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One thing magazine advertising and hip-hop music have always had in common is skin — images of models, usually women, in alluring poses and various states of undress. The Source, the hip-hop magazine, does not aim to do away with such images — there is a lot of money in them — but it wants to make the sex in its pages a lot less explicit.
To that end, the magazine announced recently that it would no longer take what the co-publisher, L. Londell McMillan, calls “booty ads,” for pornographic films, pornographic Web sites or escort services. But those have been a mainstay for The Source — more than half the ads in the magazine at times, he said.
The Source hopes to gain more than it loses by chasing mainstream advertisers that do not want their ads alongside the adults-only kind. That’s a serious gamble at a time when magazines are struggling, unable to hold onto the ads they have.
“I realize the risk that we’re taking,” said Mr. McMillan, 42, a partner at a major law firm, Dewey & LeBouef. “But I think when you have the more raunchy, seedy ads, you lose ads like financial services ads, some of the travel ads, the bigger corporate consumer ads like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, technology, high fashion.”
The Source, he said, should be able to appeal to the core hip-hop audience, mostly young men, while also being something “you wouldn’t mind your kids seeing.”
Founded in the 1980s, The Source became the first major magazine devoted to hip-hop, but in the 1990s, it lost ground to its primary competitor, Vibe. Since then, it has gone through turnovers in management and financial troubles that culminated in bankruptcy.
A group of investors, led by Mr. McMillan, bought The Source in 2008. The major independent auditors of circulation and advertising have not examined it in recent years, making it hard to gauge the magazine’s progress, but these are hard times for the entire industry.
Mr. McMillan says eliminating sex ads is no mere business decision. Sounding, at times, less like the music’s fans than like their parents, he says he wants to transform the often raunchy image of hip-hop itself.
“We don’t want to just glorify the lowest-hanging fruit,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that want hip-hop but don’t want some of the filth that some of the business carries with it.” RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
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