Once a popular publication on Medium that offered content geared towards Black men, LEVEL Magzine now has its own website where Black men can read content on race, identity and culture.
“LEVEL built an ecosystem for Black men,” said LEVEL CEO and Founder Jermaine Hall. “We delivered a space where this audience with tremendous disposable income and cultural currency can be seen. The response from our audience required us to expand our offerings and build a larger universe for them to come together, let their guards down, and share ideas.”
LEVEL offers long-form stories, journalism and reporting from a myriad of creative and talented writers, which sometimes include high-profile celebrities such as Colin Kaepernick and Charlamagne Tha God.
The Root spoke to Jermaine to discuss the purpose of LEVEL and their need to give creative, thoughtful and insightful content for their readers.
The Root: What is LEVEL magazine?
Jermaine Hall: LEVEL is a digital publication for Black men 30 and older. I started LEVEL in 2019 and I have pitched the idea to Siobhan O’Connor and Ev Williams at Medium because I never felt like there was a legit home for Black men, specifically older Black men. I always think of people as digital nomads, we go to all these places to get many things but there’s never this one brand that caters to us. So that’s why that’s I started LEVEL.
TR: What went behind the decision to relaunch LEVEL and start your own website?
Jermaine Hall: On Medium, 70% of our traffic was coming off-platform and we were sitting behind a paywall. So Ev decided that it made sense to migrate the property off of the platform (Medium) and give it a chance to reach more than the 70% that we were already interacting with while we were on Medium.
TR: What does LEVEL’s content focus on?
Jermaine Hall: Race and identity have always been our main content. That’s the content that I always felt if we had like the best Black writers in the country writing about that, it can be a real differentiator for us. The second bucket is what I like to call the life bucket. In that category, we focus on making Black men better tomorrow than they are today. We want to run them through financial literacy, and what sex, relationships, fatherhood and mental health look like in your 30s, 40s and 50s. There should be differences between each decade.
The third bucket is the culture bucket, which is what I’ve done for most of my career. I’ve always covered celebrities in music or movies or e someone who has a book coming out. But I didn’t want LEVEL to cover things that were in the news cycle. I wanted stories to have way more nuanced conversations with those people who were insightful about things going on in the world.
TR: What went into the decision to make most of the LEVEL stories long-form instead of quick and shorter news stories?
Jermaine Hall: Medium was the right partner for LEVEL because I’ve always felt like the people who subscribe to Medium are avid readers. They’re paying $5 a month read 10 to 15 minutes stories. The identity we were able to establish while we were on that platform was that we were going to be a brand for avid readers. Readers who want to know about Black men and who could benefit from the information that we’ll be putting out about Black men. I would say Generation X is our sweet spot. Picture men with disposable income who have more of a love for reading than a 20-year-old.
TR: How do you ensure that your content does not get lost in all of the digital content options that Black men have on the internet?
Jermaine Hall: There’s a question we ask ourselves before we put out each piece of content. Is this going to make Black men better? Are Black men going to learn something from this and put it into their daily lives? From an aggregated news perspective there are so many places where you can get that. It can help them with their sex life, finances, it can help them be a better father, or it could provide entertainment that’s not necessarily within the news cycle.
TR: What’s the process of finding other ways to tell stories other than just self-help articles?
Jermaine Hall: Because we get pitches from writers so often, we tend to not pay attention to the stories that will be out of the news cycle in one day. Unless it’s like an op-ed piece about something that happened. Those are like our versions of quick hits. Even those pieces end up running for 750 words. But the way we go about picking stories is generally we try to look for amazing evergreen content that we think will be entertaining to the reader.
TR: What’s the balance of having high-profile names (Colin Kaepernick, Charlamagne Tha God) write on your platform between writers who are not as well known?
Jermaine Hall: I want to find the next great writer and have them jump off at LEVEL and make them into a bigger entity than they were when they first got here. I want to be that gateway for great writers. We will always be able to get the Nelson George’s off of the world because those are the writers that we came up with, those are the writers that we know and have relationships with. But I would love to also be that platform that elevates the next great writers.
TR: Why should I read Level? If I’m a new reader.
Jermaine Hall: You should read LEVEL, especially if you’re a Black man because I guarantee you’re going to leave that experience smarter than when you came in.