Essence 2.0: Can the Magazine Find Its Digital Voice?

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

Britt Julious, writing at WBEZ91.5, explains her own disconnect with Essence magazine and how she thinks it could appeal to a younger audience: by bringing its brand of storytelling online.

When I think of the appeal of print, I think of packaged storytelling. The value in this form is the tangibleness of the magazine itself. Essence holds a special place in the heart of many black women because it is so unique and so needed. To have our stories literally physically within reach is a powerful and important reality. What we hold in our hands is the acknowledgement of our hopes and fears, our desires and questions.

In a recent story from the New York Times, writer Tanzina Vega noted a disconnect between the magazine and younger audiences. Like many print publications, Essence suffers from an inability to connect as strongly to a younger population …

But what the Internet and online media provides is the possibility to engage far and wide and immediately. Anyone can strive to be the new voice for black women and as a reader, I can find those voices as quickly as possible. I often turn toward Tumblr users focusing on women of color such as Gradient Lair or Trill Wave Feminism. If I’m looking for a more traditional online publication, I can turn to Clutch. Essence has a strong online presence, but I don’t turn to it in the way that I turn to other websites. That immediacy is not there. That necessariness is not there. But it can be and it should be.

If Essence is to succeed in the future, it must translate its print qualities to the web. Many of my favorite sites do just this, never acting inhibited by the force of the Internet and instead taking advantage of its white-space possibilities. Essence is packaged storytelling, month after month. But online it can be packaged storytelling day after day. It can be precise and thought out and clear in its purpose. So really, this is a study in what it has already done best.


Read Britt Julious' entire piece at WBEZ91.5 

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