'Ebony' Magazine Turns 60 Linda Johnson Rice, publisher of Ebony magazine, talks about its anniversary and the magazine's latest move to license the Ebony brand.

'Ebony' Magazine Turns 60

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ED GORDON, host:

Ebony magazine has been found on the coffee tables and in the hands of African-Americans for six decades. The magazine is celebrating its milestone anniversary by licensing the Ebony brand. I spoke with Ebony publisher Linda Johnson Rice.

Before we get too the excitement of the latest announcement, I want to talk to you about the anniversary that Ebony magazine will celebrate this year, and that's the big 6-0.

Ms. LINDA JOHNSON RICE (Publisher, Ebony Magazine): Absolutely. Ebony's turning 60.

GORDON: Talk to me about that, Linda. I know that it being your father's baby, something you hold near and dear, but when you think about a magazine, particularly an African-American magazine, withstaining and growing to 60, it is a tremendous accomplishment.

Ms. RICE: You know, it really is. I think of what a terrific entrepreneur and pioneer my father was, and how he realized 60 years ago that there was no real voice for African-Americans to really see themselves in a very positive and successful light, in a light of achievement. And with that being said, he thought of a magazine. A way to do this, he thought, was through a publication and he had the foresight to marry my mother, Eunice W. Johnson, who was smart enough to come up with the name, Ebony. And, you know, they started the magazine in the basement of his building, you know, stuffing subscriptions and, you know, it's grown ever since. But it's got a really strong, incredibly loyal subscriber and circulation base. And you know, we've tried not to let them down over 60 years, and our subscribers have been very responsive to us.

GORDON: Let's talk about the new chapter Ebony is embarking on now, and that is something that--I think so many people think about the name Ebony and it brings out so many feelings, quite frankly. It is perhaps more emotional than anything...

Ms. RICE: Yeah.

GORDON: ..for African-Americans.

Ms. RICE: Yeah.

GORDON: But you understood the importance of the branding of this name.

Ms. RICE: Yeah. I...

GORDON: And that's what you're going into now.

Ms. RICE: That's what we're doing now. We have signed an exclusive licensing agreement with a company called TurnerPatterson, another African-American company, and what I thought would be a great vehicle for Ebony, since it is such a strong brand name with tremendous loyalty, is to grow that brand name even more across different areas. But really, we're just making this announcement that we're going to start expanding the name.

GORDON: How much pressure do you have in dealing with licensing Ebony the right way?

Ms. RICE: I think there's a tremendous amount of pressure, because the last thing you want to do is to dilute the brand in any way, so you've got to be really, really careful there. So, of course, our first foray out, we're going to be, you know, a little--we're going to do our due diligence; let's put it that way.

GORDON: Finally, before we let you go, Linda, what can we look for, or do we even know--is it even on the drawing board, to come out of this licensing agreement first?

Ms. RICE: You know what I want you to do for me, Ed? I want you to call me back when I have an absolute agreement so that I can talk about that. But we're going to pick our partners very, very carefully. And once we land a big fish, I hope you will come back and talk to me again.

GORDON: We indeed will, and as always, it is a pleasure to talk to you, and we're very excited about the growth of what is an American institution and certainly amongst black folk, just home for us...

Ms. RICE: Oh, great.

GORDON: ...and we appreciate it.

Ms. RICE: Thank you so much, Ed, for having me.

GORDON: Linda Johnson Rice is the president and chief executive officer of the Johnson Publishing Company.

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