Jet magazine makes digital moves

The final print edition of JET magazine with a cover declaring it "An American Icon" is displayed with vintage copies of the magazine at the offices of Johnson Publishing Company. Scott Olson, Getty Images

Jet, the iconic magazine that chronicled the civil rights movement published its last print edition in early June and this week took the latest step in its digital transformation, with a flashy new app.

Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, COO of Johnson Publishing Company that owns Jet, told CBS News that the impetus behind the change was twofold -- to match the new ways readers consume content, and to mirror the mission magazine founder John Johnson implemented 63 years ago.

"Mr. Johnson, when he started Jet said that the reason he brought Jet out to begin with is because people wanted to get information fast," said McKissack. "So in many ways this is really returning to the original mission and original focus of what Jet was intended to do."

In 1951, Jet served as a weekly news digest for African-Americans. At 15 cents, the pamphlet-sized magazine could fit in a reader's pocket. Now, the company says, subscribers to the new app can pretty much do the same thing on their tablets and smartphones.

Like many in the industry, Jet faced sharp drops in print advertising revenue. According to Publishers Information Bureau (PIB), Jet's total print advertising revenue decreased 24 percent in three years, from $13.6 million in 2010 to $10.3 million last year. Jet hopes the app will stem the tide and allow the magazine to cash in on what Mckissack called "a whole new era for advertisers."

"We are offering more for both advertisers and readers," said McKissack. In addition to advertising, the company will also rely on subscription fees -- the app is free for 30 days, and $20 a year after that.

According to its website, Jet is the No. 3 magazine in the African-American market with a circulation of about 700,000 readers.

Before the switch, the digest-size magazine was put on newsstands every three weeks. With the change to digital, subscribers will receive weekly updates with what Jet calls the "Friday Refresh."

The app features digital upgrades of old favorites. The magazine's popular "beauty of the week" section now comes equipped with a 360-degree viewer. Jet promises 3D images, video interviews, enhanced digital maps, audio content and new Web series.

"We wanted to create an interesting, fresh and interactive app," McKissack said. "We wanted this Jet app to do the things that we couldn't do in print."

This is a transition many other magazines have already made.

What took so long?

"This is a fairly major transition for the company," said McKissack, who added that the decision process was prolonged by the company's desire to thoroughly analyze emerging readers. "We have really loyal Jet followers and readers. We realized this was the time, and Jet was the perfect platform for the app."

  • Precious Osagie-Erese

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