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Dylan Stableford

In 45 Minutes, Two Multi-Billion Dollar Magazine Deals Surface

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 12/10/2007-14:53 PM

For the better part of 2007, the market for consumer magazine mergers and acquisitions was pretty quiet. (Maybe not as quiet as, say, the stark open country of the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, but quiet still.) As one banker noted during the American Magazine Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, in October, he was there "to play golf," because "nothing is happening here. Zilch."

But within the span of 45 minutes friday morning, a pair of billion dollar magazine deals were announced.

The first, Gemstar-TV Guide's sale to Macrovision Corporation for some $2.8 billion, was a bit of a surprise, although it shouldn't have been: the company announced in July that it was exploring a possible sale:

Gemstar-TV Guide’s six month search for a potential buyer is over. Macrovision Corporation, a Santa Clara, California-based digital software solution firm, has agreed to acquire Gemstar for $2.8 billion in cash and stock, the companies announced today.

The second, British publisher Emap's sale to Bauer, had been building for months:

Emap PLC, the publisher of magazines such as FHM and Heat, said Friday it agreed to sell its consumer media and radio units to Heinrich Bauer Verlag KG for $2.3 billion and will return most of the proceeds to shareholders.

The question is, what does this mean for the magazine M&A market? Will it grease the wheels of other companies—like American Media Inc., whose suitors include supermarket magnate and Bill Clinton brohide Ron Burkle—currently on the block? Will tempt other, perhaps reluctant magazine companies to test the M&A waters? Or will it mean absolutely nothing, save for skewing the fourth quarter M&A deal reports bankers tout and us journalists seem to love?

Dylan Stableford

Rolling Stone’s Weird Week

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/07/2007-18:29 PM

As you know, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. And as far as magazine chatter goes, it's seemingly been a long week for Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner.

Let's start here: the magazine published its seemingly four-hundredth 40th anniversary issue with something called "Indie Rock Universe," a nine-page spread-sponsored by cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds-that drew the ire of indie rock bands and those who monitor Big Tobacco (think Pacino in The Insider) for using cartoons in what they claim is an advertorial. R.J. Reynolds claims the cartoons were part of Rolling Stone's editorial and had nothing to do with them. Eight states filed suit against the company, and so far, Rolling Stone has been mum on the issue.

Then, of course, there was Britney.

America's careening pop star was reportedly in negotiations with Rolling Stone to appear on an upcoming cover for the magazine, only to back out of the deal. The reason? Last year, fellow pop star and former Backstreet Boy Nick Lachey allegedly shot a cover for Rolling Stone, only to appear on Wenner Media-owned Us Weekly instead. Spears wanted a guarantee from Wenner, but Rolling Stone apparently refused. ("It was going to be a good platform for her music to be taken seriously because it had been so long. But she refused to get screwed by Wenner," an unnamed source told Page Six. Spears has since contacted Blender magazine to appear on its cover, according to Page Six.

But the news out of Rolling Stone this week hasn't been all bad. The magazine published what should be an odds-on National Magazine Award favorite: "How America Lost the War on Drugs," a 15,000-word piece by Ben Wallace-Wells about the administration's failure to curb the war before the war in Iraq. Calling it the "smartest drug story of the year," Slate's venerable, sometimes-ornery media critic Jack Shafer wrote, "If I were maximum dictator, I would force every newspaper editor, every magazine editor, and every television producer in the land to read [it]."

Of course it wasn't about music, but that's another discussion entirely.

Dylan Stableford

ASME's Response to Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/07/2007-17:43 PM

A pair of stories FOLIO: reported on this week–the federal suit brought against cigarette-maker R.J. Reynolds over an alleged "advertorial" that contained cartoons, and a Harper's Bazaar cover that contained 258 sponsored Swarovski crystals–required comment from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the arm of the Magazine Publishers of America that issues members guidelines on such foggy areas as magazine ethics.

Here's ASME's response:

From: Kahan, Marlene
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 5:52 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: rolling stone, harper's bazaar


I want to take a look at a copy of Harper’s Bazaar before I comment.

On the Rolling Stone question:

We don’t approve of sponsored edit in general, only in specific cases (special sections, etc). Our guidelines say advertisers may sponsor certain special editorial sections, as long as the edit doesn’t endorse the advertiser’s product, and the advertising and editorial pages are clearly distinguishable.

Marlene Kahan
Executive Director
American Society of Magazine Editors

Dylan Stableford

What’s a Magazine ‘VIP’ Anyway?

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 12/06/2007-13:39 PM

Harper’s Bazaar recently embedded 5,000 copies of its December issue cover with “Swarovski crystal elements”—258 of them, to be exact, hand-affixed by Swarovski—and sent them to VIPs in the fashion, beauty and media industries, including, naturally, me.

A week ago, 10,000 copies of New York’s December 10 issue were printed with a four-page cover wrap advertising the New Museum—using part of the magazine’s logo in its design. The special copies were mailed to a select list of the city's "culturati," Andrew Essex, CEO of Droga5, the ad agency behind the promotion, told Jeff Bercovici at Portfolio. "So if you don't get a copy, you're not somebody."

The blinging, er, blurring of ASME’s church-state guidelines aside, why do magazines print special “VIP” issues, anyway? And why do the VIPs get all the cool ones?

There’s a reason, of course: advertisers. In this case, I’m guessing that both the New Museum and Swarvoski wanted to reach these so-called VIPs, and do so in a way that was eye-catching. But what about the subscribers of the magazine? Are they not Very Important People too?

The answer, apparently, is simple: No.

Dylan Stableford

Beliefnet Editor: News Corp. Wants Us 'For the Right Reasons'

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 12/04/2007-13:40 PM

Beliefnet editor Steve Waldman, whose spiritual Ellie-award winning site just got sold to News Corp., posted a note and YouTube message to his faithful readers this morning:

"We've been getting interest from would-be acquirers for a few years. We were in no rush to sell but I've always believed that Beliefnet would fully blossom with the help of a major media partner. In assessing acquirers, what did we look for? Though we wanted to obtain a fair price, as big a factor in our deliberations was whether, by selling, we could better meet our mission. We created Beliefnet primarily to make a difference, not a killing. As I explored the possibilities with News Corp., it became clear that, with their help, Beliefnet would be able to take quantum leap in what we can do. The best spiritual and religious teachers – from Rick Warren to the Dalai Lama -- pass through News Corp doors (through Harper Collins, Zondervan, Harper One and others). News Corp's reach is enormous. Its proficiency in the areas of video, social networking and media in general is unsurpassed."

More of Waldman's memo here ...

Read the Beliefnet press release here ...

Dylan Stableford

Yahoo, Google Release Top Search Terms of 2007

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 12/04/2007-12:13 PM

Both Yahoo and Google have released their answers to magazine editors' fun-yet-ultimately-meaningless year-end lists: the Top 10 Search Terms of 2007. And, in what qualifies as a non-shocker, no magazine-specific terms apply. (Although celebrity magazine publishers are no doubt thrilled to learn that "TMZ" was the #3 most Googled of 2007, ahead of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.)

The lists:

1. Britney Spears
2. WWE
3. Paris Hilton
4. Naruto
5. Beyonce
6. Lindsay Lohan
7. Rune Scape
8. Fantasy Football
9. Fergie
10. Jessica Alba

1. iphone
2. webkinz
3. tmz
4. transformers
5. youtube
6. club penguin
7. myspace
8. heroes
9. facebook
10. anna nicole smith

Dylan Stableford

InTouch Publishes Blackberry Photos to Back Brit Story

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/03/2007-17:12 PM

We've all gotten used to the idea of the e-mail interview, the interview via instant messenger (the "IMterview"), even cover story interview conducted via Blackberry (see: Lindsay Lohan, GQ et al). But what about using the Blackberry logs to back up investigative reporting? Definitely never thought I'd type this sentence, but here goes: It appears as though In Touch magazine has become the first major magazine to reprint photo evidence of a Blackberry text message exchange to back up claims in a reported story-specifically, that Britney Spears is pregnant:

Contrary to the statement J.R. Rotem released on November 28, In Touch has documented proof that on Monday, November 26, the music producer did indeed confirm in these text messages that Britney is pregnant and that he is the father. When asked about rumors about Britney's pregnancy and whether he is the father, J.R. texted, "It's true." And when questioned about Britney's intentions regarding her unborn baby, he responded, "No clue on what she will do. She is unpredictable."

Ahh, the intersection of technology and celebrity journalism.

More here ...

Dylan Stableford

Esquire’s Surprisingly Destitute Reader

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/30/2007-17:54 PM

"Destitute" may be a bit strong, but this little nugget from FOLIO:'s recap of a Fall MRI report came as a bit of a shock:

Surprisingly, readers of Esquire magazine-which distinguishes itself in its online media kit by touting "while other men's magazines are written for highly aspirational readers, Esquire is geared towards men who have arrived"-have the lowest median household income for adults ($53,783) among five of its top competitors. (To be fair, Esquire's readership has seen a marked increase in affluence since 2002, when it had a median income of $42,602). Men's Journal leads the pack with a median of $77,063, followed by Men's Health ($76,865), GQ ($68,746), Men's Fitness ($68,486) and Maxim ($65,614). Esquire's readers are also the oldest of the group, with a median age of 43.9 years. Maxim is on the low end, with a median age of 28.4 for adults.

What does it all mean? Do healthy men earn more? Do gentle men have less earning power?

Do Maxim readers really have more disposable income than Esquire readers?

More here ...

Dylan Stableford

Give Karl Rove a Blog

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 11/29/2007-10:49 AM

As part of its pre-election push, Newsweek recently announced the addition of ex-White House senior advisor Karl Rove as a columnist, his glossy appointment coming a day after the magazine named Markos Moulitsas, founder of the popular liberal politics blog and tradeshow Daily Kos. Good move by editor Jon Meacham: a right-wing pundit to balance Markos' lefty politics. But why waste two outspoken personalities on the print magazine?

Here's an idea: Give ‘em both Newsweek-branded blogs and have them face off before, during and after debates and conventions, allowing readers to join the conversation via comments. (Some media people still consider "comments" to be a risky wasteland of the delusional and the deluted, but I guarantee lightly-monitored comment-thread can frame such a debate in a much more civilized way than, say, cable.)

Dylan Stableford

Playboy’s Search for America’s Sexiest Sportscaster Hits Rock-Bottom

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/27/2007-10:56 AM

Playboy magazine is hosting its second "America's Sexiest Sportscaster" poll, which closes today. A typically chauvinistic move setting women's journalism back 15 years. (Sports Illustrated, for some reason, called it "the season's second most-discussed poll.") The whole thing makes about as much sense as Miss Landmine 2008 (a real competition-seriously).

That said, I guarantee most of the nominees spent Thanksgiving lobbying their families to vote.

The winner, by the way, will be announced November 28.

Dylan Stableford

Worst Anniversary Party Ever? Atlantic Monthly Celebrates 150th in New York

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/27/2007-10:30 AM

The Atlantic Monthly celebrated its 150th anniversary with a party in New York earlier this month. It picked the scholarly Kimmel Center at New York University as the venue. The venue had a stage. Instead of, say, using the stage for a panel or discussion, it served for the bulk of the evening as an awkward VIP area, where the important guests like Arianna Huffington, Moby and Mayor Bloomberg partied while 600 or so readers (a.k.a N.I.P.s) were forced to watch. It’s admirable that David Bradley and a magazine like the Atlantic would want to include its readers. But not like this, man. Give everyone access, find another venue or throw two parties—one for the V.I.P.s and one for the rest of the dregs.

Gawker has the damning video

Dylan Stableford

Why Does Burkle Want American Media?

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 11/27/2007-09:51 AM

Slate's Mickey Kaus has a nice extrapolation on what's behind Ron Burkle's pursuit of American Media Inc.:

Soon he'll presumably have the power to kill any scandalous story in the Enquirer or Star that might hurt his friends (the Clintons). And he'll have the power to run the stories that will hurt his enemies. And for those who might help the Clintons now (by, say, splitting the anti-Hillary vote) but hurt them later--well, he'll be able to choose the timing of any further exposes. ... Look at it from the point of view of the aptly-named David Pecker, head of AMI: If you assume Burkle wants AMI's publications in order to gain political influence, when is the time at which Burkle would pay the maximum price? Right before the campaign starts in earnest. In fact, you might pinpoint Pecker's maximum leverage as coming a couple of months before the Iowa caucuses.

More here ...