As the economy continues to slump, niche magazines begin to show
their staying power. In particular, Honey is beginning to find its voice
in the relatively untapped minority market. James Chase reports.
Launched in March 1999 as a quarterly, Honey is making sweet progress in
the ethnic consumer market.
The fashion and entertainment magazine is aimed at well-educated,
stylish, in-the-know urban women aged 18-34. And while its core
readership is African-American, Honey is designed to have a broader,
Vanguarde Media, which also owns Heart & Soul, bought Honey in early
2000, and upped its frequency to 10 issues a year. It now has more than
160,000 subscribers and a rate base of 250,000, which is projected to
top 350,000 next year.
Editor-in-chief Amy DuBois Barnett attributes this success to Honey's
"unique" position in what is still a relatively untapped market. "Urban
culture drives popular culture, and many companies are recognizing the
need to market toward a 'minority population,' especially in the current
economic climate," says Barnett. "But there are still very few places to
market to this demographic. Honey really has its ear to the ground."
Barnett joined Honey from Essence in the summer of 2000, and is largely
responsible for moving the title forward. In March of this year, she
fronted a redesign that saw a new logo and fresher look. "We wanted it
to better represent the perspective of young, urban women," she
explains. "It should be smart, fun, and beautiful. Readers should be
visually engaged and excited by provocative features."
Such excitement and provocation has been provided by recent cover
stories about Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes dealing with demons, and Mary J.
Blige "getting down." Regular editorial sections include Fusion, a sort
of roundup of entertainment, Profile, the fashion section, and Surface,
which hosts beauty ideas and products. Much of the content is
intrinsically linked to music.
Not surprisingly, Honey gets "tons and tons" of pitches from PR people -
usually beauty ideas, products, and celebrity plugs. And Barnett's
attitude is encouraging: "I'm never maddened by it," she says, "just a
little overwhelmed sometimes." In fact, Barnett makes a point to look at
every pitch. "It helps us keep abreast of what's going on. We can't
possibly know everything."
Of course, there is a right and a wrong way to submit an idea. Barnett
suggests checking the masthead for the relevant section editor, before
sending a good, informative media kit and cover letter, along with a
product sample. It's a good idea to make a follow-up call a week or two
later, she adds.
Barnett is always appreciative of publicists who have taken time to read
through the magazine carefully and familiarize themselves with its
"We like well-informed, specific pitches," she says. "If someone can
make suggestions about where a story or product would fit best, then we
are more likely to take an idea on board."
Phone calls should be avoided, at least for the first contact, and PR
people should also bear in mind that content is planned three to four
months in advance. However, the editorial calendar is not set in stone,
so there is room for adaptation. For example, Barnett had interviewed
singer/actress/model Aaliyah for a future cover story. But after the
star was tragically killed in a plane crash, the piece was adapted into
a tribute to her life and work, and was brought forward to the current
Despite the harsh economy, epitomized by the recent high-profile closure
of Mademoiselle, Honey certainly won't be shrinking. While Barnett says
there will be no major changes, she expects the magazine to get "fatter"
in the new year, as advertising gathers momentum. "We've only been
around for a couple of years, so we're doing really well."
And the hive that makes Honey is buzzing. "We have a blast," says queen
bee Barnett. "We literally laugh all day long. All the staff fit the
demographic of our core reader - we are the magazine." And, of course,
that means accepting more than a few of the invitations that come their
way. "If you're going to be a voice for young, urban women," adds
Barnett, "you have to know where they are going out, what they are
wearing - and, yes, what they are drinking."
Address: 315 Park Avenue South, 11th floor, NY, NY 10010
Tel: (646) 654-4200
Fax: (646) 654-4220
Editor-In-chief: Amy DuBois Barnett
Executive editor: Angela Burt-Murray
Features editor: Denene Millner
Entertainment editor: Joyce E. Davis
Associate beauty editor: Mia Stokes
Fashion director: Michaela Angela Davis