Johnson Publishing Expands

Moving into television and internet to extend brand

Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. (No.7 on the be industrial/service 100 list with $472.2 million in sales) has chronicled the lives of black families in its flagship publications EBONY and JET since the 1940s and ‘50s, but now the media giant is eyeing a new generation by creating entertainment content for television, the Internet, and other digital landscapes.

“The formation of the Ebony/Jet Entertainment Group is really us recognizing that we have a treasure trove of content and we’re now going to monetize that content across other types of platforms,” says Kenard Gibbs, president of the newly formed group. “You’ll see the release of theatrical films, direct-to-video films, made-for-TV films, documentaries — all types of content.”

The effort will also give the company access to a new audience, those who don’t necessarily relate to the EBONY and JET franchises. “It’s important to get the brand’s name out in nontraditional ways,” says Richard Prince, a journalist who writes about news media diversity for the Website of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Unlike Black Entertainment Television and TV One, Johnson Publishing Co. will focus on creating content rather than raising capital for distribution, says Gibbs.

“BET is a cable network, but they didn’t get there by concentrating on producing original content or acquiring content. They basically became a cable entity by investing in the infrastructure of building a cable network. TV One is another cable outlet. We may be in a position to have partnerships and strategic relationships with both of those entities as a content provider,” says Gibbs.

Gibbs’ previous experiences as president of Vibe magazine, where he successfully launched the Vibe Awards and the Weekend Vibe syndicated show, will serve this effort well, says Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a Chicago-based research company that monitors African American marketing and media.

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