Today, mediabistro.com got a chance to pick the brain of Leonard Burnett, co-CEO and group publisher of Uptown Media Group, part of the group that purchased Vibe earlier this year and is working to reposition and relaunch it. In an interview with David Hirschman, Burnett explained where he thought Vibe had gone wrong in the past and laid out the new publisher’s plans for the future:
“Vibe thrived off of urban fashion, music, and automotive — and then when you go into ’05, ’06, and ’07 [the advertising] just kept deteriorating. First it was a shift over to digital [for advertisers] and then when the dollars started to even back out, the dollars that you are counting on for the print side in certain categories just started to evaporate at a much faster rate than we were able to break new categories.
The book also didn’t lend itself [to these new categories]. [Vibe's] aesthetic perspective and editorial focus [originally spoke] to a very broad and important perspective of what urban music and culture meant (which really wasn’t just rap, but R&B, reggae, and gospel, and anything you can move and dance to — and even where the consumer was going with the blending of Jay-Z and Coldplay, and this sort of rap and alternative rock). We went from being the kind of Rolling Stone of urban culture to competing with The Source and XXL. These are great books, but…Rolling Stone is really the music and culture magazine that has stood the test of time — and when you look at the breadth of what they have with the core of it being rock ‘n roll, mixing the old with the new and the influx of urban, and the political scene, the fashion scene.
So now, from an editorial perspective, we are going back to an editorial discussion that was much broader than it was. It has a lot better visuals. We’re going back to great photography, which was always such a big component of the editorial product. The book will be much more visual and have a better quality of paper. The consumer should look up to Vibe — Vibe is showing them something that they don’t know about, and give them something to aspire to. Not like Uptown, but something new and on the cutting edge.”
Read more of Burnett’s interview for more on Vibe‘s new digital product and the decision to hire a new editor.