“Vibe” Tightens Up

noah | February 11, 2009 3:45 am

Ad Age reports that hip-hop magazine Vibe will reduce its frequency from 12 issues a year to 10, merge its print and digital operations, and institute a four-day workweek (and pay cuts) for employees as a way to deal with the recession. The magazine is also introducing a twice-yearly tabloid that will focus more on celebrity than music, upping its subscription rates, and slashing its paid circulation by 25%.

Cutting paid circulation — in Vibe’s case, to 600,000 from 800,000 — was once a sign of weakness in the eyes of advertisers and marketers, but the ad pages that bloated circulations used to attract aren’t flowing like they used to. “If you’re not getting as many ad pages anymore and you have less-profitable circulation that you’re trying to maintain, the equation doesn’t make sense anymore,” said an executive at one big magazine advertiser. “Magazines would be better off getting rid of their unprofitable circulation and managing to a level where it’s more profitable on a bottom-line basis. And advertisers would understand the reduction if it’s told to them in the right way.”

These moves are probably smart ones for the health of the magazine—although, obviously, lousy for the people toiling in its trenches. And the celebrity-tabloid experiment will certainly be an interesting one to watch; while sites like MediaTakeOut and TheYBF have certainly been racking up the hits over the past few scandal-filled days, numbers for the celebrity category on the whole have been taking a hit at the newsstand lately. But I guess even those deflated newsstand numbers are better than the ones that the music-magazine biz has been dealing with:

Music titles—primarily targeting men—did little better, with Blender down 17.8% to 44,233, Spin down 38.2% to 29,917, Vibe down 10.8% to 100,318, and Country Weekly down 17% to 91,346. Rolling Stone had the best relative performance, dropping a mere 5.2% to 134,660.

And RS, as Matos pointed out when I showed him those numbers, has been putting fewer and fewer musicians on its covers these days. (Although how they’ll fare in the post-Obama-bump age is a question all its own.)

‘Vibe’ Retrenches in Face of Recession [Ad Age] Vibe [Official site]