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2005: A [Somewhat] Comprehensive Look at a [Not-So] Surprising Year in Magazines



By
12/21/2005

JANUARY

Jan. 6. Time launched an exhaustive online archive giving the magazine's readers access to over 266,000 articles from as early as 1923;an invaluable resource for tracking the lineage of, say, Michael Jackson.

Jan. 12. In a harbinger of things to come for magazine circ, Gruner + Jahr USA jumbled its numbers in yet another gaffe, and filed suit against its subscription agent, who promptly shot back that the allegations were "a result of G+J's circulation shortcomings." Of course, there was nothing at all ironic about this story.

Jan. 27. Ex-Primedia prez Charlie McCurdy and Apprise Media principal bought sports collectible enthusiast publisher Beckett for $20 million, leaving the door open for a niche spin-off title targeting Oscar Gamble fans.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 9. $690 million later, Primedia concluded its mags and About.com didn't match, and sold the web portal it bought in 2000, finally putting to rest ex-CEO Thomas Rogers' vision company. Fittingly, Rogers is now the CEO of Tivo, a company that has built an empire around rewinding history.

Feb. 24. The Magazine Publishers of America launched a 3-year, $40 million ad campaign to tout the power of print over television, then promptly began to spend it on t-shirts, badgering TV execs and nifty faux future covers. The BPA, meanwhile, dusted off its event auditing arm.

MARCH

March 4. A woman named Martha was released from prison. A few days before, her publisher;Living's Suzanne Sober;made a jailbreak .

March 11. Rolling Stone rolled out a special issue dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson;legendary writer and inspiration for free-wheeling pseudo-magazine journos;who died of an apparent suicide at his Colorado home. Shockingly, conspiracy theories have yet to surface.

March 16. IDG's CXO Media cleaned house at the Neal Awards ;a.k.a the Oscars of b-to-b publishing;winning 6 in all. But after 17 in a three year span, some publishers began to wonder just what they'd have to do get one. "I'm not saying they're not deserving," said one unnominated attendee, "but it's getting to be like the Academy (Awards)-it would be nice to see some new blood up there."

APRIL

April 1. The FOLIO: 40 ;an annual list of magazine innovators across the industry;returned to the pages of FOLIO:.

April 4. Advanstar sold off some bits and pieces to Questex for $185 million, providing further proof that big publishing deals may be back.

April 11. Martha stepped out in front of her publishing industry peers for the first time since her release from prison to accept a National Magazine Award, while New Yorker EIC David Remnick cleaned up.

April 20. The postmaster general addressed American Business Media members on a proposed 5.4 percent rate increase, saying that they "must change." David Straus, ABM's legal counsel, presumably sent an e-mail out about it.

April 21. McCurdy bought the much sought-after Canon Communications for $200 million, as Veronis Suhler Stevenson's divestiture of publishing assets hit full-tilt.

April 28. Jayson Blair, who single-handedly sent the New York Times into a p.r. tailspin, resurfaced as a columnist for;what else;Bipolar magazine.

MAY

May 5. G+J USA decided to drop the "USA" part, and flee the U.S. market. Its prez, Russell Denson, took the news like a blind right hook.

May 18. Buzz-heavy Radar and its money-man Mort Zuckerman relaunched with a ballast of a party in New York.

May 17. American Business Media launched a blog to harsh criticism by some b-to-bloggers, who clearly had nothing better to do.

May 27. Hanley Wood was sold for $650 million to JP Morgan Partners;a 14X EBITDA multiple that seemed high to some in the investment community, though something tells us CEO Frank Anton didn't mind.

JUNE

June 8. Martha Stewart Living saw its first month-over-month ad revenue in increase since 2002, a 28-month span.

June 27. A self-made billionaire named Mansueto thought it might be cool to own a couple biz magazines, bought G+J's Inc. and Fast Company;and in the process, saved the FC from the fire.

June 30. In a case that had more twists and turns than a John Grisham novel, Time Inc. and its editor Norm Pearlstine decided to turn over documents in the Valerie Plame-CIA source case, and opened the door for criticism of what was once a pillar of journalistic integrity in the process.

June 30. Meredith bought G+J's stash of women's magazines for $350 million.

JULY

July 6. Time magazine's Matt Cooper agreed to testify in the Plame case, thus avoiding jail time and the 15 minutes of now-ironic martyrdom The New York Times' Judith Miller enjoyed.

July 18. John Byrne, the editor who essentially saved Fast Company by convincing Mansueto to buy it, bolted for his old digs at BusinessWeek.

July 19. Reeling from a series of circulation scandals that rocked the industry, the Audit Bureau of Circulations voted to disqualify paid circ from a pair of sponsored agent programs, causing BusinessWeek and a handful of magazines to miss their rate base.

July 21. Reader's Digest celebrated its 1000th year, er, issue, with a decidedly youthful party, though its deejay, the actor-cum-misdemeanor man Christian Slater, at 36, isn't exactly a picture of youth.

July 21. TV Guide mulled its future, then vowed to become less of a guide , more of a magazine.

July 25. Jane Pratt, Jane magazine's founder, announced her intent to leave the magazine, though some questioned whether it was really her intention after all.

AUGUST

Aug. 3. At a legitimately interesting American Business Media breakfast panel, business editors called the emerging shift from print to e-media "seismic."

Aug. 8. Primedia sold its business unit to Wasserstein & Co. for $385 million, sparking rumors that the company may be sold off in parts;or niches, as they might say.

August 22. In the wake of the New Yorker's single-sponsored issue stunt, product placement returns to the center of editorial ethics discussions, though some in the industry, including ASME, seem to shrug, at least at first.

Aug. 25. Tom Cruise's Scientology-fueled rants went largely under-investigated by magazines that once put a periscope on the "religion."

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 1. Organic Style ground to a halt .

Sept. 6. Hurricane Katrina's wake caused a headache for publishers, though, all things considered, a relatively welcome one. Rex Hammock, custom publisher, blogger and serial do-gooder, launched;what else?;a blog for a Katrina-displaced publisher.

Sept. 8. Disney's Discover magazine was sold to Bob Guccione, Jr., founder of Spin and son of the legendary Penthouse publisher. Insert your own commentary here.

Sept. 29. The MPA invites;and reportedly pays $150,000 for;The Daily Show's Jon Stewart to skewer editors from some of its highest profile members in front of roomful of advertisers. Men's Health's Dave Zinczenko's performance as the straight-man doesn't exactly ;what's the word?;glisten .

OCTOBER

Oct. 1. FOLIO: announced its 2005 Dream Team ;helmed by Meredith's Bill Kerr and Hanley Wood's Frank Anton. Surprisingly, Mariano Rivera, Michael Jordan and the entire 1985 Chicago Bears were omitted.

Oct. 16-19. At the American Magazine Conference in Puerto Rico, archaic audience metrics, revised product placement guidelines and inept contemporary magazine design were addressed. Did we mention it was in Puerto Rico?

Oct. 24. Primedia CEO Kelly Conlin stepped down as the company contemplated a sale.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1-3. The FOLIO: Show scored record attendance in New York, including a sold-out Eddie and Ozzie Awards gala. Just saying.

Nov. 10. Abry Partners sued the equity firm that represented F+W in its $500 million deal, a rare public M&A meltdown that seemed potentially damaging to all parties.

Nov. 14. At American Business Media's Top Management Meeting in Chicago, the focus was on blogs , online and e-media, with nary a mention of print.

DECEMBER

Dec. 1. Digital magazine executives gathered in New York, and for once, seemed realistic about the hurdles still faced.

Dec. 8. Advanstar, on the block for months, called off its search for a buyer. Apparently some tire-kickers found the $1 billion asking price a bit steep.

Dec. 13. Time Inc. made 105 job cuts including a number of eye-opening executive-level changes. "This new alignment is the result of a very thoughtful and thorough process to delayer our management structure," CEO Ann Moore wrote in a memo to employees.

Dec. 14. Mort Zuckerman and Jeffrey Epstein's much-publicized $25 million backing of Radar's relaunch came to an abrupt halt , leaving Maer Roshan and his merry band of snark-intelligencia in a familiar position: searching for funding. "We had an idea," Roshan said , pre-relaunch. "What we didn't have was money." For Roshan, it seems, it's back to an 'idea.'

Dec. 18. Time magazine named Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates its Persons of the Year, showing us once again that a rocker-cum-increasingly annoying philanthropist and the real-life embodiment of Montgomery Burns outweigh the year's natural disasters, at least for managing editor Jim Kelly.

By
12/21/2005







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