The Chicago-based company, which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines, is the largest black-owned and -operated publisher.
Rogers, 51, had been consulting for Johnson Publishing for two months and took over daily operations on Tuesday, according to a company statement.
"My attraction (to the job) and reasons that I thought I could have an impact is that I believe these brands are iconic brands that are true symbols of America," Rogers told The Associated Press.
Rogers, who has an MBA from Harvard University, stepped down from her White House position in February, months after Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed the Obama administration's first state dinner. Rogers faced criticism for her role in the embarrassing incident.
Rogers declined to discuss whether the party crashing incident had anything to do with her departure from the White House. She said she had enjoyed working there.
She also said she left for many reasons, including the desire to do different jobs. She is a New Orleans native whose experience includes director of the Illinois Lottery, president of the Chicago area Peoples Gas and North Shores Gas and president of social networking at Allstate Financial.
Rogers said her first goal with Johnson Publishing is to learn her way around the company. Then she hopes to help the magazines better engage readers and stay relevant, particularly when many media companies are struggling.
"You can't rest on past laurels. We've got to work on a dialogue," she said. "We do have to do more on the digital platform."
Johnson Publishing CEO Linda Johnson Rice will remain chairman, according to the company.
"Desiree has a proven track record of successful business leadership," Rice said. "She is a long-standing confidant and a savvy businesswoman."