NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As they try to bring Vibe magazine back from the dead, its new owners and editor have chosen a provocative subject for the new incarnation's first cover: Chris Brown, who could use a little resuscitation himself.
The cover with Chris Brown, who is attempting a comeback after pleading guilty in June to felony assault on fellow performer and now ex-girlfriend Rihanna, actually shares the print run with covers featuring Drake, another hip-hop artist. But it's the Chris Brown cover that's more likely to get people talking.
And if the choice succeeds in generating the buzz that's intended, Vibe's cover will show off the power that print can still wield. Putting a feature about the tarnished pop star online alone, by contrast, probably wouldn't stand to get the same attention.
But Vibe and its fellow music magazines still face more challenges from digital media than, say, fashion magazines do. Music, not to mention its devotees, works better with digital than glossies focused on visuals. That's why you now see Vibe magazine recast as just one arm of the Vibe Lifestyle Network, why Rolling Stone is bringing its website back in-house, and why, to some degree, Blender lies in the magazine graveyard.
"Here, Vibe.com is really the hub," said Jermaine Hall, editor in chief of the new Vibe and Vibe.com. "That's where everything needs to go back to. Whether it's the magazine, or we decide to do some kind of TV programming down the line, everything needs to come back to Vibe.com."
Vibe 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," Mr. Hall said. "It needs to get back to that."
The old Vibe died last June but got a chance at a comeback two months later when InterMedia Partners, the private equity fund, stepped in and bought the brand's assets. Now the print edition is coming back with a reduced frequency, four issues next year compared with the 10 once planned for 2009, and a smaller paid circulation guarantee, 300,000 now compared to 600,000 at shutdown. That partly reflects the tough economy. It's a result, too, of abandoning all subscribers to the old Vibe, who now have to buy new subscriptions if they want the new print edition; InterMedia didn't take on liability for prior subscribers when it bought Vibe's assets.
But the more modest publishing plan is also a reflection of evolving approaches toward media brands in print. "We have a smaller cost basis and a lot of emphasis on digital," said Leonard Burnett Jr., co-CEO and group publisher of the Vibe Lifestyle Network. "Instead of having a website supporting a magazine, we are a digital-influenced business, where the magazine is supporting that."
The return issue, out Dec. 8 in a slightly over-sized format, is expected to include more than 40 pages of advertising, Mr. Burnett said, with participating marketers so far including Nissan, Sean John, General Motors, Crown Royal, Pepsi and State Farm.