WATCH: The CEOs of Ebony, Diddy’s Revolt, and KweliTV on the future of Black media

Black creatives and media moguls have been working hard to gain equity in their own storytelling, but what does the next chapter of that journey look like?

On August 18, entrepreneurship reporter Dominic-Madori Davis hosted a panel with three media executives discussing the future of Black media. They discussed what it’s like running a Black-owned media enterprise in the 21st century as well as the challenges in maintaining control over Black stories in the US and beyond. They also spoke about their career paths and how they’re increasing equity for the next generation of creative and professional leaders.

Meet our panelists:

Detavio Samuels – CEO of television network REVOLT, which was founded by mogul Diddy in 2013. It’s currently one of the few Black networks to be carried on cable throughout the US.

DeShuna Spencer – Founder and CEO of the streaming service KweliTV which seeks to highlight Black stories from throughout the diaspora.

Michele Ghee – CEO of Ebony and Jet. Ebony is an iconic Black publication that dates back over 70 years. It relaunched this year seeking to connect with a new generation of Black leaders. Jet is set to relaunch next year, Ghee said.

Topics covered:

  • Why distributors and advertisers still are not investing in Black media.
  • How each panelist is helping to support the next generation of Black talent and leaders.
  • How Revolt, KweliTV, and Ebony are investing in new media channels such as Clubhouse and NFTs to connect with audiences.
  • Q&A with the audience discussing expanding into the African markets and what consumers can do to help support Black media.

Watch the full webinar above.

Read the original article on Business Insider

JOIN US FOR A LIVE EVENT ON AUGUST 18: The CEOs of Ebony, Diddy’s Revolt and more on the future of Black media

Insider Events panel, from left: DeShauna Spencer of KweliTV, Detavio Samuels of Revolt TV, and Michele Ghee of Ebony
From left: DeShauna Spencer of KweliTV, Detavio Samuels of Revolt TV, and Michele Ghee of Ebony

Black creatives and media moguls have been working hard to gain equity in their own storytelling, but what does the next chapter of that fight look like?

Insider will host a panel on August 18 at 12 PM EST/9 AM PT on the future of Black media, moderated by entrepreneurship reporter Dominic-Madori Davis. Panelists include Michele Ghee, CEO of iconic brands Ebony and Jet Magazine; Detavio Samuels, CEO of REVOLT, the cable network owned by hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, and DeShauna Spencer, founder of KweliTV, a video streaming service dedicated to the issues, stories, and culture of the global Black community.

They’ll discuss what it’s like running a Black-owned media enterprise in the 21st century, as well as the challenges in maintaining control over Black stories in the US. They’ll reveal their career journeys and how how they’re increasing equity for the next generation of creative leaders.

You can sign up here to watch.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The return of Ebony magazine: After a $14 million buyout, its new millennial owner talks a historic relaunch

Eden Bridgeman
Eden Bridgeman.

In the early 1990s, Eden Bridgeman sat underneath a hairdryer in a Louisville beauty shop. She was just a child then and wanted to look pristine for Easter Sunday.

Next to the hairdryer stood a rack of magazines. Among them, a beautiful Black woman graced a glossy cover. She picked it up and flipped through its pages. This was one of her first encounters with Ebony magazine. 

As a pastime, Bridgeman studied Ebony, as so many Black girls did in hair salons, in their grandmother’s living room, and on their auntie’s kitchen counter.  

With glamorous celebrities and public figures like Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, and Michelle Obama on the covers, Ebony portrayed Black women at their finest. “These were our superstars,” Bridgeman, 34, said. “The people driving the culture.”

Now, after a tumultuous 75-year history, which has seen a decline in the appetite for print products and the bankruptcy of Ebony Media Corporation, Bridgeman is the magazine’s latest owner, as well as the mastermind behind its rebranding.

On March 1st, Ebony relaunched. 

Ebony was founded in 1945 by publisher John Johnson and during the 1960s, the publication earned acclaim for its coverage of the civil rights movement. Ebony’s diminutive, sister magazine, Jet, was founded in 1951 by Johnson. For nearly six decades, the two publications defined Black culture with their in-depth profiles of such figures as civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, Diana Ross, and its insightful coverage of the AIDS epidemic. In the 1980s, their circulation topped an impressive 1 million.

Ebony Magazine
Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of Ebony Magazine in 1968.

Then came the 21st century, and financial woes struck the lorded publications. Both magazines suffered years of declining subscriptions and ad revenue. In 2016, Ebony and Jet were sold to private equity firm CV Media, and in 2019, both publications stopped printing physical copies. In July, Willard Jackson, the magazine’s CEO, was removed after an internal investigation of unauthorized use of company funds. 

Shortly after Jackson’s leave, Bridgeman’s father presented the family with an idea: he wanted to buy Ebony and Jet. Bridgeman was interested immediately.

To start planning, Bridgeman was introduced to former CNN and BET executive Michele Ghee through mutual friends. They spoke about what the future of Ebony and Jet could look like. A few days later, Ebony Media Operations filed for bankruptcy. 

In December, the Bridgeman family won the bid to buy Ebony and Jet for $14 million. Soon after the deal was closed, Ghee was officially appointed CEO and planned a relaunch for March. This gave them a month to organize Ebony’s rebirth. 

Jet is scheduled to relaunch in June. 

‘We’re a 75-year-old startup’

The new Ebony, Bridgeman said, has three core values: to be bold, brilliant, and beloved.

The magazine has at least a dozen people on staff. Both Ebony and Jet will be entirely digital endeavors, and there are no plans for either to return to print. Bridgeman’s day-to-day is ever-changing. She’s on calls, meeting with advertisers, and assisting in finding partners and contributors for the magazine. 

Ebony cover
The new Ebony cover, released March 1, featuring artwork by Jon Moody.

She tells Insider that throughout her years as a business professional, she’s come to appreciate the idea of servant leadership – the notion that she, as the leader, is not bigger than any entity. A title is just a title. 

“You have to understand every aspect within the business,” she said. “You [have to] show up in a way that people feel they can approach you. They [must] feel that they can work with you, not only just for you.” 

Purchasing the assets out of bankruptcy meant Bridgeman had an obligation to make sure her business strategies could sustain themselves, she said. And she’s been emphasizing the power of the Black dollar to advertisers, which was valued at over $1 trillion in 2019

“You are going to want to tap into that power,” she said. 

Rather than go back to print, Ebony will funnel money into the magazine’s technological expansion. “We’re a 75-year-old startup,” Bridgeman joked.”There’s plenty of room across the media space for all of us to live. We want to lift each other up.” 

Ebony’s first digital cover features a painting by artist Jon Moody, which portrays a woman with her locs flowing in the air. Tanisha Ford, historian and author of “Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion” is excited for the relaunch. 

Growing up, it seemed every Black family in Ford’s life had a subscription to Ebony and Jet. Often spread out on coffee tables, the magazines became a collector’s item – a generational touchstone. 

That was then, however, and Ford is curious to see how the magazine will establish brand loyalty in the modern age.

Jet Magazine
Eartha Kitt on the cover of Jet Magazine in 1955.

“I think about folks who are finishing high school and on the verge of college,” Ford told Insider. “It doesn’t mean the same thing for them – they don’t have the same kind of nostalgia of having an aunt pass down old Ebony magazines in the same ways that I do.”

The next 75 years

Bridgeman was born in Los Angeles and raised in Louisville. Since 2009, she’s been working for her family’s company, Manna Inc., which owns hundreds of restaurants throughout the United States, including 130 Wendy’s locations. In 2013, she completed her MBA at Loyola University Chicago-Quinlan School of Business. She was named chief marketing officer of Manna Inc. in 2017, a position she will retain as she oversees the relaunch of Ebony and Jet.

Bridgeman wants Jet to produce fast-paced news targeted toward millennials, and there are plans to bring back its beloved Beauty of the Week section, which highlights beautiful, successful Black women. 

That section was an early memory for entrepreneur Maori Karmael Holmes, founder and artistic director of BlackStar Film Festival, who also recalls seeing Ebony and Jet magazines scattered throughout the homes of both her grandmothers. Last year, Holmes launched her own print journal, Seen, which focuses on filmmaking.

She is also hopeful for the relaunch, pointing out that Ebony was essential to opening the doors of Black writers, and gave Black entrepreneurs a chance to advertise their businesses. “I hope for the next seventy-five years, it can be a relevant chronicler of Black culture,” Holmes said.

There’s a chance for that – Ebony already has a million followers on Instagram. “We want to make sure this is successful,” Bridgeman said. “We’re sitting on 75 years of history. If we aren’t able to maintain the business, then what good are we going to be for our community?”

Read the original article on Business Insider