Vibe Folds (Updated)
Vibe Magazine—one of the biggest music magazines in America—is folding. The entire music magazine landscape is full of the dead and dying. [UPDATED below.]
Wikipedia sums up Vibe unexpectedly well:
The magazine owes its success to having a broader range of interests than its closest competitors The Source and XXL which focus more narrowly on rap music or the rock & pop-centric Rolling Stone and Spin. It also differs from the more staid Essence, Ebony or Jet publications by attracting younger readers of many ethnicities.
It was essentially the black version of Rolling Stone, and its readership grew broader as hip hop became pop music. (Kind of fitting that their last issue had Eminem on the cover). But Vibe hasn't been doing well for a while now; in February, the magazine cut its circulation and frequency, and salaries. Now the music industry is crumbling, and the magazine industry is crumbling, and the music magazine industry is really crumbling.
The recent dead include Radio and Records, Performing Songwriter, and Blender. Vibe probably had the most demographically diverse readership of any major music magazine. Now, the hip hop magazine world is ruled by the shaky Source and XXL, with strong online competition; the trade music sector is still topped by Billboard, incredibly shaky as well; the pop music mag sector is ruled by Rolling Stone, which is a shell of its former self; and Spin, Fader, Paste, and everyone else are just trying to protect their own audiences from the free, and many times much better, online intruders. Hard times.
[Jeff Bercovici at Daily Finance with the scoop.]
UPDATE: We're waiting to hear back from Vibe ourselves, but their latest Twitter message pretty much confirms the worst.
UPDATE 2: Here are the statements from Vibe's editor, and a staff memo from the CEO. From editor Danyel Smith:
On behalf the VIBE CONTENT staff (the best in this business), it is with great sadness, and with heads held high, that we leave the building today. We were assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news. It's a tragic week in overall, but as the doors of VIBE Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine's sixteenth anniversary, it's a sad day for music, for hip hop in particular, and for the millions of readers and users who have loved and who continue to love the VIBE brand. We thank you, we have served you with joy, pride and excellence, and we will miss you.
the former Chief Content Officer VIBE Media Group
& Editor in Chief, VIBE
Staff memo from Vibe Media CEO Steve Aaron:
Dear VIBE Team:
It is with a heavy heart that I share some tough news, VMG is closing down effective today, June 30th.
It's been an 16 incredible years since VIBE's inception. There are very few magazines with the richness of history and breadth of talented visionaries who created the powerful lens in which VIBE viewed and shaped urban music and culture.
Ever since I first set foot in this courageous company, I've regarded myself as incredibly fortunate to be be involved with this remarkable brand and group of individuals whose performance has never been nothing short of outstanding. We finished 2008 in an improved position versus the prior year, and accomplished so much, including:
* Editorial Awards
* Editorial transformation into content dept
* New Ad accounts being broken
* The Most Mag Launch
* Award winning re-design
* Profitable digital operation
* VIBE.com growth and improvements and programs such as Best Rapper Ever, #1 Stan, etc
* Mobile VIBE launch
* Micro-site development Mostmag.com to start off.
* V Sessions
* Improved PR coverage
Unfortunately, over the last several months, a confluence of events has obviously posed VMG to exceedingly serious challenges.
* The collapse of the capital markets has impacted us greatly. Over the past several months, we have actively pursued investment resources while working intensively with our bank to find a solution. But the deal market right now remains very poor and at the end of the day, the lack of investment resources to restructure the huge debt on our small company has made this outcome become a reality.
* The print advertising collapse hit VIBE hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business. It's also unfortunate that in a recession many companies reduce the multi-cultural campaigns. These facts, coupled with the continuing decline of the music industry not to mention the newsstand wholesaler consolidation in early 2009 all negatively impacted our business in a significant way.
* The relentless economic situation has depressed our growth initiatives on the digital front. To be clear, VMG has made significant improvement in this part of our business, but not at the accelerated pace required to offset the devastating effects of the most severe recession in our lifetime and the accompanying print losses.
I want to thank you all for your hard work and commitment, and for all of the adventures along the way. I'll miss this place a lot, but I'll miss you all and the magic you create.
Vibe will be remembered as a shockingly brilliant content company that everyone can be proud of and I look forward with great excitement to all of future endeavors you all pursue.
With great affection and respect –
former CEO of VIBE Media Group