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How To Pitch: Essence

This 'authority on Black women' seeks service pieces with a timely spin

- March 9, 2012

The information in this article is current and accurate.

Circulation: 1.5 million in print, 1 million online
Frequency: Monthly
Special issues: Every month has a guiding theme or hook, including "Love and Legacy," "Faith and Family," and "Money and Careers." In 2010, Essence also introduced the "Hot Hair" special issue, a 112-page, root-to-tip ode to all things related to Black women's tresses.

Background: Since it launched as the brainchild of Ed Lewis and Clarence Smith back in 1970, Essence has been more than a general interest book to its devoted readers. It's been a lifestyle resource, a conversation starter, a how-to for parenting and relationships, a recipe book, and a fashion style guide all pressed, polished and published monthly onto some 150-odd pages. After celebrating its 42nd anniversary in 2012, it remains the mainstay periodical reflecting issues, concerns and topics relevant to ladies of African descent. "Black women come to Essence to get inspiration, insight and relevant information about our culture they cannot find anywhere else," said Essence executive editor Vanessa K. Bush. "Each month they count on us to bring the best."

Though the target market of Black women ages 18 to 49 hasn't changed, Essence's leadership has. In 2000, original owners Lewis and Smith formed a joint venture with Time Inc. Five years later, that corporate media giant acquired the magazine, adding it to a stable that includes other newsstand heavy hitters like Sports Illustrated and People, and diehard fans worried that the change of ownership would impact the true-to-life content they'd always sought and appreciated.

Still, Essence has continued to expand from the magazine that mothers and grandmothers put on the coffee table to a full-out, multifaceted brand. Essence.com attracts about 1 million unique monthly visitors and the Essence Music Festival, now in its 17th year, draws more than 200,000 attendees for an annual weekend of music and entertainment in New Orleans. But the pulse that courses through the Essence body of business is still that crisp, printed page where Black women are venerated and celebrated -- and where freelancers are encouraged to pitch fresh ideas that speak to that readership....

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