The recent news that the largest city and regional magazine ownership group in the country may no longer exist (at least in its current configuration) was a wakeup call of confusion and angst amongst many of us in the regional magazine industry.
Emmis Communications announced last Thursday, in a letter to employees, the decision to take the publicly traded company private, reduce debt and sell off “most" of its publishing assets. In making the announcement, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “I believe in the content of radio and magazines, but investors do not."
In 1998, when I was a neophyte publisher (and a refugee from the newspaper business), there was a Mount Rushmore-type panel of industry thought leaders at our annual convention. It featured my friend Ken Neill from Memphis magazine (Contemporary Media); the late Milt Jones, my mentor and the publisher at Palm Springs Life; and the founder of Texas Monthly, Mike Levy, who had announced its sale to Emmis just days before.
When asked how much longer city and regional magazines could expect to “survive the imminent death of print,” Levy responded, “maybe five years, maybe less.”
Emmis Communications employs some of the best and brightest in our business. Full disclosure, many are professional friends and colleagues who — when corporate governance of a publicly traded company allowed — shared professional insights and readily provided valued assistance.
Many in the regional magazine business are, like me, entrepreneurs — in it not for the vast promises of treasure but for the brand, the commitment to celebrate a sense of place, to provide a look more deeper and thought provoking than what traditional media allows.
The fact that investors do not see the value in some media is, in my opinion, the tragic flaw in the recent evolution of the Fourth Estate and it’s required financial genuflect to Wall Street — a sad commentary on journalism, communications, and the media.
I, for one, believed in the medium of city and regional magazines seven years ago, and have spent the past twenty promoting that fervor. Good luck to my Emmis friends and colleagues.
We have a great history, track record and future. I know many of you will be a part of it.