FOR $ALE: Essence magazine

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From Richard Prince’s Journal-isms comes this news:

Twelve years after Time Inc, assumed control of Essence Communications Partners, ending Essence magazine’s status as a black-owned publication, Time is looking to sell its majority stake in Essence, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reported July 24 for the Wall Street Journal.

Rich Battista, Time Inc.’s chief executive, told Trachtenberg that he hopes to complete a transaction by the end of the year.

At the time of the 2005 deal with Time Inc., Edward Lewis, chairman and CEO of Essence Communications and publisher of the magazine, said: “It will give me great pride and comfort to know that Essence will be secure for generations to come and that its prospects for even greater success will be brighter than ever.”

Lewis maintained later that if he had to do it all over, he would sell to Time again because of the expanded opportunities and cross-pollination possible under ownership by a conglomerate.

But the move by Time is likely to revive talk, realistic or not, of restoring Essence to black ownership. In 2005, Earl G. Graves Sr., publisher of Black Enterprise, said that the Essence owners should have allowed black entrepreneurs to make an offer to purchase the company.

Essence has a dedicated Snapchat Discover channel.

Essence’s conglomerate ownership has become an issue from time to time since its sale. In 2013, Constance C. R. White said that her departure as editor-in-chief was involuntary and the result of repeated clashes with Martha Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. who White maintained had sought to limit the way black women were portrayed.

In 2012, Essence and its white male managing editor, Michael Bullerdick – whom management emphasized had a production, not an editorial, role – parted ways after right-wing material on his Facebook page was brought to the editors’ attention.

The conglomerate at first contemplated selling all of Time Inc., but decided against that this spring, Trachtenberg reported.

“Time Inc., which is struggling with declining print advertising revenue like much of the publishing industry, ended discussions with potential buyers in late April,” Trachtenberg continued.

“The media company said at the time it intended to focus on its core brands, among them People, InStyle and Real Simple, and TIME. Time Inc. also said it would look to outright sell some of its noncore assets.

“Mr. Battista said he viewed Essence as core despite the decision to look for a majority investor.

“Mr. Battista cited Essence’s events business, its growing digital presence, and its long relationship with big marketers, as reasons for optimism.

“A new investor might have the resources to enable Essence to expand its growing events business at a time when many publications are seeking new revenue opportunities.

“On the digital front, Essence is the only African-American brand with a dedicated Snapchat Discover channel, said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, which includes the magazine and related properties.

“In early May, Essence partnered with Twitter to live-stream the weekly talk show ‘Essence Now,’ which made its debut this month.

“‘African-American women are deeply engaged with mobile and social media,’ said Ms. Ebanks. attracted 3.7 million multiplatform unique visitors in June 2017, up from 2.2 million in June 2015, according to media measurement firm comScore Inc.

“ attracted 3.7 million multiplatform unique visitors in June 2017, up from 2.2 million in June 2015, according to media measurement firm comScore Inc.

“The recent Essence Festival in New Orleans attracted more than 470,000 people compared with more than 450,000 in 2016. The second Essence Festival Durban will take place in South Africa later this year.

“In 2015, Joe Ripp, then CEO of Time Inc., said in an interview that the Essence Festival in New Orleans earned more money than the magazine made in a year. . . .”

(Reprinted with permission)

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FOR $ALE: Essence magazine