Who killed Vibe magazine?
(Note: I wrote this Thursday and tried to get it to post during the day Friday, while I was en route to kick it with straight-haired hoes, but I never really learned how to use this site. Maybe if I spent five more years in college.)
If you read Gawker (and I’m sure you don’t), you might know they let my boy TAN do a few posts on the weekends, when no one is reading the site anyway. (White people…) He once quoted me at length in a post about Asher Roth. He was gonna let me drop some science about what happened to Vibe, but it kept getting pushed back. Gawker has been having some technical issues with their site. Plus, the guy’s kinda lazy. He might still get around to it, but I’m gonna be gone for the next few weekends in a row – at P-Fork, at Lolla, and at a family reunion. So I figured what the fuck. I’ll just discuss it here today, while I’m on my way to the Chi.
From what I understand, he wanted to focus on how blogs have come to replace magazines, and whether or not that’s what killed Vibe. I notice, whenever I talk to people who write for magazines, they want to talk about some supposed rift between bloggers and print journalists. In interviews, one of the main things they ask me, other than whether I’m afraid a dead Pimp C is gonna show up to my house (I’m not sweating it) is about blogs vs. magazines. Which I’ve of course taken to mean they can’t stand me. They must think I purposely set out to ruin their business. When the truth of the matter is that I could give a rat’s ass about what they do. When I started blogging, I hadn’t so much as thought about a rap magazine in years. I was 23 years old, fer chrissakes.
It would be hard to say what killed Vibe magazine, without being privy to their financial situation. A post on Bossip the other day blames the death of Vibe on the fact that it was run by a bunch of white business people who wouldn’t know from hip-hop culture. They’ve got a picture of the top few people in charge there, and it pretty much confirms what you always thought about these rap magazines. But I’m not sure if that alone was sufficient to put Vibe out of business. Sure, the guy who signed the checks was a cracka-ass cracka, but there were several black women on staff, including the editor in chief. (Along with, granted, a buncha corny-looking white dudes.) And it’s not like the white guys in charge were the ones who pulled the plug. The post on Bossip says the magazine’s main lender ordered it shut down, after it failed to make a scheduled debt payment.
Whether or not they could have put something on it, like a light bill, I’m not sure. If so, maybe they could have used some of the money they put into the Hip Hop Weekly knock-off the Most. Vibe went out of business about two weeks after the Most hit the stands, where it turned out to be the least. Coincidence?
Editor in chief Danyel Smith can be heard taking credit for the brilliant idea that is the Most in a podcast by the blog Black Web 2.0 that hit the Internets some time in between when the Most hit the news stands, and when she was escorted from the building. She probably figured it would sell like pancakes, since the Internets are run by black gossip blogs, aka bored hoodrat blogs. But it must not have occurred to her that they didn’t stand to make much from advertising, since a lot of the girls who read black gossip blogs are on welfare, and you can only buy certain brands when you’re on welfare anyway. It’s a completely captive audience. I should know – I went to school for marketing. In all likelihood, the Most was a last ditch, hail mary effort to get Vibe out of debt. Therefore, more so than anyone else, Danyel Smith should be held accountable for the death of Vibe. After all, it was her idea.
As far as how Vibe got so far into debt in the first place, who knows. My guess is that it may have had something to do with the fact that so very few people really liked it. In several reports I’ve seen on Vibe going out of business it’s been pointed out that it had a circulation of 800,000, but I’m not sure if that’s at all relevant. I got the magazine Blender (which has since gone out of business) in the mail for years, without subscribing. Then one day they had the sheer balls to try to bill me for renewal. I was like, nigga please! If anything, they ought to be paying me, for having taken up time I could have spent looking at pr0n. When Vibe had to tighten its belt earlier this year, they decreased circulation to 600,000. Which I took to mean they stopped sending magazines to 200,000 people they just sent magazines to for free, so they could tell advertisers they reached that many people.
Then you look at the fact that they covered so many things people could give a rat’s ass about, and it’s obvious why they had to pay so many people to read Vibe, which is why they had to borrow so much money. Obviously there aren’t 800,000 people in this country who want to read a story about El Debarge in 2009. There might not be eight. Then there was that Real Rap issue with Young Jeezy on the cover, where it almost seemed like they were purposely taunting us. Like, “Look, we called this the Real Rap issue, then we put Young Jeezy on the cover!” You know LCD rap isn’t as popular as the TIs would have you think. That’s why those guys have to go out on bizarre package tours with people like Ciara and Keyshia Cole. It’s hard to get that many ignorant people in a room, unless there’s been a hurricane or some shit. Meanwhile, you go to a Wu-Tang concert, and it’s nothing but a sea of white guys in cargo shorts, i.e. people with good taste in music. And they haven’t been on the cover of Vibe since I was in middle school.