Urban theme hits a high note

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Vanguarde means many things to Keith Clinkscales.

It's the name of his publishing company. It's the role he believes his stable of magazines plays in the emerging multicultural publishing community. It's the position he takes amid marketers considering advertising in African-American media.

"Vanguarde is the leading edge, the first one in," says Mr. Clinkscales, 37, chairman-CEO of Vanguarde Media. "We've tried to create the leader of the future of multicultural publishing."


The publications Mr. Clinkscales has developed provide an urban theme that dovetails with mainstream styles. His latest title, Savoy, offers a mix of news, politics and entertainment featuring "people of power, substance and style," he says. The CEO describes its niche as somewhere "between Black Enterprise and Ebony."

Mr. Clinkscales' first launch, the now defunct Urban Profiles, appeared in 1988 with the help of an investor. That publication offered content for young urban adults. In 1993, Time Inc. tapped Mr. Clinkscales to launch Vibe, and he built a media effort that included print and TV platforms, gained recognition as a hip-hop brand, and generated spinoff title Blaze.

When Vibe/Spin Ventures was acquired by Miller Publishing Group in 1997, Mr. Clinkscales was made partner and president-CEO. He held that post until last year when he left to start Vanguarde with longtime business partner Len Burnett, now Vanguarde publisher.

Vanguarde's publications also include Heart & Soul and Honey. Both titles increase to 10 times frequency this year and have applied for Audit Bureau of Circulations verification.

Phyllis Woolley, director of African-American marketing for Colgate-Palmolive Co., says Vanguarde has delivered unique segments of the ethnic market unavailable from other magazines. For example, Savoy targets a higher-income, more intellectual 24-to-49-year-old reader than Ebony, which is more family oriented; Heart & Soul delivers the African-American woman interested in reading about health, body and mind, she says.


"It goes back to seeing the whole opportunity to target a younger, more urban consumer," she says.

"The goal is not to be the best publisher of black magazines but to be the best publisher. Period," Mr. Burnett says. "Every day he strives to continue to do that."

Vanguarde has moved beyond print to include events, conferences, Web sites, electronic newsletters and integrated Internet content surrounding its different magazine brands.

Vanguarde's Impact provides marketers with insights and news on the business of urban media and entertainment.

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