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Jason Fell

Publisher to Employee: Stop Blogging!

Jason Fell B2B - 06/13/2008-15:27 PM

Little more than a month after FOLIO: first reported about Reed Elsevier's plans to divest Reed Business Information, we received a comment from someone who had started a related blog called DivestmentWatch.

The blog—run by a Web operations manager for Reed Elsevier's Totaljobs Group in London—monitored, discussed and linked to news stories about the divestment process. The site, the blogger wrote, had generated more than 5,000 unique visitors and averaged nearly 200 daily visits.

In a May 2 post, the blogger shared this interesting detail: "Rumour has it that RE and RBI board members have visited DivestmentWatch, and it has even come up during chats with the bankers (UBS) and the consultants (PWC) so it's nice to know that there are some people interested and hopefully listening."

This is interesting, now, because the site has been shut down. According to the blogger, management from Reed Elsevier and RBI "quietly asked" that he take down the site—and it appears he complied.

While I'm not clear on the circumstances surrounding Reed's request (an RBI spokesperson said she wasn't familiar with the site's shuttering and I haven't been able to track down the blogger) I find it strange (and a bit disappointing) that this blogger would buckle under the pressure. Doesn't he have the right to his opinion?

But, employment is a precious thing these days. Seeing as the now-former blogger is a current Reed employee I can understand shutting down DivestmentWatch if he was afraid of losing his job.

Jason Fell

From Publishing CEO to Buddhist Priest to Rodale Author

Jason Fell Consumer - 05/30/2008-13:59 PM

People leave magazine publishing all the time and for all sorts of reasons. Some want to spend more time with their family. Some want to go back to school. Some leave to start their own business. Others devote themselves to Buddhism after feeling “exiled” from his own heart.

Like Phillip Moffitt who left Esquire, and the industry, in 1987 after an apparently stressful stint as CEO and editor-in-chief, to devote himself to what he calls “the inner life.” In the two decades since, he has been ordained a Buddhist priest and, in 1991, founded the Life Balance Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and practice of spiritual values. (He didn’t leave the industry altogether. From 1998 to 2005 he penned a bi-monthly column for Yoga Journal called “Dharma Wisdom.”)

Now, Moffitt is taking his spiritual message to the bookshelves. Out last month on Rodale Press is Moffitt’s 352-page Dancing with Life, in which he delves into the deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which was Buddha’s first teaching after “he found freedom from his own suffering,” Moffitt says on his Web site.

In the book’s introduction, Moffitt writes that while serving the dual roles of CEO and editor of Esquire he “felt exiled from my own heart.”

Breaking news. Deadlines. Making budgets. There’s no doubt about it: Magazine publishing can be a seriously stressful career.

I’m just happy that Moffitt chilled out, and rediscovered his “inner life.” Maybe this is a book we all should read …

Jason Fell

Cygnus to Allow Employees to Wear Blue Jeans on Tuesday

Jason Fell B2B - 05/23/2008-12:29 PM

Here’s something fun to chew on over the long holiday weekend:

The human resources department at Cygnus might have stumbled upon the as-yet undiscovered key to increasing the bottom line: Wearing jeans … on Tuesdays.

According to an e-mail sent to staffers this week from HR vice president Judy Heidebrecht, employees will be permitted to wear “nice” jeans to work next Tuesday, May 27—as long as they are “even more productive.”

So, trade in your suit pants and skirts, folks. Jeans = productivity!

Here’s the e-mail:

From: "Judy Heidebrecht"
Date: May 22, 2008 7:08:47 PM EDT
Subject: Blue Jean Tuesday

At the request of a few people who said they would be even more productive if they could wear blue jeans more often . . . we’ve agreed to test that theory!

Next Tuesday, May 27, will be a casual day, so feel free to wear nice jeans, just like you would on Friday.

Now, here’s the deal. If the folks who were preaching productivity-in-denims are correct – we could have more casual-wear-days more often. Let your co-workers and supervisors know what you think!

Mike, Dave, Judy

Jason Fell

Wired Celebrates 15 Years in Style

Jason Fell Consumer - 05/20/2008-12:53 PM

Pictured, left to right: Megan Asha, Wired editor Chris Anderson, Star magazine's Julia Allison and Wired founder Loius Rossetto

SEE RELATED SLIDESHOW: Wired's 15th Anniversary Party

Despite the blustery evening, nearly 350 people gathered at midtown Manhattan’s recently opened rooftop oasis Highbar last night for Wired magazine’s 15th anniversary party.

The usual Condé Nasters headlined the party, including Wired editor Chris Anderson, publisher Chris Mitchell and darling super-group publisher David Carey. In addition to the celebration at-hand, Mitchell noted CondéNet’s acquisition of tech site Ars Technica and the relaunch of popular Web developer tutorial site Webmonkey.

Notable attendees from around the world of media were PBS’ Charlie Rose, ASME executive director Marlene Kahan, New York Times columnist David Carr, Advertising Age editor Jonah Bloom, Mediabistro's Laurel Touby, Noah Davis, Rebecca Fox and Glynnis MacNicol, BusinessWeek's Jon Fine, Curbed's Lockhart Steele, Flavorpill's Sacha Lewis, Nerve founder Rufus Griscom and newly-installed managing editor Cyndi Stivers, who stood on a table during Anderson's speech.

Not surprisingly (given her stalking of Anderson at the National Magazine Awards) Star magazine editor-at-large Julia Allison showed up with a friend costumed as Wired “geeks.”

Go figure.

Jason Fell

Magazine ‘Like Tequila for the Mother’s Soul’

Jason Fell Editorial - 05/12/2008-14:47 PM

Embracing the post-Mother’s Day spirit, I couldn’t resist sharing this edgy literary magazine for mothers I stumbled upon.

Launched in the fall of 2006 and published quarterly, Get Born magazine’s tagline is: “The uncensored voice of motherhood.” Get Born was founded by two Colorado mothers who wanted to “celebrate the whole messy process of motherhood by giving real women in the real trenches of motherhood a chance to speak, to write, to make their voices heard,” the magazine’s Web site says.

According to its media kit, Get Born targets mothers aged 22 to 45 with children from infants to school-age. It has a 650 direct distribution circulation and claims a readership of 1,800.

“We’re not chicken soup for the mother’s soul,” co-founder Heather Janssen said in a recent newspaper story . The magazine is “more like tequila for the mother’s soul.”

The stories told in Get Born definitely aren’t your mother’s—at least not the ones told on the glossy pages of magazines like Babytalk or Working Mother. Instead, these mothers dish about the pains of childbirth, sex, and finding “adult time” while trying to raise a child—at times told with profanity.

“In a lovely world, I would never not want to read to my kids,” Janssen said in the newspaper story. “In my world—the real world—I just want a moment to myself … I don’t love smearing peanut butter and jelly on bread day after day.”

Jason Fell

Elle’s Green Issue Prank: Fact or Fiction?

Jason Fell Editorial - 05/08/2008-14:48 PM

Was this for real?

Late last month, FOLIO: reported that Elle’s May green issue was the apparent victim of a prank by which “Retraction” stickers were placed in several copies on an investigative report that examined the eco-extremist movement through the story of a teenage FBI informant.

Earlier this week, someone posted an anonymous comment to the story pointing readers to a site to see the stickers—which claim the Elle story contains “factual inaccuracies,” and gives a “fair hearing to radical anti-capitalists”—for themselves.

It appears that Elle parent company Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. hasn’t made much headway into its investigation. According to a spokesperson, no retailers have reported finding the stickers and the publisher has no proof that the prank happened at all.

Was this an actual prank, or was it all staged online with fake comments posted to sites like Ecorazzi?

If this was a real prank, I find it hard to believe that these “activists” managed to get the stickers into every issue on particular store shelves without someone getting spotted red-handed.

And if the stickers were put in the issues before they hit the shelves, does that mean that a distributor was in on the prank? That would add a deeper layer to the apparent vandalism, wouldn’t it?

Still, it’s a cautionary tale for any magazine—particularly those dealing in fashion—that attempts a “green” issue.

The eco-terrorists are watching.

Jason Fell

Shaky Times at ALM

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 04/30/2008-14:51 PM

Ever since British acquisition firm Incisive Media purchased U.S.-based ALM last July for $630 million, it seemed that the Apax Partners subsidiary was on the fast track, quickly evolving from an entrepreneurial startup to a b-to-b powerhouse.

Now, it seems there is some apprehension from inside—mostly about revenues. Is the legal market not as recession-proof as once thought?

Earlier this month, ALM slashed 42 jobs across the board. The company apparently is scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media's Florida publication into a monthly magazine and is shifting Law Firm, Inc. from print to online only.

Below, via Gawker, is an internal memo from ALM CEO Bill Pollak [pictured above]:


Several weeks ago, I wrote to you about our business results for the first quarter of 2008 and shared some of the challenges we face as a result of the credit squeeze and other market factors. I also described our intention to tighten our belts and reduce costs. With no change in sight on the economic horizon, the senior management team and I have spent the past few weeks examining our business options. Our goal was to find solutions that would lower expenses without compromising quality, and which would allow us to continue to invest in and meet our long term business goals. In particular, we all strongly agree on the need to continue investing in our Web infrastructure, while expanding ALM's ability to generate and publish content online.

We looked at each business with these questions in mind: Are we getting the right return on our investment? Do we need to keep doing this work? Can we do this work another way? We believe that while we are primarily doing the right work in the right way, there are changes we need to make immediately to respond to economic conditions.

Some of these changes involve revising the timing or scope of planned initiatives. Others, however, are staff related and go beyond simply delaying the filling of open jobs. In total, we have decided to eliminate forty-two current positions across ALM and Incisive's US operations. These staff reductions are distributed across businesses, locations and job levels and all the employees involved have already been notified.

The business changes we will be making are also broad in scope. These include scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media's Florida publication into a monthly magazine; closing down the Operations Department of Incisive's Norwalk, CT. office; and shifting Law Firm, Inc. from a print magazine to a digital product.

Another change in business strategy - and the one that will have the greatest impact on staff - is our decision to restructure ALM's Event Division and reassign management responsibility for many of our existing SRI conferences to Insight in Canada, Incisive's Events group in London and ALM's Legal Publishing Division. A number of SRI's financial events will be eliminated.

Accepting and working through change is never easy, and changes that affect our colleagues and friends can be particularly painful. We did not make these decisions lightly. But we know that our future success depends on our ability to align ourselves with our markets and clients, and to ensure we have the resources we need to develop and grow our brands. The changes announced today will not only help us during the current economic turbulence, but will make us stronger in the future.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at



Jason Fell

Space: The Final Frontier … for Magazine Circulation?

Jason Fell Audience Development - 04/24/2008-09:47 AM

Ready the warp drive, Scotty, here comes a publicity stunt of inter-galactic proportions.

According to a post I came across on, U.K.-based Future Publishing is planning to send every issue of its sci-fi mag SFX where apparently no other magazine has gone before: space.

SFX is teaming up with a firm called SentForever, which converts messages into radio waves and sends them to a British satellite station. Using a massive satellite transmission dish, the message is blasted into the far reaches of the galaxy.

A mere five hours after transmission, according to the magazine, the SFX radio waves will race past Pluto and leave the solar system, bound for, well, who knows who—or what—to pick them up.

Talk about extending your magazine's reach! Although, I'm not sure SFX will reach its ‘target' audience.

Jason Fell

The All-You-Can-Read Subscription Offer

Jason Fell emedia and Technology - 04/17/2008-09:30 AM

The French are taking the all-you-can-eat buffet gimmick to the digital newsstand.

According to a post I read yesterday on, a French distributor has launched a subscription offer that allows customers to pay a $28 monthly fee to be able to download any or all of its 400 magazine titles, including Glamour and Playboy. There’s no limit to the number of digital magazines one can download.

U.S. digital magazine publisher Zinio offers individual subscriptions, but this appears to be the first to offer a flat rate all-you-can-read model.

I’m not big on reading digital magazines, but why did no one think of this sooner? Pony up a reasonable monthly flat rate to gain access to a slew of digital magazines? That’s great.

The music industry is grappling with this distribution model , too, as a number of record label are experimenting with subscription-based downloads, and Apple's iTunes—which recently surpassed Wal-Mart as the largest music retailer in the U.S.—is rumored to be prepping one.

Maybe this is another jab in the side of print publishing. There again, Time Inc. later this year is expected to launch a Netflix-like print sub service called Maghound.

We’ll have to wait and see if/when this flat rate downloadable sub model makes its way to this side of the Atlantic.

Jason Fell


Jason Fell Consumer - 04/07/2008-16:52 PM

This year, the editors here at FOLIO: selected ESPN senior vice president of content development and enterprises Keith Clinkscales to our annual FOLIO: 40 list—and for good reason. The brand, and the magazine, have undoubtedly stepped out of the shadow of competitor Sports Illustrated.

Clinkscales has steered ESPN's business strategy and is responsible for operations associated with the magazine and the company's publishing-related business initiatives. The magazine has hired top talent, and saw a nearly 20-percent spike in ad revenues last year. In February, the magazine finally launched its own Web site,, separate from

But, already, it seems like SI might have a leg up for 2009. Late last month, launched the SI Vault, a digital archive of more than 150,000 stories, 2,600 covers and a half-million photos spanning 54 years.

In a little more than two weeks since its launch, the Vault has already racked up 17.36 million page views and 1.17 million unique visitors.

I'd say that's a home run.

Jason Fell

J.Lo’s Twins = Traffic

Jason Fell emedia and Technology - 03/25/2008-11:40 AM

Move over Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

This week's source of server-testing traffic goes instead to singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, who appeared in People magazine with her newborn twins, Max and Emme. reportedly clocked an all-time daily high of four million unique visitors hungry for the photos from People's exclusive shoot, doubling its previous total.

The tots won't touch New York magazine's "artful" nude photos of Lohan as Marilyn Monroe, which crashed's servers in February to the tune of 20 million page views on each of the first two days the pics were posted.

Now, if anyone could only snap a new photo of baby Suri ...

Jason Fell

Credit Market Making Publishers Nervous

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 03/18/2008-12:47 PM

Less than a week after its 21st annual media conference wrapped up in Florida, investment firm giant Bear Stearns Co. was sold Monday to rival JP Morgan Chase & Co. for $240 million—or just $2 per share, a 90 percent loss to what the company was worth a week ago.

Although the dramatic news doesn't have a direct impact on the magazine industry (unless Bear Stearns owes your business money, of course), it does have Wall Street traders up in arms again in a credit market that has former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan—who some blame for the housing market fallout—calling the current U.S. economic crisis the "most wrenching since the end of the second world war."

Capital markets across all industries, including media investors, are nervous about yesterday's news—and for good reason. "Every time that we think that we've seen the bottom of the credit market, something like this happens and we see that it can get much, much worse," Veronis Suhler Stevenson managing partner Tom Kemp told me during a phone conversation this morning. "Every time these things happen, the credit approval process becomes more difficult, leverage will be tougher and pricing will be higher."

The Bear Stearns acquisition "certainly casts a gloomy outlook over where the markets and economy are headed," DeSilva + Phillips managing partner Reed Phillips says.

Kemp and Phillips are right. What's going to come of situations like that with Reed Elsevier announcing plans to divest business sector magazine publisher Reed Business Information? A number of potential suitors have emerged, but is there really a strategic buyer out there willing to pony up $2-2.5 billion now?

We'll have to wait and see.