Hip-hop Relaunch Hopes for Buzz by Featuring Admitted Felon on Cover

Vibe magazine cover preview

Vibe magazine cover preview

VIBE died last summer but its assets – except one critical component to be discussed further on – were acquired two months later by InterMedia Partners, a private equity fund.  December 8 the print magazine is coming back with split covers of hip-hop artists Chris Brown and Drake and a reduced frequency and a smaller rate base.

The reason to feature Chris Brown, a convicted felon after pleading guilty to beating up fellow singing star and then girl-friend Rihanna, does not seem to bother many prospective readers (a deplorable condition on its own) but it might – and should – give prospective investors food for thought.  As a poster on livejournal.com put it: “Why are people rooting for him when he hasn’t shown an ounce of remorse?  There are soooo many other deserving black artists out there.”

The quarterly will also return to print with a wider editorial focus encompassing not only music but fashion, politics, culture, arts and sports.  “It’s always been a very broad book that’s covered the culture of hip-hop, not just hip-hop music,” Jermaine Hall, editor-in-chief of the new Vibe and Vibe.com said.  “It needs to get back to that.”

It will relaunch with a smaller paid circulation guarantee, 300,000 now, compared to 600,000 at shutdown.  This is part tough economy and part abandoning all subscribers to the old Vibe, who now have to buy another subscription if they want the new print edition; InterMedia didn’t take on liability for prior subscribers when it bought Vibe’s assets.  What the management doesn’t seem to realize is that subscribers don’t care about legal contracts.  All they see is that Vibe, the magazine, pocketed their money.

What do you think?  Should Vibe have put Chris Brown on the cover and should they have honored the old subscriptions?

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