chairman. Nevertheless, Ebanks said the decision to shut down Suede was made by Lewis rather than by Time Inc. chairman Ann Moore. “Ann Moore understands why this decision was made, but it was absolutely his [Lewis’] decision.”