Last week Johnson Publishing Company, the Chicago based entity that has printed Ebony and JET magazines for the last sixty plus years made a big announcement: JET was going digital. The printed pocket-sized weekly digest for Black America is no longer; the brand has phased into offering daily online content instead, available at JETmag.com. But the big news from the digital shift: the debut of a downloadable APP format for tablet and mobile devices.
While this move wasn’t entirely surprising — dozens of iconic culture magazines have fallen over the last decade — JET and Ebony hold a special place in the hearts of Black America. Johnson Publishing’s chief executive, Desiree Rogers, says the move was not only necessary but inline with audience demand. If the JET and Ebony brands are going to thrive, they’ll have to think digitally, first and foremost.
“They want the information right away,” says Rogers of the current JET audience. “They don’t want to wait on something that’s going to be mailed, especially if its entertainment news. They want to read it first. The only way to do that, as we thought about JET, is to do a digital format.” Rogers shared more about the JET app experience with HelloBeautiful in an exclusive interview last week. See what to expect from the new app below.
HelloBeautiful: How did you make the decision to stop the print mag and go to JET? Explain the strategy behind the move.
Desiree Rogers: When you look at Mr. Johnson’s book, initially he really wanted it to be something you could read at any point in time. That is why it’s pocket-sized: so you could pick it up and take a look at it in the beauty salon, barbershop or on the bus. So, if we’re introducing it to new audiences and we’re thinking about digital, we had to consider what is the small magazine for today. It’s the cell phone or iPad or Kindle.
HB: What’s your favorite feature on the JET app?
DR: I love the Movies section! Now you can actually play the trailers of upcoming films. And also, The Playlist [section] because you can now listen to the songs, hear and download. I have to admit, I’ve twirled the ‘JET Beauty of the Week’ around a few times and it’s great because you get more information on her and her interests. It’s a leaving and breathing magazine in your phone or iPod, Kindle or Nook. There will be new information posted every Friday.
HB: What has been the biggest change at Ebony, JET and Johnson publishing since you’ve joined the company?
DR: We really think of ourselves as a curator of the black experience. We have a great team of people on board to make sure we are entertaining and delivering what our readers want — and entertaining enough that they will continue to spend the money to buy the publications. These are two American iconic brands, not just African-American brands, they are true iconic brands that have stood the test of time. We have put the right foundation in place to make sure that these brands live on, but ultimately it’s the readers that will make sure that we have a future. We need people to buy the magazine and download the app and its incumbent on us to make sure these brands stick around.
HB: How do you think Black media can continue to be sustainable in the technological age?
DR: There is still room for print, fashion books, longer books, great magazine fold pages, tear something out, holding it in your hands. Ebony with longer stories and beautiful imagery, people still like to have that book in their hands. What kind of publication are you talking about. Lifestyle will continue to have a place that people will want to see that imagery. Newspapers it gets more difficult.