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Historic JET halts print magazine

Decides to go from print to a digital app

5/8/2014, 12:35 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Jet magazine, which first hit newsstands at the dawn of the civil rights era, is ceasing regular print publication and transforming into a digital app.

Johnson Publishing Co., which owns Jet along with Ebony magazine, says the switch will occur at the end of June. The Chicago-based company says the move is a proactive effort to adapt to its readers’ growing desires for quicker and easier access to information.

Desiree Rogers, Johnson Publishing’s CEO says the change will take the magazine back to its roots. She notes that Jet, which was founded by John Johnson in November 1951, was originally intended as a newsweekly digest for African-Americans living in an increasingly faster-paced world.

At that time, the magazine cost 15 cents and was small enough to be carried in a purse or a pocket, perfect for on-the-go information, just like today’s smartphones and tablets.

“I think if Johnson were here today, I think he would say ‘what took you so long?’” Rogers says.

The app will launch on June 30 and cost $20 a year. It will contain shorter, more mobile-friendly, articles and return to a weekly publishing format, with breaking news updates on a daily basis. The print magazine currently publishes every three weeks.

The format change comes amid an advertising revenue decline at Jet and in the magazine industry overall.

According to Publishers Information Bureau data, Jet’s total print advertising revenue has fallen in each of the last three years, dropping 24 percent to $10.3 million last year from $13.6 million in 2010.

Meanwhile, total advertising revenue at consumer magazines fell about 2 percent to $19.74 billion in 2013 from $20.08 billion in 2010, according to PIB.

According to its website, Jet is the No. 3 magazine in the African-American market. The Alliance for Audited Media puts its total print and digital circulation at about 720,000.

No changes are planned for Ebony, which Rogers said is doing very well and just brought in a new editor.

The app, which will be available for all smartphone and tablet platforms, also will allow for new features such three-dimensional photography and more video, with the potential for adding new features such as movie and music clips that can run alongside reviews, Rogers says.

There will be an abundance of entertainment and celebrity news, along with coverage of politics, pop culture and social issues that impact African Americans. The company also will publish an annual special print edition.

Rogers added that she’s not worried that the magazine might lose some of its older readers as a result of the change, noting that many of her senior citizen friends prefer apps over websites because they’re simpler and easier to use.