Magazine Spotlight: The Power Of Glory

A Stanford English major and Harvard-educated attorney who logged time with several public-interest organizations, Frances Cudjoe Waters does not boast your typical publisher pedigree. It's no surprise, then, that her first venture into the business--Glory, a lifestyle publication for African-American Christian women--is far from conventional.

To begin with, advertisers have rarely dedicated more than a narrow slice of their marketing budgets to the mag's proposed readership. And while many lifestyle titles touch on spirituality from time to time, few wear their faith on their sleeves. Of those rare publications that touch on both the religious and the secular, almost none include fitness, financial, and fashion advice.

Waters, the magazine's publisher and chief executive officer as well as founder of parent company Glory Multimedia Ventures, sees all this as a positive. "There are plenty of magazines with a general spirituality perspective, but none of them talk about the lifestyle issues that concern this audience," she says. "I think we'll speak to readers in ways that other publications don't."



With Glory set for a nationwide debut in April--it is currently being tested in a handful of markets, including Dallas, Detroit, and Chicago--Waters is eager to address what she views as a general misperception about Christian magazines and their readers. To her, the words "Christian publication" evoke a certain range of ideas and images (to wit, the similarly titled Visions of Glory offers web site visitors the chance to "read about persecuted Christians and learn how you can help"), few of which will find a home in Glory. "Our goal is to address the fact that faith is an important part of our lives, and that it is reflected in how we see things and what we do," she explains.

As for the bimonthly mag's potential readers, the niche isn't quite as narrow as one might think. Of the 18.4 million African-American women in the United States, seven million identify themselves as born-again Christians. "That's how they define themselves--not just as 'generally spiritual,' but as born-again," Waters notes. "If we could hit 1.5 percent of that population, that's a great start." To this end, Glory's initial target circulation has been set at 50,000; Waters hopes to grow it to slightly more than 100,000 by the end of the mag's first year.

What distinguishes this audience from, say, Marie Claire devotees is a sense of purpose fueled by religious belief. "They feel that they're here to do something," Waters notes. "They believe there is a God and that life should have purpose and meaning." Still, Glory's potential readers are considerably more mainstream than might be expected. They tend to be well-educated, firmly entrenched in their professions, and eager to make household purchasing decisions.

Which, of course, is the message that Waters is attempting to convey to advertisers. While Glory will eschew alcohol and tobacco ads for obvious reasons, the mag hopes to net its share of dollars from the publishing community (booksellers/book clubs), music labels (especially those specializing in gospel), and fashion/beauty companies. Specific targets include Pantene, Alberto Culver's Pro-Line arm, and any number of Proctor & Gamble brands.

Despite the continued struggles of the magazine business, Waters dismisses questions about launching at a time when many established titles are barely keeping their heads above water. "What a lot of people forget is that in 2001 and 2002, African-American magazines were one of the few segments seeing growth in ad dollars," she notes. Another thing that Glory has going for it is the absence of a direct competitor, both for ad dollars and editorially. "Magazines like Essence or Ebony, I don't see us going up against them," Waters says. "I see us having more of a complementary position in the marketplace. We're adding another layer."

Waters' wish for 2004 is achieving a level of visibility that will help Glory transcend its niche status. "Everybody who's seen the magazine has been excited about it, but let's be honest: if you're a small publishing house, you don't have access to the venues that you do if you're a mega-publishing house," she shrugs.

Still, she remains optimistic that Glory's audience will expand beyond its indigenous audience. "I hope Caucasian women and other women of color will pick it up. Even though they don't have many images of women of color, I read Self and Shape because I find the stories interesting. I like to think that most of what we'll be talking about is universal."

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