AFRICANGLOBE – Jet magazine, the digest-sized publication that has been a staple among African-American readers for 63 years, is getting out of the print business.
Johnson Publishing announced Wednesday that Jet, which has a circulation of more than 700,000, will transition to a digital-only format in June.
“The print version is going away, but the franchise is not going away,” said Desiree Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company.
The new app, which will be available for tablets and all mobile devices, will be published weekly, and will update breaking news daily. It will include video interviews, 3-D charts and archival photos, in addition the content available in the print edition.
The third-largest circulation magazine in the African-American market, Jet reduced publication frequency from weekly to roughly every three weeks in recent years. Last summer, Jet went through a major redesign, with more service-oriented stories, bigger photos, more graphics and a new website.
The changes were not enough to stave off the transition to digital, according to Rogers.
“We were not able to deliver and to print a weekly magazine that was cost-effective,” Rogers said. “Over the past few years we tried to figure out how do we get back to the Jet that everyone had growing up, where they got information more readily. We made the decision that this was a great opportunity to move Jet to a digital platform.”
Launched in 1951 by publisher John H. Johnson, Jet was initially billed as “The Weekly Negro News Magazine.” It rose to prominence during the early days of the civil rights movement, documenting everything from the Emmett Till murder and Montgomery bus boycott to the transformational influence of Martin Luther King Jr.
Jet leveraged a different kind of social influence, becoming a place for African-Americans to announce marriages and anniversaries. That evolution spawned the slogan, “If it isn’t in Jet, it didn’t happen.”
In recent years, Jet was filled with photos, celebrity news and quick informational reads. Longstanding features such “Beauty of the Week,” a full page photo of a scantily-clad woman, also endured, along with its wedding announcement section.
Its core audience has always skewed toward younger, working class African Americans, a demographic that it still targets, according to executives.
Published 20 times a year, Jet has a total average circulation of 720,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Subscribers pay $20 per year for the print edition and the current digital version. Those subscribers will receive instructions on how to get the new app and continue receiving Jet. Print subscribers that don’t choose to go with the digital Jet, will have the option to convert their subscriptions to sister publication, Ebony, according to Rogers.
There are about 10,000 digital-only subscribers to Jet, Rogers said. Transitioning Jet’s die-hard print readers to digital may be no easy task.
“We’ve got to walk our readers through this, and we’ve got to mourn that it’s not in the same format,” Rogers said. “But at the same time, once they see it, once they get familiar with it, they’re going to love it.”
One person who has already opted for the magazine switch is Mitzi Miller, the former editor of Jet who was named editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine last month. Kyra Kyles, formerly a senior editor of Jet magazine and digital managing editor of Jet’s website, has been named digital editorial director of Jet online.
Ebony, the largest circulation magazine among African Americans, recently went through a cover-to-cover redesign of its own. The 68-year-old Ebony lifestyle magazine has a total average circulation of 1.29 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Rogers said Ebony is “doing fine” in print and online, and that there are no plans to convert it to a digital-only platform.
“I think there are certain formats that work really well in a print publication,” Rogers said. “Ebony is very different from Jet.”
By: Robert Channick