On the Hot Seat

Magazine targets and presents professionals of color

Josefina Bonilla is the publisher of Color magazine. Josefina Bonilla is the publisher of Color magazine. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / June 5, 2011

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At a time when many print publications trimmed staff or shuttered operations, Josefina Bonilla did the unthinkable. She launched Color magazine, a monthly publication to promote and highlight minority professionals in Greater Boston.

Since its debut in 2008, Color has grown into a glossy magazine with a distribution of 55,000 copies in Massachusetts, as well as select themed editions in New York City. Bonilla, a Brookline resident, recently spoke with Globe reporter Johnny Diaz.

Why did you start Color magazine?

I started Color as a way to offset some of the negative coverage that people of color receive typically in mainstream media.

Such as?

The coverage that we got was more about [being] low-income and scholarships. They rarely represented the professionals of color doing good things.

What were some of the challenges of starting a new publication just as the country entered a recession?

When we started Color, we didn’t know we were going into a recession. It was difficult. The great thing was that we were nimble and small to begin with.

What do you think is an advantage for an advertiser looking to reach an audience in a niche publication?

We profile professionals of color. For companies that want to recruit these professionals, this is the place to be. When professionals see an advertiser in there, they recognize that the advertiser is really committed to inclusion.

What makes your publication different in this market?

First, we have a complete advisory committee [that] really helps spearhead where the publication is going. These are professionals of color. We have CEOs, CFOs, newspaper publishers. We also have writers of color. They are writing with that sensibility.

Why haven’t there been more publications like yours in Boston?

There hasn’t been the acceptance as much for professionals of color. There’s still that line, that barrier that we have to go through. It’s a difficult market to get into and it’s not easy for anyone.

You have expanded your distribution area.

We are in Boston, and we publish four editions in New York for the big four [heritage months]: Hispanic Heritage, Black History, Asian-American Heritage, and Gay/Lesbian/Transgender.

Why New York?

We really want to hit the demographics that have a lot of professionals of color.

You also organize annual events such as the All-Inclusive Awards and the upcoming Women of Color Leadership and Empowerment Forum. What’s the business strategy behind that?

When we started Color, we were totally committed to producing a magazine and we fully intended to have different parts of the company, one being events. In 2009, we had our first All-Inclusive Awards with CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien as keynote speaker.

We introduced the Women of Color event last year and that was an opportunity for women of color to network and hear success stories. We are introducing the Men of Color this October.

How has social media affected your business?

It has changed the focus of what we do. We have a full-time person dedicated to social media.

How often we tweet and what we tweet has opened doors with businesses that hadn’t done business with us or companies that were doing business with us and upped their sponsorship dollars.

Who are your biggest advertisers?

Massachusetts General Hospital has given us the biggest support. We have Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Liberty Mutual Group, and T.J. Maxx. They are really committed to inclusion and diversity.

What is your five-year goal for your publication?

The goal is to have this same platform in different cities and become a national publication. We want to be able to reconstruct the same platform that we have here but in New York, Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta. Not only the publication, but also the events. The events are great for companies to recruit professionals of color.