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Dylan Stableford

The Forbes Memo

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 11/18/2008-11:43 AM

Forbes Media has announced that it will combine its print and Web staffs—both sales and editorial—ending a longstanding split within the company.

Via ValleyWag, here’s the memo from chairman and CEO Steve Forbes detailing the “bold” moves:

From: Steve Forbes
Sent: Mon 11/17/2008 2:20 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: News

We want to let you know of a series of structural changes that will enable us not only to better weather the current economic storm, but to move ahead quickly and profitably when the global economies begin recovering. These moves will make our company highly competitive in an extremely tough environment.

One of the benefits of Forbes is precisely the ability to move nimbly and swiftly to respond to our clients and marketers in the way they want to do business. For these reasons we have decided to change the organization of our sales and marketing groups in the company. In making these decisions, we got enormous and valuable input from our own people, as well as the marketplace to best position Forbes Media.

Over the next few weeks, the sales and marketing groups of Forbes magazine and will be combined into three specific units under the Forbes Media umbrella. The purpose is to enable us to more sharply and effectively focus our resources and priorities in response to our audiences and marketing partners.

The first newly organized sales and marketing group is the Brand Intelligence Group. It will focus on the senior-most levels of our marketing partners. We will create consultative engagements with these executives to better connect our highly valuable audiences with our advertisers' core communication goals. This vital enterprise will be led by Kevin Gentzel, as President and Group Publisher of Forbes Media. Bruce Rogers, Chief Brand Officer, will lead the marketing and research arms of this effort. The Integrated Solutions Group, another newly aligned sales and marketing unit, will work to create integrated and custom solutions to access our unique audiences. These original programs will be cross-platform, content-based, with broad marketability. The Integrated Solutions Group will be led by Mike Woods, as President.

As always, the core of our client outreach will be our geographically dispersed sales teams. Now, though, we will organize these teams in regional business centers, that combine the talents of the Forbes and sales staff in the newly created Forbes Media Sales and Service Group. This initiative will position the Forbes brand as a true multi-media vehicle. The marketplace increasingly recognizes the necessity to utilize —precisely and efficiently — several platforms to achieve their objectives. The group will be led by Avery Stirratt and Robert Pietsch, who will serve as Co-Presidents and Chief Advertising Officers. Debbie Himmelfarb will serve as Vice President, Marketing to support this group's marketing programs.

The leaders of the newly established groups will report to The Office of the Chairman, which will consist of Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO of Forbes Media; Timothy Forbes, President and COO of Forbes Media; and Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO of

I want to thank the leadership of sales and marketing for their critical input in this valuable effort. We believe these bold moves will place us in a far stronger position to expand our historical lead in both print and on-line. In other areas of the company, the following changes will be implemented as well.

Conferences and events in the U.S. and Europe will now be part of sales and marketing programs.

Recently, the name of the overall brand of web properties and affiliated properties has changed to Forbes Digital. Included under the Forbes Digital umbrella are:;;;;; the Business and Finance Blog Network; and will be discontinued.

We are also strengthening and expanding the editorial integration at both Forbes and There has been a program to exchange talent between the web and the magazine in place for some time. These efforts have been successful, and we are in the midst of conversations to discuss ways to truly integrate the great talent in both organizations by sometime in early 2009.

Dylan Stableford

When Layoffs are Actually Good News

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/14/2008-12:36 PM

The mounting layoffs across the magazine industry have an inherent sadness attached to them. After all, these are actual people we’re talking about losing their jobs, not enigmatic, bloated, corporate cyborgs getting fat off the gristle (which is why I hate it when I read a report about layoffs which says something like “roughly 15” people were laid off—well, how many is “roughly 15” exactly?).

But occasionally layoffs are actually good news, specifically when they come from a magazine that roughly every single person I’ve talked to in the last two months thought was going to be shuttered: Entertainment Weekly.

Via the New York Observer:

Roughly 15 editorial staffers were laid off today, with potentially more coming. So far, no staff meeting has been convened, and staffers are being informed of the bad news on a case-by-case basis. … Update, 4:48 p.m.: A source tells us that there are now roughly 20-25 layoffs at EW.

Cutting 25 people at a single magazine, even at a behemoth like Time Inc., might seem like a lot. A "bloodbath" even. And it is. But at least they’re not folding the magazine, as some have speculated, back into People, or sending it into the ground.

Why the grim speculation? Simple: performance. Through September, EW is down 19 percent in ad pages—double the industry's 9.5 percent slide—according to the Publishers Information Bureau, and down 7 percent in single copy sales during the first half of 2008, according to ABC's Fas-Fax.

If EW can survive the layoffs after eking through the Writers Guild strike that ostensibly shut down L.A. last year, who knows? Maybe the magazine will emerge better than ever. It would be quite the Hollywood ending.

Dylan Stableford

What’s the Average Age of Seventeen’s Reader? Answer: 27*

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 11/14/2008-12:27 PM

* [EDITOR'S NOTE: See updates below ...]

While analyzing the results of Mediamark Research Inc.’s Fall 2008 survey, I came across a weird stat that has got to be troubling to the publishers of “teen” magazines and others catering to the youth demographic:

In terms of age reach, just seven magazines—Teen Vogue (at 25.8, not exactly teens), Seventeen (26.9, or 9.9 years older than the name implies), Vibe (28.6), Game Informer (27.2), Blender (27.7), Maxim (29.1) and OK! (29.3)—have readers with a median age under 30.

Putting aside the Vibes and Maxims and OKs for a second, let’s talk about the teen category. The average age of Teen Vogue and Seventeen readers is … 26?!?! To borrow a phrase from the teenaged vernacular, WTF?!?!

No wonder ElleGirl and CosmoGirl and Jane folded—they weren’t being read by the “girls” at all. They weren’t attracting the young audience they once had. Instead, they were being read by the young women who read them when they were legitimately “girls.”

Maybe they should change their name to Twentyseven.

UPDATE: Hearst, which publishes Seventeen, points out that the MRI survey targets adults (18+) and doesn't include magazine readers under 17. The most recent TeenMark study (measuring teens from 12-19), Hearst says, shows that Seventeen's median age reader is 16.2. I'm waiting for MRI to send over the combined average, and will update this post accordingly.

UPDATE #2: When combined with MRI's Teenmark study of readers 12 to 19, the median ages of the readers of the magazines above are as follows: Teen Vogue (18.4), Seventeen (20.6), Vibe (26), Game Informer (20.6), Blender (25.9) and Maxim (28).

It’s not just the “teen” category that is plagued with the aging reader. It’s the entire industry. Overall, the average age of a magazine reader was 45.1—up from 44.8 in 2007.

Dylan Stableford

Time Inc. Memos Offer Details on Layoffs

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/10/2008-14:44 PM

Details on those 600 or so layoffs Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore alluded to a couple weeks ago have emerged today in the form of magazine-specific memos inside the mega-publisher. Here, via Gawker and AllThingsD, are three. (If you have others please send to—anonymity guaranteed.)

Sports Illustrated wants 40 staffers to walk the plank:

For the reasons outlined in Ann Moore’s reorganization announcement of 10/28/08, the Sports Illustrated Group will reduce the size of its staff across all properties. At the magazine, we will reduce staff in the following guild-covered categories:

* copy editors
* photographers
* designers                       
* photo equipment technicians
* picture catalogers           
* picture researchers
* reporter-researchers       
* research assistants
* writer-editors                 
* writer-reporters

A number of jobs not covered by the guild will also be eliminated at the magazine and across the group.

Approximately 40 guild and non-guild volunteers are needed over the next two weeks to avoid involuntary job eliminations. If the number of volunteers falls short by Monday, December 1, involuntary layoffs will begin.

People wants 18 on the editorial side:

As part of a broad Time Inc. work force reduction, I regret to announce that People magazine will be making cuts in its editorial staff. We are looking for the volunteers to accept severance packages in the following Guild-covered job classifications:

* up to 6 reporter-researchers
* up to 4 Los Angeles-based staff members from among staff correspondents and writer-editors
* up to 4 New York-based staff members from among staff correspondents, writer-editors and writer-reporters
* up to 3 copy editors
* 1 research librarian

We are also looking for up to two Guild-covered volunteers each in the Art Department and photo department, and one in the News Bureau.

In addition to this call for Guild volunteers, non-Guild employees may inquire about the possibility of volunteering for a severance package.

I urge all those interested to contact People’s human resources representatives [redacted] for details regarding their particular package.

In addition to the above cuts, we are looking for savings from full-time staffers interested in working a four-day week (Tuesdays off) for commensurate salary. This call is voluntary, and final decisions will be made based on business needs and management discretion.

The call for volunteers expires on Dec 1. If necessary, after that we will follow the Guild contract procedure for conducting involuntary layoffs in Guild categories.

If you have any questions, please see me or your department heads.

Time needs 20:

Due to the corporate restructuring, we need to reduce approximately 20 staffers at TIME across the following guild-covered categories: edit traffic assistant, writer-editor, staff correspondent, writer-reporter, reporter-researcher, designer, research cataloger and research librarian.

Volunteers in these positions or any others can raise their hands any time in the next two weeks. If we do not have enough volunteers by Monday, November 24th, we will begin a process of involuntary layoffs.

According to ATD, Fortune is looking for about a dozen:

Unfortunately, we will need to reduce staff at Fortune in the writer-editor, writer-reporter, designer, editorial assistant and copy coordinator Guild categories, and we are asking for a number of volunteers to leave the company with a severance package. If you are interested in confidentially exploring this option, please contact Dawn Dunlop in HR at [redacted] or Edith Fried at [redacted] by Friday, November 21, 2008. If we do not have enough volunteers, we will need to begin a process of involuntary layoffs. For your reference, the Company’s severance formula is in the Guild contract and is also posted on Time Traveler.”

Dylan Stableford

Panic: When Will the Layoffs End?

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 11/06/2008-14:45 PM

The numbers are staggering: 22 at American Express Publishing; 30 at Southern Progress; 111 at Rodale; as many as 600 at Time Inc.; an unspecified number at Condé Nast, where a 5 percent across the board budget cut was implemented; and just yesterday more cuts were announced at Hearst.

It’s no longer just alarmists who are doing the panicking over the industry’s recent spate of layoffs. It’s everyone.

At a conference last week, Ann Moore, Time Inc.’s normally bullish CEO, was uncharacteristically reticent: “By October it was looking like 1931,” she said. “[Time Inc.] has never had so many advertising clients in trouble at the same time. The declines are stunning.”

As one senior staffer at a major consumer magazine told me at Radar’s Halloween party-turned-funeral in New York, “It’s like a perfect storm: hemorrhaging of print advertising, crashing stock prices and panicked CEOs.”

So the question on everyone’s minds in magazines these days is this: When will the panic—and layoffs—end?

Back in March, when FOLIO: published its annual magazine job report, Eliot Kaplan, editorial talent director at Hearst, said it’s a “great time to enter the industry,” as job descriptions broaden and employees gain marketable experience well beyond the printed page. But he admitted Hearst was “not adding a lot of bodies” and trying to achieve growth with existing staff. “We try to get fewer people touching the page without affecting the quality and making it as good as or better than ever,” Kaplan said.

Not surprisingly, virtually all of the executives at these companies and others contacted by FOLIO: this week refused to talk on the record about the layoffs or the associated panic within their organizations.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk.

So, let’s get this discussion started: When will the layoffs end? Add your thoughts in the comments section below. I’ll kick things off ...

Dylan Stableford

Why 'Falling Paper Prices' Isn’t as Good as it Sounds

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 11/06/2008-14:19 PM

Important quote from yesterday’s story on the price of paper reportedly peaking in October (emphasis, mine):

Magazine paper prices have risen about $230/ton—about 25 percent—in the past 18 months, [deputy editor of PPI Pulp & Paper Week Chris] Cook said, but he doesn’t expect them to fall that far “because producers will idle their machines rather than run at a loss.”

Here’s the rest of Cook’s analysis:

“Mills are already taking downtime to prevent price erosion but whether they can remove enough capacity quickly enough to keep prices firm is doubtful. When producers again match supply to demand the market will tighten and price hikes become possible, but for this to happen either we need an economic recovery which generates more paper demand through increased print advertising or producers will have to remove capacity.

It looks to me as if magazine publishers are in for a world of hurt next year with revenues pinched by the lack of advertising, circulation pressured by consumers' reduced discretionary spending and relatively high costs for paper and postage.”

In other words, paper prices are gonna fall, but that’s because there aren’t enough magazine ad pages to print or consumers to buy them.

Dylan Stableford

As U.S. News Goes Monthly, Will Time and Newsweek Eventually be Forced to Follow?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/06/2008-11:57 AM

The reports this week that U.S. News & World Report, a magazine once considered a distant third in the newsweekly category to Time and Newsweek, is again reducing its frequency weren’t surprising.

That the magazine—which had already announced it would go bimonthly in 2009, effectively ending its status as a newsweekly—would instead go monthly makes sense, given its intended shift in editorial direction away from news to what president Bill Holiber referred to this summer as a consumer guide of personal and “public service” journalism. As one commenter wrote, “biweekly is publishing no-man's land, let's see if they can effectively rebrand.” (Holiber didn’t return my phone calls or e-mails, and a spokesperson for U.S. News would not confirm or deny the frequency change, or even confirm its current frequency.)

But a frequency change and editorial Jedi mindshift don’t disguise its brutal advertising performance. Through September, ad pages for U.S. News were down 28.2 percent, the biggest decline in the category.

That the story was broken rather gleefully by the Washington Post—which owns Newsweek—wasn’t surprising, either. (Mmbers of this is a category love to trash talk each other.) But perhaps they should be keeping a closer eye on their own house before trumpeting the demise of others: last week, WaPo Co. reported third quarter net income of $10.3 million, down 85.6 percent compared to a $72.5 million income during the same period in 2007. And the troubles at Time Inc. are well documented.

Print advertising is in a precipitous decline for the consumer magazine industry; for newsweeklies, it’s particularly grim. With the exception of the Economist, ad pages are down significantly across the category. If things don’t get better, in a year we could be seeing all newsweeklies go the way of U.S. News.

Long, Slow Goodbye

U.S. NEWS848.651,181.89-28.2
THE WEEK381.62400.03-4.6


Dylan Stableford

115 Covers of the Campaign

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 11/04/2008-14:52 PM

After more than 20 months and a presidential campaign that seemed like it would never end, Election Day is finally here.

As you cast your ballot in this historic race today, FOLIO: would like to invite you to take a moment and look back at some of the race’s award-winning (New York’s “Fist Bump”), compelling (Time’s “Contender"), controversial (New Yorker’s “Fist Bump,” the Atlantic’s John McCain, Newsweek’s Sarah Palin closeup) and downright bizarre (the Progressive’s McCain-Obama make-out, right) magazine covers from the U.S. and abroad.

Click here for the slideshow …

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are four “fake” covers included among the 115 we chose for the slideshow. See if you can pick them out—in a race that, at times, became its own caricature, it’s tougher than you think.

Dylan Stableford

Drudge Reports 798 Million Page Views in October

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 11/04/2008-13:30 PM

Did your Web site have a good traffic month? Unfortunately, it's all relative, my friends.

Let's all take a moment to bow down to the king of intelligent, partisan, all-caps news aggregation:


To put this traffic in perspective, the 314 consumer magazine Web brands tracked by the Magazine Publishers of America averaged 69.7 million unique visitors per month during the second quarter—combined. Put it another way: in one month,  Drudge had more than twice the amount of visitors to his site than 314 consumer magazine brands put together.

Check out this related post by FOLIO: blog contributor Henry Donahue on strategies for boosting traffic—and for getting out of the magazine site ghetto ...

Dylan Stableford

Did Radar Deserve the Hype?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/30/2008-15:21 PM

Radar, which announced last week that it would shutter for the third time, is going ahead with its Halloween party tonight in New York—albeit one with a now-grimly ironic R.I.P. theme. (Say what you will about the magazine as a business, but Radar always knew how to throw a good party, an increasingly rare skill in magazineville these days.)

With all the relative hype and accompanying media press surrounding Radar’s latest demise (and good-bye party) it’s worth asking the question: Do they deserve it? Sure, their irreverent attitude when they arrived both recalled the late Spy magazine and mimicked the snarky tone of media-read blogs like Gawker (which took enormous pride in watching Maer Roshan’s magazine crash and burn the first couple times).

Bob Sacks, for one, never understood why:

I've often wondered why some titles get the media-about-media obsessive-compulsive spotlight of attention and others don't. Of why we cover some titles with such intense pleasure while other infinitely more worthy contenders can't get the time of day by their reporting brothers.

It's an odd formula of celebrity, insider snobbery, bad taste and damn poor reporting. There are much more meaningful titles that have recently gone out of business without the pandering and the stupid over-assessment and deep non-meaning of poor Radar's demise. Clearly nobody—not the advertisers nor the readers—cared. That this whole tragedy-comedy of the Radar title is emblematic of print media's future position in media's realignment into the 21st century is nothing more or less then some weird form of industry masturbation. We've got to stop it or we'll all go blind.

Why haven't we been following the more important stories of our day? The Christian Science Monitor reported today that it is suspending its print publication and going on-line. That is something worth covering.

The fact that since 1990 we have thousands more titles available at newsstands, but we've been stuck in a flat line of sales at a total of 366 million copies sold for 19 years.

The fact that in 1960 the newspaper penetration in this country was 1.1 copy per household and now is dropping to somewhere near .3 copies per household—now there is a story worth obsessing over.

The fact that the three crowned divas of publishing, Huffington, Fuller and Brown, are all now online—are we obsessing over that? No. Trust me, there is more meaning to these stories than there is to Radar's demise. Radar is just another magazine out of business. And like the Frito's chip advertising used to state: Don't worry, we'll just make more.
That Maer Roshan's dream magazine failed three times is and was meaningless, except perhaps to Roshan's mom and his many investors. To the rest of the world and the industry it is reflective of nothing more than our ability to lose tons of money …  repeatedly.

A few things I disagree with here.

“Clearly nobody—not the advertisers nor the readers—cared.”

I think the advertisers and readers did care about Radar. The problem was, not enough of them did.

The fact that the three crowned divas of publishing, Huffington, Fuller and Brown, are all now online—are we obsessing over that?

Not sure I’d call Arianna Huffington a crowned diva of publishing—and I have doubts about Bonnie Fuller’s vague Web business plan. But Tina Brown’s Daily Beast has been covered quite a bit by “media-about-media obsessives.” So has the Christian Science Monitor’s demise, although, since it’s a newspaper, FOLIO: passed on immediate coverage.

And I haven’t seen “this whole tragedy-comedy of the Radar title is emblematic of print media's future position in media's realignment into the 21st century” Sacks is talking about; if I do, though, I’d have to agree that it’s  “nothing more [than] some weird form of industry masturbation.”

But even Sacks would have to agree that there’s something fascinating about a magazine that, throughout its short-lived existence, managed to create disproportionate amount of buzz.

And if Radar’s “ability to lose tons of money …  repeatedly” means a free drink or two tonight, well, I’ll toast to that.

Dylan Stableford

Time Inc. CEO's Memo on Restructuring, Layoffs

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/28/2008-20:47 PM

RELATED STORY: Layoffs, Restructuring at Time Inc.

After weeks of speculation surrounding layoffs at Time Inc., CEO Ann Moore broke the news about the company's restructuring to her staff this afternoon.

Here's Moore's memo:

----- Original Message -----
From: Moore, Ann - Executive Administration
Sent: Tue Oct 28 18:00:37 2008
Subject: Staff Announcement

October 28, 2008
To: Time Inc. Employees
From: Ann Moore
Re: Staff Announcement

As all of you are aware, industry conditions have been challenging due to the financial crisis, which has produced sharp decreases in advertising spending. This is expected to continue through most of 2009.

It’s important that we at Time Inc. react quickly to this new reality in order to maintain our financial strength, build our market position, and sharpen our ability to bounce back at the first signs of economic recovery. All the while we must continue to give our readers and audience the high quality editorial products they have come to expect from our publications and websites.

This is a challenge, unlike any we’ve seen before. And after much careful study and consultation with many of you who run our businesses, I have concluded that it is no longer possible to operate our company with the same decentralized management structure that served us so well during our many years of sustained growth.

So, effective tomorrow, we are going to implement a much more centralized management structure, organized into three business units that will group together titles that share similar audiences, advertisers, and the talents and skills of their staffs.  The goal is to enable our company to move faster, go to market smarter, save significant costs, and employ our editorial resources more efficiently.

In broad strokes, here is how it will work:

Business Units. Time Inc.’s 24 U.S. magazines and companion web sites will be grouped into three business units, each reporting to a senior corporate executive. Each unit will have a similar structure that will include four key executives to direct the ad sales, digital business, financial and editorial efforts across that group. One of the most significant centralizing features of this new structure is that each of the three units will have one General Manager, responsible for all budgeting in the unit, who will report directly to Time Inc. EVP and CFO Howard Averill, with a dotted line to their respective senior operating executive.

The three Business Units will consist of:

* News: the existing print and digital properties in the TIME group, the Fortune|Money group, and the Sports Illustrated group, as well as and GEE. John Squires, EVP Time Inc. will manage the News Business Unit. 
* Style and Entertainment: the existing print and digital properties in the PEOPLE group, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly, and Essence. I will act as the EVP for this group so the Style and Entertainment Business Unit will report to me.
* Lifestyle: the existing print and digital properties of Real Simple, This Old House, All You, Southern Living, Cooking Light, Sunset, Health, Cottage Living, Coastal Living, and Southern Accents, along with and Sylvia Auton, EVP Time Inc. will manage the Lifestyle Business Unit, while also retaining responsibility for IPC Media.

Editorial. John Huey continues as Time Inc.’s Editor-in-Chief, overseeing the News Business Unit Managing Editors and Martha Nelson, the Managing Editor of the Style and Entertainment Business Unit.  In editorial alone we have seen three recent examples of how this sharing across titles can work to our benefit. During the summer Olympics, Sports Illustrated set up a system to supply with a fantastic array of photos from the games; in Europe and Asia, FORTUNE and TIME already are sharing correspondents; and, of course, the most visible example was the recent TIME cover story on the economy written by FORTUNE managing editor Andy Serwer and Allan Sloan. In the new structure we will see much more of this kind of cooperation.

Time Inc. Advertising Sales and Marketing. Given the difficult ad sales environment, it is critical that all of our brands work together to efficiently and effectively offer advertisers the solutions they need. For this reason, we are creating Time Inc. Advertising Sales and Marketing, a group that will be charged with setting and executing corporate ad sales strategy along with the ad sales head for each business unit.  Stephanie George will become President of Time Inc. Advertising Sales and Marketing and will remain a Time Inc. EVP. She will also remain on the Board of American Express Publishing.

Time Inc. Consumer Marketing and Sales. Consumer Marketing and Sales will be run by Brian Wolfe, who has been promoted to EVP and will report directly to me. All Consumer Marketing and Sales activities will be centralized under Brian. This department will be responsible for circulation net income across all U.S. Magazines, as well as Synapse, QSP, Time Warner Retail, Time Customer Service, and TW4, Time Inc.’s international fulfillment operation.

Everyone in the Consumer Marketing organization should be proud of their accomplishments in this difficult environment – some of our largest newsstand titles are having record years and we are seeing strong circulation net income results across the company. These organizational changes, along with the recent acquisition of QSP and the incorporation of Synapse into Time Inc. Consumer Marketing and Sales, will give Brian and his team the ability to continue this momentum by making the best decisions for the company as a whole, and making them quickly and definitively.

Finally, I'm pleased to announce the promotions of Kerry Bessey and Maurice Edelson to EVP, Time Inc.

Time Inc. Senior Management along with the Business Unit leaders are working on restructuring within each group, and will announce further changes in the coming weeks. While the broader economy and the advertising industry both continue to present challenges, I know we can weather this storm and emerge as an even stronger company when the economy begins to recover. We are still a very profitable company. Our cash flow is strong. We have made tremendous progress with our digital business.  Each month, more than 26 million people visit Time Inc. websites. We know our consumers continue to value our magazines and websites.  We have the top brands in all the categories where we publish and we're finding exciting new ways to expand our titles beyond the printed page and the web.  The importance of fact-based journalism has never been clearer given the many serious issues facing the world and our core competency, trusted editing skills, has never been more needed than in this time of too much information.

I'd like to thank you all for your continued hard work.


Dylan Stableford

Who Was Responsible for Latest ‘Black Friday’?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/27/2008-14:33 PM

It was a rough Friday for a pair of high-profile (if quirky) consumer magazines. Radar, Maer Roshan’s irreverent, Spy-baiting magazine folded for the third time. A few hours later, 02138—the “Harvard lifestyle” title acquired in May by Manhattan Media, a publisher with big plans for relaunching it and rolling out a series of similar magazines—folded, too.

Searching for the common denominator to the latest iteration of “Black Friday”? I mean, aside from the volatile economy? You could do a lot worse than Ron Burkle [above, right] the elusive billionaire head of Yucaipa Cos., owner of Source Interlink, pal to former president Bill Clinton and supermarket magnate.

Burkle, who owns Source Interlink, the magazine distribution company and owner of Primedia’s remaining portfolio, was rumored to have a strong interest in acquiring American Media Inc., publisher of such supermarket friendly titles as Star and the National Enquirer—so much so that it was said to be a “done deal” at the beginning of 2008. But the sale fizzled, and AMI was pulled off the block, at least publicly.

Burkle, who was vaulted into the tabloid media spotlight for his role in a New York Post payola scandal, was also known to be a silent investor in Radar, which despite folding its print product, was able to salvage its Web site for AMI to buy.
What’s that? Burkle’s too much an enigma to have orchestrated this triangulated deal? Like the Atlantic, I would ask you to Think. Again.

Burkle, of course, had nothing to do with the demise of 02138. But there is one figure associated with both Radar and 02138: Luke Hayman. The Pentagram partner and renowned magazine designer redesigned Radar (Roshan had retained Hayman as a design consultant) and had just completed a redesign of 02138—which I called the “most expensive regional relaunch in the history of magazines.”

Design, of course, had little or nothing to do with the failure of these magazines. Then again, Hayman’s not cheap, and his redesigns were never going to be able to save either magazine.

NOTE: Click here to watch a recent video interview we did with Hayman…