20 years ago, there was nothing like BET, and today it is still the only black-owned multimedia conglomerate. However, as each becomes stronger, the lines of separation become thinner, and competition increases.
“There are plenty of magazines to fight, so I don’t want to fight Essence,” says Clinkscales. “Now ask me do I want to compete, and the answer is yes.”
With the cable and Internet resources at BET, Vanguarde can very well escalate its magazine brands into the necessary media outlets to vie with Essence. BET already has a cable program for its Heart and Soul magazine and more are sure to follow. “[Clinkscales] is looking at ways the network can do more with the magazines. That’s part of why he wanted to work with us,” says Lee.
A head-on competition between Vanguarde and ECI is not immediately in the cards, and it’s expected that the two companies will do more to complement each other, at least initially.
“Essence and Honey are not competitors, but the success of one can help the success of the other,” says Smikle. “Essence has too much of a head start to even think of Honey as a competitor. They have a $100 million and a 30-year head start. However, you can build successful businesses with smaller segments, and that’s essentially what [Vanguarde] hopes to do with Honey.”
Competition will inevitably continue to grow between black publications, especially since black business people are leaning toward partnerships more these days than ever before.
“The ability to compete and develop media properties requires enormous resources that are best gained through joint ventures and partnerships,” said Smith. “The major ways of raising capital are either through financial lenders, who take your shirt and want an immediate payback, or the public market, which leaves you with no control over who owns your company anyway.”
Likewise, Lee says, “Joint ventures aren’t anything new. BET and the Daily News was a 50-50 joint venture when BET started.” She continues, “Essence is at 30 years and they found it was the best thing to do. Sometimes it just makes sense to bring on new partners for either money or expertise.”
–Additional reporting by Duane A. Bourne