Two Time Warner divisions, Time Inc.'s Essence Communications and Warner Bros. Television Group, are working together to turn Essence magazine into a multiplatform brand, the companies announced Monday, April 21. The venture's first project will be the late summer-relaunch of Essence.com, which will serve as a launching pad for new TV and Internet programming reaching an under-served 18- to 49-year-old black female audience.
"Survey after survey has shown there isn't enough content reaching African-American women," said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications. "African-American women say they are looking for more content reflecting their voice and lifestyle. This partnership gives us the opportunity."
The expanded and multi-tiered Essence.com will contain a mix of exclusive and original daily content, more video, plus interactive social networking and interactive features targeting 18-49 year-old Black women.
WBTVG's Telepictures Productions and Essence plan to produce Extra on Essence, an original digital series for the Web site hosted by Tanika Ray, correspondent and weekend co-anchor of Extra. Ray will also have other hosting duties on the site, including blogging. As part of the crossplatform relationship, Extra will also regularly contribute content to the magazine on a regular basis.
"The new Essence.com will be the most thorough Web destination ever created for African-American women and become the daily site where black women click first," said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications. "This partnership will allow us to make Essence.com a daily destination."
Essence has already had some notable success leveraging its brand onto other media platforms, such the marriage proposal contest, Will you Marry Me? and the Web site's 30 Dates in 30 Days, the first-ever interactive, online reality dating show.
Advertising inventory for the new Web site will be handled predominantly by Essence. Warner Bros.' Digital Media Sales team will also sell Essence inventory as part of the group's women's network.
The development, launch and sales and marketing for the new Essence.com will be headed by Lesley Pinckney, director of digital development for Essence. Darryl Dye has joined the team as digital account director of Essence, from AOL Black Voices where he served as account director.
A managing editor will be announced in the coming weeks.
The collaboration is the first between a Time Inc. magazine and Time Warner's other divisions. Execs declines to comment whether the Essence venture could be the first of many.