LEVEL Magazine gives black men the content they need

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Photo: Jermaine Room

Once a popular Medium post that featured content aimed at black men, LEVEL Magazine now has its own website where black men can read about race, identity and culture.

“LEVEL has built an ecosystem for black men,” said Jermaine Hall, CEO and Founder of LEVEL. “We’ve created a space where this audience with massive disposable income and cultural currency can be seen. The response from our audience has compelled us to expand our offerings and create a larger universe for them to come together, lower the keep and share ideas.

LEVEL features long-form stories, journalism and reporting from a myriad of creative and talented writers, which sometimes includes high profile celebrities such as Colin Kaepernick and Charlamagne Tha God.

The root sat down with Jermaine to discuss LEVEL’s purpose and their need to deliver creative, thoughtful and insightful content to their readers.

The root: What is LEVEL Magazine?

Jermaine Hall: LEVEL is a digital publication for black men 30+. I started LEVEL in 2019 and pitched the idea to Siobhan O’Connor and Ev Williams at Medium because I never felt like there was a legit home for black men, in especially older black men. I always think of people as digital nomads, we go to all these places to get a lot of stuff but there’s never this one brand that’s right for us. That’s why I started LEVEL.

TR: What prompted the decision to relaunch LEVEL and create your own website?

Jermaine Hall: On Medium, 70% of our traffic came from the platform and we were sitting behind a paywall. So Ev decided it made sense to migrate the property off the platform (Medium) and give it a chance to reach over 70% that we were already interacting with when we were on Medium.

TR: What does LEVEL content focus on?

Jermaine Hall: Race and identity has always been our main content. It’s the content that I’ve always felt if we had like the best black writers in the country writing about it, it can be a real differentiator for us. The second bucket is what I like to call the bucket of life. In this category, we strive to make black men better tomorrow than they are today. We want them to learn about financial literacy and what sex, relationships, fatherhood and mental health look like in their 30s, 40s and 50s. There should be differences between each decade.

The third bucket is the culture bucket, which is what I’ve been doing for most of my career. I’ve always covered celebrities in music or movies or someone who has a book coming out. But I didn’t want LEVEL to cover things that were in the news cycle. I wanted the stories to have much more nuanced conversations with these people who were insightful about things going on in the world.

Image for article titled LEVEL Magazine gives black men the content they need

Chart: levelman.com

TR: What was behind the decision to make most LEVEL articles long rather than fast and short news articles?

Jermaine Hall: Medium was the right partner for LEVEL because I’ve always felt that people who subscribe to Medium are avid readers. They pay $5 a month to read 10-15 minute stories. The identity that we were able to establish while we were on this platform was that we were going to be a brand for avid readers. Readers who want to know more about black men and who would benefit from the information we publish about black men. I would say Gen X is our sweet spot. Imagine men with disposable income who enjoy reading more than a 20-year-old.

TR: How do you make sure your content doesn’t get lost in all the digital content options black men have on the internet?

Jermaine Hall: There is one question we ask ourselves before publishing each piece of content. Will this make black men better? Are black men going to get something out of it and put it into their daily lives? From an aggregate news perspective, there are so many places you can get that. It can help them with their sex life, their finances, it can help them be a better father, or it can provide them with entertainment that isn’t necessarily in the news cycle.

TR: What is the process for finding other ways to tell stories other than just self-help articles?

Jermaine Hall: Because we receive pitches from writers so often, we tend not to pay attention to stories that will be out of the news cycle in one day. Unless it’s like an opinion piece about something that happened. These are like our versions of quick hits. Even these pieces end up running for 750 words. But the way we choose stories is usually that we try to find amazing evergreen content that we think will be entertaining for the reader.

TR: What’s the balance between having big name names (Colin Kaepernick, Charlamagne Tha God) on your platform versus lesser known writers?

Jermaine Hall: I want to find the next great writer and blast him to LEVEL and make him a bigger entity than he was when he got here. I want to be that gateway for great writers. We will always be able to weed out the Nelson Georges of the world because they are the writers we have found, they are the writers we know and have relationships with. But I would also love to be that platform that elevates the next great writers.

TR: Why should I read Llevel ? If I am a new reader.

Jermaine Hall: You should read LEVEL, especially if you’re a black man, because I guarantee you’ll leave this experience smarter than when you arrived.

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