Now comes the hard part.
“I do not think there is much of a future [for E&P],” said one industry observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity and cited the lack of advertisers seeking to reach the struggling newspaper industry, which the publication has covered for 126 years.
In 2009, E&P had 157.62 print advertising pages, a decline of 54.1% compared with 2008, according to IMS data. Even by the standards of the b-to-b publishing industry, which saw an across-the-board 30% decline in print ad pages for most of 2009, E&P posted an exceptionally poor performance last year.
Additionally, between 2005, when it had 561.93 ad pages, and 2009, E&P saw 72% of its ad pages evaporate. For Nielsen Co., parent company of Nielsen Business Media, those numbers provided enough reason to give up on the property.
But Duncan McIntosh, owner of the Irvine, Calif., company that bears his name and publishes Boating World and a handful of other titles, sees potential in E&P. He has an emotional tie to the publication, which he began reading in the late 1970s, around the time he acquired his first newspaper.
In these tough times for newspapers, he believes E&P content is more important than ever. “It should be a survival guide for the industry,” he said.
Industry observers say McIntosh likely paid a fire-sale price for the publication. McIntosh himself said he wrote a check for the title.
A small company's threshold of success is much lower—and perhaps more attainable—than a large company's. McIntosh said. “There might be more people working there [at Nielsen] than the city where I live,” McIntosh said.
He has already cut costs, letting two editors go. “They have a big payroll. All of them are making more than anybody we have here,” he said.
McIntosh named Mark Fitzgerald, who had been editor at large, as the new editor in chief. He said he liked Fitzgerald's familiarity with the Latin American newspaper market and sees possibilities in expanding outside the U.S.
McIntosh said profitability may take “until 2011” to materialize. “It's a little early,” he said.
Rick Edmonds, business media analyst for the Poynter Institute, said there may be some good news for the newspaper industry and for E&P as well. He said some industry observers are seeing an uptick in newspaper stocks based on an anticipated recovery in some sectors of the economy that have traditionally advertised in newspapers. But, he cautioned, “Not everybody thinks that.”