‘Vibe’ CEO Visits Alma Mater

Florida A&M alumnus Leonard Burnett Jr., co-CEO and group publisher of Uptown and “Vibe” Magazine, returned to FAMU for an all-day event.

“It’s great to have an alum return and share his experiences with our students,” said Shawnta Friday-Stroud, dean of the School of Business and Industry.

Burnett started his journey on campus with a TV taping called “Today’s Leaders Facing Tomorrow’s,” followed with a Black Archives and campus tour, luncheon and book signing.

During the taping, Burnett sat with student panelists answering questions about the industry. He shared his views on the future of magazines in today’s economy. He elaborated on media sales, the convergence of print magazine to internet platforms.

“The power of a magazine will always be relevant,” Burnett said. “Magazines as we know it will continue to evolve; how you read it will continue to change.”

Burnett also discussed the importance of branding a company. The ones that have a connection with consumers through demographic and psychographics will move forward. A company with a sustaining brand will have a higher probability of flourishing.

“Brands that have the ability to survive are the brands that will be able to survive with the consumer,” Burnett said. “Brands like Uptown and Essence have the ability to be important no matter what platform they’re on.”

Leonard Burnett’s interest in the industry began in 1988 with a publication called “Urban Profile.” He started the publication with college friend Keith Clinkscales. He later sold his company to Career Communications Group and joined “Vibe.” In 1999 he left, to establish Vanguard Media, which closed a few years later.

Burnett then started Uptown Media in 2004. He went back to work at “Vibe” in 2005, and then left for good to work at Uptown permanently. When “Vibe” closed down in 2009, Uptown Media bought the company and revitalized it. Burnett has helped redesign the magazine, from better paper quality to aesthetics. The company has invested in website technology and now has a lifestyle network reaching over 12 million people per month. They have restructured the content with more investigative, short and long articles to engage readers.

Burnett said SBI prepared him for life and corporate America. Being an entrepreneur was innate for him, and applied what he learned in school.

“Mr. Burnett is obviously as successful businessman and we are so proud of him,” said Clyde Ashley, Faculty Head of SBI. “He is a role model, doing so many positive things for the black community.”

“This is certainly one of the highlights of my career to be able to speak at the school that made me what I am today,” Burnett said.