Peter Kafka

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SpinMedia Adds Vibe Magazine to Its Digital Portfolio, Minus the Magazine

Janet Jackson VibeLast year, Steve Hansen bought Spin magazine, killed the print edition, and kept the website.

Now he’s singing the same song with a new title: Hansen’s SpinMedia is buying Vibe, the 20-year-old hip-hop and R&B magazine, from a consortium led by Intermedia and Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies. It plans on ending Vibe’s print run in the coming months, and will add to its roster of 40+ pop culture and music sites.

This will be bad news for some of Vibe Media’s 52 employees, who are being told today that layoffs will accompany the change of ownership. Hansen said that after the cuts — an “inevitable consequence” of the deal — Vibe will be left as a “substantially standalone property for the next three to six months.”

Eventually, the plan will be to integrate Vibe into SpinMedia’s tech platform and ad sales machine, Hansen said. Vibe is a small site — comScore says 1.4 million people visit its Web and mobile sites each month — but Hansen said it will be valuable because it “reinforces us as a market leader in the 18-to-34 demographic,” and adds Vibe’s “multicultural readership” to SpinMedia’s marketing pitch. (Lots of people have made that assumption: Vibe has had multiple owners, and one shutdown, in the last couple decades.)

Hansen, who came to the company last summer and took over the CEO spot late last year, also said he is raising more money, in the “mid-to-high seven figures,” to help him expand SpinMedia. The company (which changed its name itself from Buzzmedia to SpinMedia in March) just raised $15 million a few months ago. But Hansen said he acquired Vibe with equity, not cash.

As with Spin, Hansen said he’s not ruling out a return to print for Vibe. Someday, somehow. But he doesn’t sound like he’s planning on returning to ink and paper anytime soon.

“We’re still trying to find a print model that works with digital economics, and that continues to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s not as though I have an aversion to print. It’s just a matter of the economics.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik