MEDIA PROFILE: Buzz and a fresh angle keep Vibe a mainstay of urban culture

The editors of Vibe want publicists to know them and their magazine as well as they do. A new lifestyle section and a redesign debuting in the fall will expand the placement options.

The editors of Vibe want publicists to know them and their magazine as well as they do. A new lifestyle section and a redesign debuting in the fall will expand the placement options.

Ten years ago, music mogul Quincy Jones saw in urban music a movement that was so powerful and unique that he began Vibe magazine, a publication designed to chronicle and celebrate its progress. He envisioned what was then a gritty, underground street movement as something that could become a multicultural, rich, inclusive genre of expression that would have a far-reaching impact. He was right. Hip-hop has evolved into a predominant force in pop culture, and Vibe has traced its progress and moved with its evolving style. A decade into their tradition of celebrating urban music, Vibe's editors are interested in realistic and relevant pitches with buzz and a fresh angle. "When a publicist comes with an actual story and a vision of where it could be in the magazine then it really gets us thinking," says executive editor Shani Saxon. "It just doesn't make sense to pitch a feature on a brand-new artist and leave it at that. The worst pitches say, 'I'm looking for Vibe to do a story on this artist.' It's just so vague and reads like everything else. We want them to say, 'Here's a front-of-book news piece on this artist who was mentored by that artist.'" Unlike numerous hip-hop magazines that focus only on its beats, Vibe deconstructs urban music in its entirety. The magazine has followed in its founder's footsteps, becoming a hybrid of multiple musical fusions and always looking beyond the music to include the fashion and style, politics, culture, and lifestyle born of the hip-hop genre. Vibe's diverse readership very closely resembles the urban music audience, with a 67.4% black and 27.9% white audience, and an equal division between men and women of the median age, 27. Its rate base is a whopping 825,000, which represents a 3% increase from 2002 and a 725% increase from its launch in September 1993, numbers that reflect the enormous surge in hip-hop music sales. "I think that hip-hop, contrary to popular belief, is very inclusive," says editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin. "I think a lot of people from all races relate to the rebellious tone and the nonconformity of it. They like its beats and the sound of the music. This movement is very similar to what we saw with jazz and with rock 'n' roll when they moved from the fringes to the mainstream." Vibe is interested in fresh, hot music and does have a history of breaking new talent and establishing new trends. Wilbekin says that, while the magazine's first job is to cover urban music culture, the publication also bears a huge responsibility to be critical trendsetters in the industry. Vibe's pitch acceptance rate is very low; but the editors do claim to be open, and they urge publicists to really tailor their pitches and to remember the enormous ground the magazine covers. The editors work closely with a select group of publicists who have maintained a relationship with the magazine over time. A way for a publicist to get a foot in the door, according to Saxon, is to really know the magazine and have a sense of each editor's section before beginning a pitch. A recommended tactic is to send a preliminary e-mail and then to follow up with a phone call. "I think that people often neglect our "Start" section, which is a great place," says Saxon. "The front tends to get ignored, and there's a lot of room for creative stories. People are too focused on our feature well, where we just don't have any space. If they knew the magazine and saw what we are doing, then we would automatically be on the same page." As of October, a new place for PR people to focus will be a section called "Play," to be edited by present lifestyle/tech editor Hyun Kim. "Play" will include such elements of urban music lifestyle as hobbies, technology, homes, and vacations. The magazine is also undergoing a design evolution, renovating its look with more visuals, shorter feature stories, and more behind-the-scenes pieces. The "Start" section also will begin to feature more polls and reader-response stories, reflecting increasing interaction between consumers, artists, and the media. "Urban music is continually evolving," says Wilbekin. "Our original audience that was once influenced by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince is now grown up with homes, and our younger readership are looking for more visuals and interaction. Vibe started as a reflection of urban music, and that's what we'll always be." ----- Contact list Vibe Address 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Tel (212) 488-7300 Fax (212) 488-7430 Website E-mail Editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin Managing editor Andrea Rosengarten Executive editor Shani Saxon Features editor Serena Kim Lifestyle/tech editor Hyun Kim Music editor Erik Parker Fashion director Michael Nash

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