Linda Johnson Rice: CEO, JOHNSON PUBLISHING COMPANY
In the three years since she took over the pioneering African American publisher, its flagship magazines are performing better than ever.
In 2003, Linda Johnson Rice took over as CEO of Johnson Publishing;the company her father, John H. Johnson;founded in 1942. While he built flagship magazines Ebony and Jet into powerhouses, Johnson is now focused on diversifying the revenue model. "We started back in the 1940s when there were so few publications for African-Americans," says Johnson Rice. "We needed to update our look without losing our focus on career, success, achievement, positive things for African-Americans."
Johnson’s two flagship magazines are posting major gains in both revenue and pages. Ebony was up 13.3 percent to $76.2 million in ad revenue and up 10.9 percent to 1,258.6 ad pages in 2005 over 2004, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Jet was up 7.1 percent to $33.2 million in ad revenue and up 8.9 percent to 1,159.9 pages for the same period.
The company generates more than $400 million annually and plans to expand online and through product licensing, ranging from financial services to housewares. "We’re looking to attract a more youthful audience and not necessarily through Ebony," says Johnson. "We’re focusing on our Internet capabilities in 2006. Ebony and Jet are the engines driving the train but we haven’t even begun to capitalize on the Web yet."
Johnson Publishing has firmly embraced live events to boost exposure for its brand and its sponsors. Ebony recently hosted its second annual Oscar party, "Ebony Presents Hollywood in Harlem." Sponsors included Southwest Airlines and the South African Tourism Board. The company also started the Pathfinder Awards to honor John H. Johnson, with the awards presented during halftime at the Super Bowl. Sponsors include General Motors and The Milk Foundation. "Our challenge is making sure we can maintain this readership and make sure it doesn’t erode because there are so many outlets these days," says Johnson Rice.
VITAL STATS: Ebony was up 13.3 percent to $76.2 million in ad revenue in 2005, according to PIB.