Vibe Media Group, which publishes Vibe magazine, announced Tuesday that it was shuttering its doors immediately after 16 years of publishing content about the young, urban music industry.
The staff was working on a tribute issue to Michael Jackson when they got the news, according to Danyel Smith, who was recently promoted to chief content office for VMG, and was the editor in chief of Vibe magazine. “It’s a tragic week in overall, but as the doors of Vibe Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine’s sixteenth anniversary, it’s a sad day for music, for hip hop in particular, and for the millions of readers and users who have loved and who continue to love the Vibe brand,” she wrote in a note to staffers.
Legendary music producer Quincy Jones launched Vibe in 1993 as the hip-hop and R&B version of Rolling Stone. With Vibe gone, The Source magazine is the only large-circulation magazine dedicated solely to urban music.
In a money-saving maneuver, in February, Vibe reduced its circulation and publishing frequency, cut salaries between 10-15% and moved employees to a four-day workweek, according to Folio, a publication that covers the magazine industry.
For the six months ended Dec. 31, 2008, Vibe had a circulation of 817,825, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Vibe magazine had a 42% decline in ad pages in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Other music titles like Rolling Stone and Spin are also suffering from diminished advertising expenditures, and Blender, which featured eclectic music reviews, features and news, folded in March.
However, despite its struggles, earlier this month, VMG launched “The Most!,” a biannual magazine and Web site. “The Most!” was “to fill a void on national newsstands by reflecting Vibe’s commitment to urban style, celebrity, beauty, and culture through a tabloid-themed publication,” the company said in a press release. The magazine had an initial print run of 300,000, according to Folio.
Steve Aaron, the now former CEO of Vibe Media Group, attributed the company’s demise on the collapse of the capital markets, the inability to secure new investors, and tight advertising market. “The print advertising collapse hit Vibe hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business,” he said.