Many women over 35 often complain about being invisible in the media. Where are the magazines for them? Well, now there is a website targeting these women, with a focus on African-American women. Called FierceforBlackWomen, the website made its debut on Nov. 11. Started by veteran journalists, Fierce covers such issues as fitness, nutrition, beauty, finances, healthy travel, spirituality and relationships. According co-founder and editor-in-chief Sheree Crute and publisher Yanick Rice Lamb, Fierce was created for Black women by Black women.
“Unfortunately, we have a long tradition of overlooking all women once they reach 35 or older. When you then consider the fact that there are fewer media outlets for African Americans, it’s easy to understand why only a small number of media outlets address Black women of any age. But I think that is clearly changing. MORE magazine has been a tremendous success, for example, and they target women in this age group,” says Crute. “At Fierce, we see Black women 35 and older as women in the prime of their lives—they have achieved many of their professional goals, they may be raising their children, and enjoying wonderful relationships. They are coming into their own and that’s something we want to celebrate.”
According to award-winning journalist and author Lamb, the media and advertising worlds fail to realize that while they target young people, most often, it is actually the spending power of their parents they rely on. “There’s been a disproportionate focus on younger audiences when in actuality women make the money and decide how to spend it, save it, invest it or share it with people in their families and communities. I work with college students every day. Many of them get their money from their mothers, aunts, godmothers and grandmothers. That’s the reality,” she says.
There are various issues facing women over 35 that are ignored by other media outlets. “The most important thing that we are providing that is almost completely absent from other media outlets is in-depth coverage of the physical and mental health issues that are of concern to Black women as they grow up and grow older,” says Crute.
“Exactly. In addition to health, we offer a range of information that Black women over 35 just don’t see about themselves on a regular basis. And they literally don’t see themselves in images. It’s nice to be able to offer a range of stunning photos of women in their prime,” adds Lamb, who is an associate professor and interim assistant chair of Howard University’s Department of Media, Journalism and Film.
So Crute and Lamb decided it was time to fill this void. “First and foremost, we are our market, so we were acutely aware of the fact that there was no media outlet interested in our health, our fitness or our wellbeing,” says Crute. Adds Lamb, “Women over 35 have been asking for something like this for a while. We’re happy to be able to fill the void. Creating something new is fun — a lot of work, but fun. It was helpful to draw from past experience in working on startups and relaunches.”
Crute and Lamb are continuing to look for various funding avenues. “Funding never ceases. We’re still seeking investors, who so far have been intrigued, recognize the need for something like Fierce and are impressed with our backgrounds,” explains Lamb, whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Essence, Parenting, Ebony, The History Channel Magazine, BlackAmericaWeb.com and thegrio.com. She was founding editor of BET Weekend and spent a decade at the New York Times as assistant style editor, among other editorial posts.
Launching a startup is not only financially challenging, but overwhelming as well. “Our only real obstacle is needing to add more hours to every day. For the most part, people have been very supportive of the project,” admits Crute, who was the founding director of a national not-for-profit news service established to help African American, Native American, Latino, and Asian publications cover health disparities in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Not only does the public seem to like the idea of Fierce, but so does the ad world. “The initial response from advertisers has been promising. Many people in the ad world are familiar with our work. They know that we have a strong track record of delivering excellent journalism and that we have our fingers on the pulse of what audiences want and need. We want to build on those successful partnerships and develop new ones in a variety of ways,” says Crute. “Companies also recognize that they’re leaving money on the table and missing a vital consumer base. The Fierce Woman is a key driver of Black buying power, which is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017. Black women alone account for $500 billion. In general, women influence purchases and are the gatekeepers when it comes to health. If you have a healthy woman, you have a healthier family and community.”
Still, there has long been a problem of attracting advertisers to recognize the importance of Black media. “The advertising companies that we are working with have a great deal of experience in this area. They think that there is significant support for our market,” says Crute. Adds Lamb, “Advertising for Black media isn’t where it needs to be, but I’ve seen a lot of progress over the years. Companies recognize green, and many know that they can’t ignore key segments if they want to protect and grow their market share. More companies are also focusing on niche markets. We deliver key niches such as Black women, health, etc. Fierce will be one of the best places for key advertising categories, such as health, fitness, beauty, food and nutrition, automotive, home goods and so on.”
Crute and Lamb have major plans for Fierce. “We hope to build an online community of Fierce Black women, and eventually branch out into events and other activities,” says Crute. Adds Lamb, “We want this to be the home for Fierce women and to give them everything they need.”
For both partners, Fierce is an opportunity for them to help women over 35 enhance their lives. “It’s exhilarating to be able to reach out to women across the country and talk about the topics that are central to our lives. We have been so humbled and appreciative of the wonderful feedback we have received so far. It just fuels are desire to go forward. So far, it’s been a great experience,” says Crute.
Lamb agrees. “The response makes you want to do more and work harder. Plus, it’s nice seeing information and images targeted to women like us. And it’s always wonderful and inspiring to be in the company of Fierce sisters. The Fierce circle of sisters is huge!”