Essence is filling out its c-suite as it establishes itself as an independent magazine under a new owner.
The nearly 50-year-old glossy for black women has made two promotions and outside hires. Michelle Ebanks, currently president, has been named chief executive officer of Essence Communications, and Joy Profet, currently general manager, as chief operations officer. Additionally, Darline Jean is coming on as chief digital officer and Moana Luu is joining in a dual role as chief content and chief creative officer, all new roles at the magazine. All of the changes are effective immediately.
It’s been almost a year since Richelieu Dennis, the founder and ceo of beauty products company Sundial Brands and now chairman of Essence Ventures, purchased the magazine from Time Inc. shortly before that company was acquired by Meredith Corp. Meredith was quick to put most of Time’s remaining titles up for sale, a process that has been somewhat slow to wrap up. But Essence has been operating under a transition period with Meredith since Dennis’ January acquisition, something that is set to end this month, leaving the magazine independent and fully under black leadership once again after being purchased in 2000 by Time Inc.
With an executive group lined up, some changes to the title’s overall look, design and content can be expected after a year of transitioning everything, from most of the staff to the web site to a new base of operations. The print audience for Essence stood at roughly 1.1 million for the first half of 2018, according to MPA-Association of Magazine Media data provided by Essence, and its web site tallied 5.1 million unique visitors in August, according to Google Analytics. Being the only magazine dedicated to an audience of black women, with a popular events business, it seems there’s plenty of room for expansion and growth.
“When Essence announced our new ownership at the beginning of this year, we declared our independence — free to evolve with the diverse and growing needs of the women we serve and to transform to stay ahead of a rapidly changing marketplace,” Ebanks said. “As we’ve continued to assess the needs of our business and our team, it became clear that a critical part of this transformation was creating a c-suite that allows us to meaningfully invest in the areas most critical to our future across content, creative, digital, commerce and technology, as well as to create a space where black women can consistently have opportunity and see themselves at the highest levels of business.”
Regarding the hiring of Luu, who comes to the magazine after a stint as chief content officer of digital marketing agency Trace Media Group, Ebanks said the new executive “will ensure that Essence continues to serve black women deeply — reaching her where she is with compelling and authentic content that is always on, across every platform.” Luu will generally be directing content across print, digital, social, video and experiential events, while looking for areas of possible audience and revenue growth.
Asked about working with an independent magazine with a focused audience, Luu showed some of her ambition for Essence.
“I love the idea of working for an independent brand, but who says it’s a focused audience?” she asked rhetorically. “Essence is an attitude and I look forward to working with the team to further extend the conversation across the diaspora.”
Luu added in reference to any planned changes for the magazine, “I respect and admire the enduring legacy of Essence — it has a media DNA that is vital. Not wanting to expose too much…we have some exciting plans in the works.”
As for Jean, who was previously chief operating officer of programmatic advertising agency PulsePoint Inc. and earlier ceo of The About Group while owned by The New York Times Co., Ebanks said she will “innovate our digital operations and product offerings across every platform.” Jean will also be working to identify new sources of revenue while overseeing current revenue operations, audience development, digital syndication, along with e-commerce and product development efforts.
Jean said her “aim is to ensure that Essence continues to be a leader in digital media, evolving from traditional media — across online, social and mobile platforms.” Asked if she saw revenue from digital outstripping that of print in the future, Jean said, “Revenue from digital will be significantly additive to our multiplatform strategy.”
For More, See: