Ear Hustle

Johnson Publishing Troubles Continues As Mitzi Miller Resigns From Ebony Magazine

mitzi miller

Johnson Publishing Co, which publishes Ebony magazine, Ebony.com, Jet.com and operates the e-commerce site FashionFair.com has been struggling to keep its head above water for years now. A victim of the decline in newsstand and print ad sales coupled with its own lack of doing, the company has also been mismanaged and failed to make any major moves into digital under CEO Desiree Rogers. It has now burned through its second editor after less than a year on the job.

Mitzi Miller who was promoted to Editor in Chief of the flagship Ebony magazine, last April replacing Amy DuBois Barnett, has stepped down and plans to shift her career over to TV.  In a statement on her departure, Rogers even seems to take a parting shot at Miller.

This and what many believe will come, has been the Johnson Publishing of today. The company is so far behind in digital and other content areas, it’s going to take a lot of money to bring it to relevance. The company has basically been stuck in its ways which is now forcing it to sell off its legacy to stay afloat. Johnson Publishing recently announced that it would sell off its iconic image collection which many saw as the last nail in the coffin for a storied company.

Desiree Rogers is not an innovative CEO. She seems to take the easy way out. Instead of trying to further monetize the vast photo collection by launching new products/platforms around it, she simply sells, takes the money and run. But all the blame can’t be placed at Ms. Rogers’ feet. Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice is the one signing off on the sale and dismantling of her father’s legacy.

The company isn’t attractive to advertisers as it literally lacks a broad audience and products. Back in 2011 the company got a cash injection from JP Morgan, but this didn’t stop the bleeding and no major digital initiative was implemented. Johnson Publishing should be the go to source for advertisers looking to reach the African-American demo. Instead advertisers are going to digital media companies like Moguldom Media (bossip.com, madamenoir.com). Moguldom Media would’ve been a perfect fit for Johnson Publishing if someone there was thinking ahead. If not an outright acquisition then some kind of content/advertising partnership would have benefited Johnson Publishing.We’ve said this before.

It’s as if both Desiree Rogers and her boss Linda Johnson Rice have given up and taking the lazy way out by simply selling everything including the kitchen sink. Ebony’s ad pages are down 8% and the quality of the magazine has also declined. It doesn’t have that star power it once packed where being on the cover was a fete. Whats next for the dying company? No one knows except those in charge.

But if Linda Johnson Rice wants to preserve her dad’s legacy, she must first downgrade her roll to non executive chairman and show Desiree Rogers the door. In today’s media environment, one can’t simply hire an executive because they’ve led other companies before. The media executive of today has to understand the current media landscape, and try to get ahead of it. Desiree Rogers did not understand this and clearly Ms. Johnson Rice didn’t either. Johnson Publishing has no major partnerships to speak of.

A company like Johnson should’ve looked to partner up with companies Like BET or TV One or Even OWN to bring some of the stories from its pages to television. But there is nothing. It’s as if the company is being ran from another universe where the CEO isn’t seeing whats happening in the industry. The company continues to see itself as simply a magazine publishing company and so, for years they’ve behaved as just that. While other publishers continue to transform themselves, Johnson Publishing is frozen in time.

Source: Media Wire Daily

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