Thursday, November 20, 2008

A New 'Uptown' for Charlotte

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 11/20/2008 No comments
Last night I attended the launch party for the Charlotte edition of Uptown Magazine, held at Bentley's on 27. If you aren't familiar with Uptown, it's a lifestyle magazine that targets affluent African-Americans ages 25 to 44. It was founded in New York in 2004 and this year it launched editions in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, and Chicago. Charlotte will become its fifth city in February.

From what I understand from talking to the editor-in-chief last night and from looking at the copy of the issue I picked up, the cover (Beyonce's on the cover of the new issue and Diddy was on the previous one) and feature stories are the same for the issue in each city, but it also includes local editorial content and advertisements about the people and places in each city edition (the city's name is printed vertically next to the Uptown mast on the cover). It's a fairly common practice for publications to print local editions of a national magazine as a way to compete both nationally and locally for subscriptions and ad sales. An example of this you may be familiar with is Skirt!, a monthly women's magazine that started in Charleston in 1994, but over the last five years has grown to about 20 cities including Charlotte, Atlanta, Boston, Jacksonville, and Houston (I used to work for Skirt!'s parent company and I actually assisted in the launch of Skirt! Charlotte a few years ago).

So, this new Charlotte edition of Uptown Magazine could find success. There isn't a lifestyle publication here that's adequately serving the African-American market. As someone who is passionate about media, and magazines in particular, I always say when there's a void someone will try to fill it. The founders of Uptown spoke last night about why they chose Charlotte as their next city to do business. They, like many people around the country, recognize that Charlotte is a city that's flourishing with progressive African-Americans and is continuing to grow. The founder said they're planning to take Uptown from four to six issues a year (from quarterly to bi-monthly) and increase its circulation to 200,000.

I look forward to the day when we don't have to have publications that specifically cater to certain ethnic groups, but as long as we, African-Americans, are flipping through pages of mainstream publications and not seeing enough of our faces, it's going to be necessary. One-third of Charlotte's population is African-American, but you wouldn't know it if you picked up some of our local magazines. I'm not pointing fingers in any direction; I'm just telling it like it is.

So now, the new Uptown's biggest challenge: there's already an Uptown Magazine in Charlotte. It's a monthly magazine that's been here for more than three years and is most known for its stories on uptown real estate and its annual "Sexiest" list. I'm sure there will be some confusion among readers and there will be some branding issues. What I hope doesn't happen is people distinguishing the two magazines by race. "Have you picked up the new issue of Uptown Magazine?," man asks. "Which one? The white one or the black one?" woman replies. The Uptown we're accustomed to here has very little coverage of African-Americans. The "Sexiest" issue not only didn't include any African-Americans in its feature on the city's sexiest people, but there also aren't any black faces on the contributors page (writers and photographers).

I'm not a black journalist who harps on race. I only write about it when it's an issue. Now we'll have two Uptown Magazines. And you'll have two issues to choose from.

Click on the links below for more on the two Uptowns:


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