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Dylan Stableford

Rival Newspapers Begin to Share Content—Will Magazines Follow?

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 01/06/2009-18:23 PM

For FOLIO:’s 2009 predictions feature (“117 Magazine and Media Predictions for 2009”), Raymond Roker, co-founder and publisher of Urb magazine, predicted that “former foes will share information on clients and prospects.”

In the newspaper industry, on the editorial side, this is already happening.

There was a story posted on Sunday by the Associated Press (itself a literal product of the idea of newspaper rivals sharing news resources) about how Texas' Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram—former fierce rivals—have been sharing concert reviews.

Their announcement was followed by another one in December, when the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun said they would share resources to cover Maryland.

That once-bitter rivals would agree to forge an unholy alliance is a product of the economic downturn, the rise of the Internet, shrinking staffs and slashed travel budgets.

Gary Wortel, publisher of the Fort Worth paper, told the AP: "I don't look at us as competitors anymore.”

It’s also a way for newspaper publisher to avoid additional, demoralizing job cuts (although having to make nice with your arch rival can’t be great for morale, either).

If newspapers have been pushed to do this, could magazines not be far behind?

We’ve seen plenty of magazines restructure to share internal resources (see Time Inc., Source Media, Nielsen et al) but have yet to forge the sort of unholy alliance we’re seeing in newspapers. (In fact, the only one I could come up with in magazine publishing is Fader’s recent pact with the Web site Pitchfork, and that one doesn’t really pool editorial, although it’s not out of the question.)

But imagine, for a second, Time and Newsweek—two of the fiercest competitors I can think of in the magazine business, outside of the celebrity category—sharing a reporter covering Sarah Palin in Alaska, for instance (or, more realistically, a local election with national implications). They already link to other on the Web. Why not in print?

Alas, I have a feeling both Time and Newsweek would fold before they agreed to share reporting resources. But for other magazines, it might be another concession on the path to survival.

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Dylan Stableford

Mountain Climbing Magazine with Cult Following Sold for $71K via 'Live Phone Auction'

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 01/06/2009-15:50 PM

Alpinist, a 9,000-circulation quarterly about alpine-style mountain climbing which ceased publication in October, has been sold. According to a source, the six-year-old, high-gloss, high production-value magazine with a small but passionate community of climbers, was sold via a “live phone auction” for—wait for it—$71,000.

The buyer is Height of Land Publications, Vermont-based publisher of Backcountry magazine. The seller, Marc Ewing, had pumped at least $2 million into Alpinist, but failed to bring it to profitability. The magazine launched in 2002.

What Height of Land plans to do with Alpinist remains unclear. In 2007, the company bought a competing title, Couloir, and folded it into Backcountry.

Publisher Jon Howard said the deal has yet to be finalized and would likely close this week.

The Alpinist businesses include the magazine, its Web site (which had about 50,000 unique visitors a month) and the annual Alpinist Film Festival.

That a magazine with a passionate fanbase and multiple (albeit not yet profitable) platforms is sold for less than six figures—and does so over the phone—is scary, and says more about the state of print than many publishers would care to admit.

Sure, it’s just a quarterly climbing magazine. But, at least these days, to borrow an old skier vs. snowboarder cliché, it’s all the same mountain.

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Dylan Stableford

Despite Reaching 'Precipice of Profitability,' Plug Pulled on 8020

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 01/04/2009-23:10 PM

8020 Media, a publisher heralded for its community-driven editorial model, is shutting down. Here’s the memo from CEO Mitchell Fox (via NYT Bits):

In the face of these extraordinary economic times, in a devastated advertising climate, we can no longer continue to operate the business due to lack of funds, and hence we have to close 8020 Media effective immediately.

There is no doubt that our company has done what no others have yet to do…that is, prove that the web and print can work effectively together, one supporting the other.

We’ve also proven that community generated media CAN be a powerful thing…and it can create spectacular media.

The riddle of having a sound web platform support that drives interactivity with a print product has been solved, however, none of us could have predicted the global economic collapse we’ve witnessed in the past few months. So our timing to grow the business and bring it to profitability through even the smallest amount of additional funding could not have been worse.

So, while we sit here at the precipice of profitability, the negative marketplace forces are too strong to overcome, and we must take this regrettable action.

It remains undeniable that the publishing industry MUST find a new model, and mass collaboration and participation in the media property is certainly now proven it can be the foundation of this new model (NOTE: This is NOT citizen journalism).

We’ve cracked the code on marshaling a community around a media property online and in print….and helping them become active , loyal, and engaged participants in both.

We do owe a debt of thanks to Minor Ventures for believing in us, and funding us to this point and to have even given us a chance to make this business successful, and for that confidence we’ll always be grateful.

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Dylan Stableford

Seven Inspiring Things That Happened in Publishing in 2008 (And Should Inspire You in 2009)

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/23/2008-14:46 PM

We just published our annual predictions feature and year in review—usually two of my favorite pieces to produce. Not this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the blood that was shed in 2008 has left many people who are lucky enough to still have a job bloodied, bruised, and cynical about the magazine industry. And rightfully so.

But there were some glimmers of hope in 2008 which were, at least from my perspective, inspirational. Maybe they don’t all have direct implications for the swift return of the print magazine business, but at least they were a welcome diversion from all of the slashing and burning we saw this year.

1. Seasoned Print Editors Go it Alone—Online

From ex-PC World editor Harry McCracken to Tina Brown’s inner-Beast to a pair of ex-ElleGirl editors with Daily Candy-like aspirations, 2008 could was the year that old-school print editors collectively said “&%@# it” and forged ahead with their own businesses online, many competing for the same audiences—and ad dollars—of the publications they left. And based on some of your 2009 predictions, this career trajectory is going to become more common—not less.

2. Festival for D.I.Y. Nerds Draws 50,000

The third installment of Make magazine’s Maker Faire do-it-yourself-themed event, held in May at California’s San Mateo Fairgrounds, attracted 65,000 people—more than triple the attendance of its inaugural event in 2006. Make pulled in "well over" $1 million in revenue, associate publisher Dan Woods told FOLIO:, proving yet again that a cultish, rabid and, yes, nerdy fan base (Star Trek, Simpsons, the Dead et al) is worth its weight in gold.

3.    E-Ink Makes an Appearance on a Cover

There was plenty of criticism over Esquire’s 75th anniversary issue—remember, the one with the cover flashing “The 21st Century Begins Now”  across it—and its editor’s apparent monthly desire to break free of the shackles of editing a print magazine. But it marked the first time e-ink—a technology we’ve been hearing about for years now—made its way onto a magazine cover.  So what if the result was as exciting as an Etch A Sketch? It's called progress.

4.  New Magazines Actually Launch

It’s hard to believe—with all of the layoffs and cutbacks and magazine closings—someone would willingly launch a magazine this year. But depending on who you believe, as many as 634 did. And while I wouldn’t exactly hang my hat on a magazine devoted entirely to the Jonas Brothers, it stands to reason that someone is buying them—at least for one issue.

5. Political Blogger Finishes What She Started

Ana Marie Cox, the ex-Wonkette-turned-Time political blogger who became the Washington editor of Time.com, decamped for Radar in September to cover the election. When Radar folded in October, Cox was left with credentials to cover the campaign (she was embedded with the McCain camp) but no one to pay for her travels. Undeterred, she launched an online a pledge drive.  (For $250, Cox would pose your question to a senior McCain advisor; for $1,000, you’d get a “post-election dinner debriefing.”) Cox raised over $8,000, and was able to cover the rest of the campaign for her personal blog. That scent you smell? It's called is “future book deal.”

6. Magazine Executives Stop Lying to Each Other

Magazine publishers—finally—took off the rose-colored glasses and put down the cups of Kool-Aid.  At an event in New York, Hearst president Cathie Black described the industry’s malaise this way: "It's tough. It's terrible. I think we've all stopped lying to each other."

7. Magazine Publishers Kill a Pirate

Say what you will about magazine publishers, but unlike the music industry, they know a pirate when they see one.

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Dylan Stableford

GQ’s Scantily-Clad Aniston Censored in Grand Central Terminal

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/23/2008-10:39 AM

GQ’s much talked-about January 2009 cover—featuring Jennifer Aniston wearing nothing more than a tie and a smile—has been covered up by Hudson News in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The popular newsstand has placed a piece of paper across the issue in its window display.

Copies inside the store, however, remain uncovered.

GQ didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time Hudson News has covered up a magazine’s scantily-clad cover model. In fact, it happens fairly often, although I can’t recall it happening to a general interest magazine.

In June 2006, Hudson News censored an FHM cover—the first of five consecutive issues covered up by the newsstand, including a cover featuring Brooke Hogan—Hulk Hogan’s then underage daughter—which prompted liquor advertisers to pull out of the magazine.

If the retailer was hoping to draw attention away from the magazine (and putting it in the window isn't exactly a sign they want to), censoring it, as one might expect, tends to have the opposite effect. The first FHM cover covered up by Hudson News sold over 400,000 copies on newsstands, well above its 350,000 average.

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Dylan Stableford

Oh, No: Mygazines 2.0?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/17/2008-16:45 PM

Oh boy. Not this again:

-----Original Message-----
From: NETWORK
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 9:12 AM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: Dropping you a note about landing at Mygazines

Pierre Bisaillon has sent you a message on FOLIO: mediaPRO

Hi Dylan,

Thanks for adding me as a friend.

I wanted to let you know that I will now be heading up corporate and business development at Mygazines. Mygazines has had quite an interesting past 6 months as many of you are well aware.

Over the coming months, my task will be to introduce their amazing technology and establish partnerships with publishers worldwide to finally help them monetize all these digital publishing investments.

During the past year and a half, I worked with many wonderful publishers creating digital versions of their pubs but never had the means to take it past the presentation stage. Now we can take it further by providing a platform that answers the same question I heard again and again, "So what can I do with this thing?"

Feel free to fire away with questions and, yes, darts if you like. As any of those that know me, I'll do my best to answer what I can.

I hope you stop by and see what we have coming up for the new year.

Thanks
Pierre

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Dylan Stableford

Vanity Fair’s Wolff Now Says Newsweek Will be Dead within Two Years, Not Five

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/16/2008-12:18 PM

Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair’s cranky contributing editor, Rupert Murdoch biographer and noted firestarter, stated publicly that Newsweek wouldn’t last another five years.  After last week’s news—first reported by FOLIO: (“Newsweek Mulls Dramatic Drop in Circulation”)—that the magazine is considering a huge rate base cut, Wolfe says that he appears to have been “optimistic.”

He’s now revised it to two:

Sometime around the fourth quarter of next year, Newsweek will be shuttered (possibly there’s a phase where it goes bi-weekly, or even monthly). The people at Newsweek and at the Washington Post Co. will be as adamant and dismissive about denying this as they were about my original assertion. And yet, they obviously can’t be certain they have a positive future (or any future).

Here (“possibly there’s a phase where it goes bi-weekly, or even monthly”) Wolff is hedging his bet. While Newsweek doesn’t “want to be seen as a U.S. News,” it’s entirely plausible that all traditional weekly newsmagazines—including Time and Newsweek—go biweekly or even monthly in two years, particularly if the advertisers who exited the print magazine market don’t return.

It’s interesting that Wolff, who founded Newser.com, a news aggregator, would want to put an expiration date on a magazine, given that his livelihood, at least in part, hinges on writing for one. (I asked Wolff how long he gives Vanity Fair; he wouldn’t comment.)

But Wolff does make an interesting point, and it’s something that we heard from some ex-Washington Post Co. executives when we were working on our story: “How do you say to your colleagues and your customers, while we’re still here today, in all honesty we’re toast tomorrow?”

It’s a question some publishers are going to have to face sooner than later.

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Dylan Stableford

Tight Times at Time Inc.

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 12/12/2008-17:35 PM

Jesse Oxfeld, former Gawker scribe and current senior editor at New York magazine, gives a great oral history of Time Inc.'s once-lavish expense accounts.

Take, for instance, former staff writer Joel Stein's (via the Daily Beast):

“I somehow got them to pay for my Rainbow Room membership. Free breakfast every day over at the top of 30 Rock. I think I just sort of snuck it in. I don’t think there was a rationale at all. And then my Friar’s Club membership I also expensed. There was some rule that may have been true, or we have made up, that it was OK to expense lunch if we took each other out. Not every day, but often. It would be, ‘Not anything good in the cafeteria? Let’s go out and have a ‘business discussion’ and expense it. It was outrageous. When I left the staff, I was sad to say goodbye to all my friends there, but the really hard thing was giving up that AmEx card. I gave it a little funeral, and I was crying over it.”

Read the whole thing here ...

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Dylan Stableford

Conservative Magazine Invites Readers on 12-Day, ‘Off-the-Record’ Mediterranean Cruise to Discuss How to Right GOP Ship

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 12/12/2008-14:40 PM

Newsmax, the conservative newsmagazine, is celebrating its 10th anniversary (and Barack Obama’s first six months in office) with something unusual: a 12-day Mediterranean cruise. (Open question: What publisher would want to be stuck on a cruise ship with their readers—or anyone—for 12 days straight?)

On the agenda is nothing short of plotting the future of the GOP and “reshaping of the political landscape.” Stops include Rome, Monte Carlo, London, Barcelona, Lisbon, Bilbao, Bordeaux and Tangiers. Fox News analyst Dick Morris is among the “famous personalities” scheduled to appear.

The cost? Cabins are priced from $11,290 to $29,560 for the penthouse suite.

Here’s the invitation from editor Christopher Ruddy:

Dear Friend:

I would like to add my personal invitation to join us for our 10th anniversary celebration cruise.

Imagine joining me and several famous personalities, including FOX News analyst Dick Morris; health guru, Dr. Russell Blaylock; New York Times best-selling author, Ronald Kessler; health author, Dr. David Brownstein; former Good Morning American money guru, Steve Crowley; and many others.

Your dream can come true during June 2009 when we cruise on the luxury Crystal Symphony for 12 days beginning in Rome and ending in London!

As a Newsmax reader and subscriber, you’ll appreciate this unusually deluxe program — enjoying not only the great sights of the Mediterannean, but also discovering how to improve your well-being, the future of the GOP and reshaping of the political landscape, how to protect and grow your wealth during this period of uncertainty, and life-enhancing health strategies from leading medical doctors.

Our program has been designed uniquely for you, our readers. Cruising on this spectacular luxury ship with other like-minded Newsmax readers is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Our meetings will be “off the record”— letting experts and insiders tell you what is really going on in the media, Washington, healthcare, Wall Street, and more.

We’ll discuss the hottest political issues facing the country in this post-election period, the most profitable opportunities in financial markets today, and life-enhancing strategies for greater health and longevity.

You will have one-on-one face time with me and our experts and celebrity friends. Plus, have all your questions answered by our distinguished faculty.

But, most importantly, you will make many new friends who share your worldview.

We look forward to sharing this very special time with you.

Sincerely,

Christopher Ruddy
Editor in Chief

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Dylan Stableford

Victims of Media Layoffs Band Together to Party Like its 1999

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/10/2008-17:59 PM

With all the layoffs in the media industry this year, it was just a matter of time before an enterprising victim decided to throw a party for all of the freshly unemployed.

Enter ex-Radar executive editor Aaron Gell, whose cheeky American Society of Shit-Canned Media Elites (“ASSME”—a dig at the MPA’s ASME) is reinventing the famed “pink slip parties” of the dot.com bust era with a holiday party next week in New York. (Say what you want about the magazine, Radar always knew how to throw a good party.)

Here’s the invite:

Who: Recently downsized magazine, newspaper, publishing, advertising, TV and Web professionals. Still employed?  You’re buying the first round.
Where: Ella Lounge, 9 Avenue A
When: Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 8-11
Open bar with p.i.n.k. vodka from 8-9pm; $5 drink specials
Broke ass beats by Josh Link/photos by nickydigital.com
What to bring: a nice, gently worn coat for New York Cares.

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Dylan Stableford

Town & Country Finally Admits Existence of Economic Crisis

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/09/2008-11:06 AM

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research made official the financial bloodletting evident from everyone from Goldman to Gucci for over a year now: we are in a recession.

What’s that? You need more proof? Look no further than Town & Country’s December editor’s letter.

Editor-in-chief Pamela Fiori did some digging in the magazine’s archives, combing through T&C issues between 1930 and 1934 to see how the magazine for and about the affluent covered the Great Depression.

What did she find?

Nothing. Not a word. It was as if T&C had been on another planet, protected and vacuum sealed from the outside world. While day-to-day existence was grim for most Americans, life was happy and gay (in the old-fashioned sense) as ever—or so it seemed—for the readers of this magazine. There were no mentions of breadlines or eking it out on the dole. The only indication that there might have been something wrong were the pages upon pages of real estate offerings in the back of the book. Such isolationism is not possible in the 21st century.

Fiori promises T&C will “not hide or deny what are the realities of our time. And right now we are in for it.”

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