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Jason Fell

‘I’m Tired of Trying to Scrape a Magazine Together at My Own Personal Expense’

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 01/14/2009-17:04 PM

There’s no doubt running a magazine business is a difficult task these days. Publishing magazines that serve the housing market even more so.

One of those publishers, Greg Morey, CEO and publisher of GR Wyse Publications, apparently has had enough. In an e-mail Wednesday, Morey wrote that he is shutting down the company and shuttering the magazine it publishes, Florida Designers Review.

“I am tired of trying to scrape a product together and fighting a vertical battle at my own personal expense,” Morey wrote.

Yikes. Morey’s entire, painful, e-mail:

From: Greg Morey
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 12:56 PM
To: Greg Morey
Subject: Farewell for now.

Hi,

Unlike the Paper industry who in its infinite wisdom has found the ability to raise prices again, Florida Designers Review finds itself in an environment hit hard by a housing market decline, litigation with clients over unpaid invoices, and now an ad market in decline rendering us with too few commitments to produce this quarter's issue and likely the Q2 issue as well.  

SAVVY, our local Luxury Lifestyle product launching in time for Super Bowl, has also not received the volume of commitments necessary to launch, so I have directed them to International Plaza's new magazine, which they are launching with Niche Media, the publishers of OCEAN DRIVE.  Bottom line, I am tired of trying to scrape a product together and fighting a vertical battle at my own personal expense, so the inevitable has come to pass and I am dissolving GR WYSE PUBLISHING and suspending FDR for a different time.  A time perhaps where paper manufacturers, printers, and distributors alike can grasp a deeper understanding of the term "partnership" understanding that without one another they stand to all perish.

While I am sure for some of you this comes as no surprise and perhaps my humble appreciation for your contributions to FDR falls short of your hopes and expectations.  The product was exceptional thanks in part to your efforts, but most of the credit for FDR goes to Mario Garcia Jr. for his exceptional ability to craft a story from questionable submissions and his exceptional eye for unique page design.  I have enjoyed every second of working with each of you and will carry the FDR experience with me into the future.  My best wishes to you and may your own pursuits find better success.  

Warmest regards,

Greg

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Jason Fell

Just 42 Magazines Saw Ad Page Increases in ‘08

Jason Fell Consumer - 01/13/2009-23:38 PM

Last year was truly a brutal year for consumer magazines. Advertising pages dropped 11.7 percent in 2008 when compared to 2007, according to year-end figures released by the Publishers Information Bureau Tuesday. Of the more than 230 magazines tracked by PIB (and still being published) only 42—or about 18 percent—saw ad pages increase for the year.

It’s the biggest dropoff since 2000, the earliest year comparative PIB numbers are available.

In fact, each of the top 12 advertising categories declined in 2008, and the falloffs were seen in both PIB revenues and pages. The hardest hit category was automotive, which saw ad pages fall 24.3 percent and revenues plummet 20.5 percent to $1.67 billion. The category affects many magazines, but it should be no big surprise that every auto magazine tracked by PIB saw ad page declines. The worst was Hot Rod, followed closely by Automobile magazine.

Another victim of the the financial market crisis was the business magazine category. Hearst and Dow Jones-owned SmartMoney saw the most severe decline, with ad pages falling 29.7 percent for the year. The one significant bright spot was Mansueto Ventures’ Fast Company, which posted a 23.9 percent gain in pages.

The ailing newsweekly category continued its fall last year. Hemorrhaging U.S. News, which said this fall it would scale back to a monthly frequency, saw ad pages plummet 32.4 percent for the year. The Week was one of two magazines that posted literally flat (0) ad page results for the year.

Another hurting category was music magazines. On life support is Blender, which saw ad pages fall 30.6 percent for 2008. Rolling Stone, the granddaddy of music magazines, wasn’t far behind, with ad pages declining 23.8 percent.

AD PERFORMANCE BY CATEGORY

AUTO 2008 2007 % CHNG
Automobile 799.42 922.58 -13.3
Autoweek 1,262.80 1,157.26 -8.4
Car and Driver 1,031.03 1,162.25 -11.3
Hot Rod 638.16 738.02 -13.5
Motor Trend 1,097.73 1,242.92 -11.7
Road & Track 1,086.33 1,196.52 -9.2
BUSINESS/FINANCE
2008 2007 % CHNG
BusinessWeek 1,882.38 2,243.83 -16.1
Condé Nast Portfolio 668.89 656.00 2.0
Economist 2,468.28 2,364.06 4.4
Entrepreneur 1,043.33 1,156.77 -9.8
Fast Company 616.24 497.29 23.9
Forbes 2,775.34 3,238.59 -14.3
Fortune 2,382.71 2,379.33 0.1
Fortune Small Business 474.48 477.46 -0.6
Harvard Business Review 468.67 456.33 2.7
Inc. 817.93 824.51 -0.8
Kiplinger's 424.81 497.33 -14.6
Money 793.62 807.66 -1.7
SmartMoney 501.90 713.57 -29.7
NEWSWEEKLIES
2008 2007 % CHNG
Newsweek 1,505.87 1,859.02 -19
The Week 602.73 602.70 0
Time 1,752.02 2,162.20 -19
U.S. News 1,109.80 1,640.62 -32.4
MUSIC 2008 2007 % CHNG
Blender 522.07 752.09 -30.6
Rolling Stone 1,151.42 1,510.85 -23.6
Spin 656.63 645.97 1.7
Vibe 792.16 962.10 -17.7
CELEBRITY
2008 2007 %CHNG
Entertainment Weekly 1,215.39 1,527.06 -20.4
In Touch Weekly 1,094.19 1,065.12 2.7
Life & Style 510.97 660.78 -22.7
People 3,422.23 3,889.35 -12.0
Star 1,173.24 1,254.46 -6.5
Us Weekly 1,791.45 1,949.21 -8.1


SOURCE: PIB

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Jason Fell

New York Times Blasts the Atlantic

Jason Fell Editorial - 01/12/2009-23:09 PM

Its not every day that a newspaper writes a letter to the editor.

In response to “End Times,” an article by Michael Hirschorn published in the Atlantic that speculates on whether the venerable New York Times can survive these trying times, Catherine Mathis , NYT’s senior vice president of corporate communications, wrote a letter to the Atlantic calling the story “poor analysis,” saying the writing “leaves a lot to be desired from the standpoint of . . . well, journalism.”

Ouch!

Here’s the entire letter, via Romenesko:


To the Editor,

Your article "End Times," which speculates on whether The New York Times can survive the death of journalism, leaves a lot to be desired from the standpoint of . . . well, journalism.

It's not unusual that a journalist calls the subject of a piece before actually publishing the article or column. In fact, in some areas of journalism that's standard practice. We wish that had happened with this story. We could have helped. Here are some of the things we would have told you.

We fully recognize that our industry is undergoing unprecedented change as technology alters the habits of our readers and advertisers. At the same time, the cyclical downturn in the U.S. economy has exacerbated advertising declines. But The New York Times Company is in a better position than many others in the newspaper industry because of the steps we have taken to improve our performance. In the last five years, we have focused on developing our digital properties and carefully reducing costs while continuing to provide our readers with great journalism both in print and online.

Your article refers to the paper's credit crisis (never mind the fact that the debt is at the corporate level). We disagree with that characterization. Here's our situation.

We have two revolving credit agreements.

These are agreements with banks that allow us to borrow up to $400 million under each agreement, or $800 million in total, whenever we need it. We repay what we have borrowed as cash comes in and the amount we can borrow is then replenished.

One of our agreements will expire in May 2009 and the other in June 2011.

As we have said publicly on more than one occasion, because we believe we need significantly less than the total $800 million available credit, we do not plan to replace the full $400 million that is expiring in May. There is no need to do so.

We have not already borrowed money against our building's value as your article states. Rather we are in the process of pursuing a sale-leaseback for up to $225 million for some of the space we own in our headquarters building.

The proposed transaction for our building gives us the right to buy back the space at the end of the lease. In the meantime, we would continue to occupy our headquarters. We plan to use the proceeds from the sale-leaseback to repay some of the long-term debt we currently have. So the sale-leaseback would not add to the debt of the company, but rather is a way to refinance some of our existing debt. We have chosen to pursue this form of transaction because it is one of the less expensive forms of borrowing in this difficult credit market.

While credit markets remain tight, we have been talking with lenders and, based on our conversations with them, we expect to get the financing to meet our obligations when they come due. And please remember, we continue to generate good cash flow from our operations.

With regard to the specific point made about the demise of the print edition of The Times in May, it may make for a good a story but it is poor analysis. We have 830,000 loyal readers who have subscribed to The New York Times for more than two years, a number that has increased by about a third over the past decade. They like reading the print edition and pay a substantial amount of money to do so. That's not to say they don't visit NYTimes.com or read our journalism on their mobile devices. They do. But they would be unhappy if they couldn’t pick up a print copy. And since it's profitable for us to print these copies, we will continue to do so.

This is a challenging time in our industry and for the U.S. economy. Employees are concerned about their jobs. People in the media industry are working extraordinarily hard to find creative solutions to the issues they face. It is a time for clear thinking and analysis, not uninformed speculation.

Sincerely,

Catherine Mathis
SVP, Corporate Communications
The New York Times Company

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Jason Fell

Arthur to ‘Hibernate’ Print Edition

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 01/12/2009-14:32 PM

Last summer’s cash infusion from readers apparently wasn’t enough to save ailing Arthur magazine from going out of business.

On its Web site, editor/publisher Jay Babcock today wrote in a memo that he is “hibernating” the print edition until a publishing partner steps forward to help run/finance the magazine. “I am done with self-publishing Arthur, which I’ve been doing since July 2007,” he wrote. “It’s too much work for one person to edit, publish and manage a national magazine, month after month, year after year.”

In his memo, Babcock said he will “upgrade and expand greatly” Arthur’s Web site.

A self-proclaimed “transgenerational global counterculture” bi-monthly music magazine, Arthur was distributed free in various places like record shops, used bookstores, coffeehouses and art galleries. It was launched in 2002.

Last summer, Babcock turned to readers for monetary donations, claiming he needed $20,000 or the magazine would “die.” Readers opened their wallets but it appears they only extended the magazine’s gloomy fate for another six months.

No doubt, singlehandedly editing and publishing a national magazine is a lot to handle. It’s a shame, though, that another music magazine has bitten the dust. At some point, perhaps someone with enough money and creativity will pick up Arthur and be able to successfully navigate the brutal landscape that is music magazine publishing.

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Jason Fell

Have $42,000? Buy a Magazine!

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 01/08/2009-10:13 AM

It has come to this.

Double Jump Publishing, the owners of national video game enthusiast magazine Hardcore Gamer, have put the magazine on the block—on eBay. The starting bid? A mere $42,000.

“You will be buying the copyrights, registered trademark rights, intellectual property rights, back issues, subscription lists, customer lists, vendor lists, employee contracts, distribution contacts, public relations contacts, advertising contacts, web sites and domain names associated with Hardcore Gamer, including HardcoreGamer.com and around thirty other domain names,” the post reads. The buyer can even use the monthly magazine’s existing employees, consultants, sales people and management to help train them to run the business.

The auction, according to the listing on eBay, is open until January 13. So far, there are no bidders.

Double Jump isn’t the first publisher in recent weeks to resort to drastic measures to sell off a magazine property in a hurry. Alpinist, a 9,000-circulation quarterly about alpine-style mountain climbing which ceased publication in October, was apparently sold via a “live phone auction” for $71,000.

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Jason Fell

'It Simply Did Not Make Sense for Us to Move Forward with This Business'

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 01/07/2009-17:00 PM

Ziff Davis Media announced late yesterday the shuttering of Electronic Gaming Monthly and sale of its 1UP Digital Network to Hearst.

Here's CEO Jason Young’s memo:

From: Young, Jason
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 6:31 PM
To: Media All
Subject: 1UP News

Team:

We are announcing today the sale of our 1UP digital business to UGO Entertainment, a dvision of Hearst Corporation.  
 
Over the course of the last 4 years we have built the 1UP sites into a top tier gaming digital destination. While our growth has been sharp, it has become apparent that more scale is necessary to effectively compete in this market segment. We made the decision that the best path to putting our award winning 1UP brand and content in a more competitive position was to combine it with the operations of another publisher. We received much interest from other parties.

After a comprehensive process, this morning we completed a deal with Hearst Interactive, the owner and operator of UGO Entertainment. 1UP.com, MyCheats.com, Gamevideos.com, and Gametab.com will now all be part of the UGO Entertainment business. Many of our employees will travel with this business and become part of the UGO team.  

With this transaction happening, we have also made the decision to discontinue publication of EGM. The January 2009 issue will be the final issue of the publication. With demand for print continuing to decline amongst both advertisers and readers and the content being produced by 1UP no longer available for use in the publication, it simply did not make sense for us to move forward with this business any longer.

We will continue to operate the Filefront business as a part of the PCMag Digital Network. In the coming months we will determine the best ways to leverage the scale and functionality of this digital property to expand our business position.

The Ziff Davis position in the gaming market has been significant and important to our company and the market itself. While many of our assets in the PCMag Digital Network (including Filefront now) will continue to cover this market, it's important that we celebrate all that we have achieved over the last 25 years. Our leadership in print for decades with titles like Computer Gaming World and EGM which in turn translated into the build out of one of the leading digital gaming media assets in 1UP are prime examples of the skill, passion, and expertise of our teams.and what they achieved. It's incredible to compare the 1UP.com of today versus that of 12 months ago. I want to thank everybody in our Game Group for their important contributions over the years.

For Ziff Davis Media, our attention and focus now shifts squarely to the PC Mag Digital Network. The proceeds from this transaction will be used to pay down debt. One of the primary objectives of our business plan is ensuring that we have plenty of room to service our debt obligations into the future,  and manage for growth in what will be a challenging year in the advertising market.    

While the market will be tough, we are confident our position is well aligned to where the demand is most active.   We move forward as a 100% digital business with tenured brand position, and powerful capabilities to drive results for our customers. I look forward to sharing more updates in the coming weeks.

JY 

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Jason Fell

Ziff Says Goodbye to Print

Jason Fell Editorial - 01/06/2009-18:02 PM

SEE ALSO: Ziff CEO's Memo

Tuesday marked a monumental if somewhat sad day for Ziff Davis Media. The venerable tech publisher announced the sale of its collection of gaming sites under the 1UP Digital Network umbrella to Hearst’s Ugo Entertainment and shuttered the print version of Electronic Gaming Monthly.

It’s worth noting that with the close of EGM, Ziff effectively exits the business of publishing printed magazines. A little more than a month ago, Ziff also ceased the print version of PC Magazine, shifting the brand online.

Ziff—which since the early 2000s has faced several financial hurdles, including bankruptcy protection—has undergone a striking transformation in recent years from a longstanding and well-regarded tech print publisher to a growing e-media operation. Its history spans several decades and its portfolio of magazines included Computer Shopper, PC Week, Popular Electronics, eWeek and Baseline (the last two now published by Ziff Davis Enterprise, which until the June 2007 sale existed under Ziff Davis Media’s enterprise group).

In these (insert expletive here) economic times, it’s no wonder publishers like Ziff are slimming their portfolios and shifting focus to their core brands. We’ll see more of the same in weeks and months to come. More print magazines, sadly, will disappear.

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Jason Fell

No More Embargoes for Tech Blogger

Jason Fell Editorial - 12/23/2008-14:37 PM

TechCrunch founder and superblogger Michael Arrington is fed up with PR agencies and their embargoed press releases—so much so that he says TechCrunch will break every embargo it agrees to honor.

“Gone are the days of polite pitches and actual relationship building,” Arrington [pictured] wrote in a recent post.  “Today, PR firms email a story to us as many as 20 times, and call every TechCrunch writer on their cell phones repeatedly.”

Beyond the PR barrage, Arrington says the problem is that agencies will send an embargoed release to multiple news sources and, inevitably, someone will break it. “The benefits are clear—sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first,” he wrote. “That means it’s a race to the bottom by new sites, who are increasingly stressed themselves with a competitive marketplace and decreasing advertising sales.

“From now our new policy is to break every embargo,” Arrington continued. “We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.”

Embargoed releases can be annoying. Earlier this month, for example, one PR person sent and resent an embargoed release two, three, four times as the release date kept being pushed back. With the number of releases and story pitches that come in over the transom here at FOLIO:, it’s hard to keep up with and honor embargo dates—especially for stories that are only of marginal interest. Sometimes we drop those stories altogether.

On the other hand, as Arrington pointed out, an embargo allows writers time to make the right calls and flesh out a story nicely before it goes live. Of course, it’s always frustrating when someone else, either intentionally or not, posts a story before (sometime hours or days) the embargo date.

“I’ll also be publishing a blacklist on TechCrunch listing every firm, company, publication and individual writer involved whenever an embargo is broken,” Arrington wrote. “Of course, given our new policy, I’ll be putting us at the top of that list.”

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Jason Fell

Sale of Douglas More Takeover Than Acquisition

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 12/18/2008-15:27 PM

BIA Digital Partners Wednesday announced it had acquired the assets of Richmond, Virginia-based newsletter and trade magazine publisher Douglas Publications and is changing its name to Briefings Media Group.

I spoke to several knowledgeable M&A sources today who said the acquisition was not a “normal” sale but that BIA—a private investment firm that first invested in Douglas in 2005 as part of Douglas’ estimated $15 million acquisition of the Briefings Publishing Group from Wicks Business Information—took control of Douglas.

“I don’t know if BIA even gave them a dollar for the business, but they took the keys,” one M&A executive said. “It happens. It’s nothing grossly unexpected and not outside the usual playbook.”

“Let’s just say that when an existing lender ‘acquires’ a company, it is not normally a good sign that everything was performing well,” another source said. According to one M&A executive, Douglas was “being shopped around pretty hard” earlier this summer.

“In the current economic and M&A environment, we may see some more of these distressed situations in which there is a limited market for assets and companies have challenges keeping current on covenants and/or debt service,” said a source. “It is not a good thing for the industry, but one of the outcomes of a severe economic downturn and the effective closing of the capital markets.”

These kinds of transactions do occur all the time, but this one is significant because owner/CEO Alan Douglas has long been a high-profile leader in b-to-b circles. For more than 15 years, Douglas has been a familiar and beloved figure in American Business Media, serving as a representative for smaller publishers and their concerns. Douglas also developed the concept for the Integrated Media Consortium, an innovative buying co-op for smaller magazine publishing companies.

Now, it’s not clear whether he remains with the company. Douglas did not return an e-mail requesting comment. BIA did not return several calls and e-mails seeking comment.

“It’s not the greatest of situations, but BIA has been on Douglas’ board of directors,” said one source. “Douglas should do well with BIA taking over the business.”

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Jason Fell

JEGI Hoping M&A Will ‘Pick Up' at End of First Quarter

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 12/18/2008-12:14 PM

SEE ALSO: 117 Magazine and Media Predictions for 2009

As the long, hard slog that was 2008 draws to a close, the magazine industry—however wearily—is looking ahead to 2009.

Today, we posted 117 predictions (and counting) for the coming year. In its year-end holiday e-mail, the team at the Jordan, Edmiston Group—which completed 17 deals in 2008—had its own insights for 2009.

Here’s an excerpt:

Looking ahead, we’re hopeful that M&A activity will begin to pick up toward the end of Q1 2009, as the credit crunch eases and consumer confidence continues to bounce back from October’s all-time low.

Among the sectors JEGI covers, we’re especially bullish on marketing services. We anticipate that an advertising slowdown will dramatically alter marketer spending patterns and surface many viable/compelling M&A opportunities. We expect CMOs to funnel leaner budgets away from “above the line” brand awareness to “below the line” marketing to drive leads, directly impact sales, and quickly shift market share.

Technology (e.g., multi-channel integration and automation for efficiency; analytics and optimization for measurement and targeting; and interactive video for impact) will play a decisive role in this transition. In the current M&A environment, recurring revenue models will prevail, and we expect keen interest and increased M&A activity in such sectors as customer contact, loyalty and CRM, and interactive advertising optimization, as well as marketing research and information solutions.

At the same time, diversified media companies will be challenged to continue growing their offline and online audiences, and media models that generate large audiences at an efficient cost will also be in demand.

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Jason Fell

One More Blow for Reed

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 12/12/2008-09:47 AM

After pulling RBI off the block this week, London-based publisher Reed Elsevier received more bad news from an investor’s ratings service.

Moody’s Thursday lowered its outlook for Reed from “stable” to “negative.” In its statement, Moody’s said it was concerned that without proceeds from a sale of RBI, the company might need to increase the amount of debt it will need to raise to refinance loans associated with its February acquisition of data provider ChoicePoint.

As of last month, Reed was expected to extend the March 2009 deadline for refinancing half of the $4.17 billion loan it used to buy ChoicePoint. The company, of course, had planned to pay off a portion of the debt with proceeds from selling RBI.

Meanwhile, Moody’s maintained Reed’s senior unsecured credit rating at "Baa1," an investment grade level ranking, but said the company needs to take steps like manage discretionary expenses and conduct assets sales to maintain its rating.

Not surprising, but this further illustrates the bumpy road ahead for Reed and RBI.

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Jason Fell

Editor Marks 50 Years at Same Magazine

Jason Fell B2B - 12/09/2008-10:52 AM

Here’s something you don’t hear much anymore.

Penton Media’s John Teresko, a senior technology editor at IndustryWeek, Monday celebrated 50 years with the company—and with the magazine. That’s 50 years—as in five decades.

“What made it a sustainable journey is that the quality of my associates kept increasing,” Teresko told me yesterday.  “They made it a rewarding and enjoyable journey.”

Teresko started at the magazine when it was still called Steel, The Metalworking Management Weekly. The magazine changed its name to IndustryWeek in 1970.

Staying with one business, let alone one product for 50 years is a rare accomplishment in today’s increasingly schizophrenic, layoff-prone (not to mention e-media obsessed) publishing world.

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