Jason McCabe Calacanis, publisher of the soon-to-launch Venture Reporter, isn’t going for the gold. He just wants to stay in the game.
"The goal today is to survive," Calacanis said. "Anyone who makes it through this time will have strong brands in the media space."
Even in the best of times, launching a new magzine can be a bear. Add today’s economic uncertainty to rising production costs and falling ad budgets, and the result is a media landscape littered with shuttered publications. Some of these include Brill’s Content, The
Industry Standard and Tele.com. Other trade titles, such as Red Herring, have dialed back their frequencies in order to survive the tough times.
Yet Calacanis and a handful of other business publishers are unbowed, convinced that their new magazines will be highly scalable products that respond to a real reader need and provide a marketing vehicle for advertisers targeting a specific niche.
"Remember, Business Week launched in 1929, and Fortune launched in 1932 at the height of the Depression," said Joel Novak, managing director of the media investment banking firm Veronis Suhler & Associates L.L.C.
"It’s easy to be the salmon swimming with the current," he said. "But just because you’re not swimming with the current
doesn’t mean [the magazine] is going to fail."
Calacanis relishes the role of iconoclast."Now is the best time to launch, when nobody else is doing it,"
Calacanis said. "Any downturn is a precursor to a turnaround."
He’s preparing for the December launch of Rising Tide Studios’ Venture Reporter, using a $3 million line of credit. The 50,000-circulation bimonthly has been morphed from Silicon Alley Reporter, which Calacanis folded in September because the dot-com meltdown left little audience for the publication.
Venture Reporter, which will be priced at $16.95 an issue, will cover such venture capital topics as management teams, what the products VCs are investing in have to offer and who the competition is. About two-thirds of the readership will come from venture-backed companies, Calacanis said. Among the other expected subscribers are recruiters, accountants and attorneys. The initial ad-edit ratio will be 40-60, with maiden advertisers including Andersen, Microsoft Corp. and Mercedes-Benz.
"I’ve always believed in Jason, his products and what he has to
offer," Susan Hoffberg, director of business development for Andersen, said of Calacanis. The consulting firm is slated to run four- to six-page advertorials in all six issues of Venture Reporter in 2002. "It’s an opportunity to show our expertise to people in the VC market, be they venture capitalists or companies looking for venture capital. We’re behind it because it carries the concept of ‘follow the money.’"
Said Calacanis:"If you take out 2000, it [VC] is still a robust market. If I can’t make a magazine work with $35 billion a year in venture capital going through 4,000 companies, then I deserve to fail."
Going against the tide
It’s not just young entrepreneurs like Calacanis who are testing the market.
Bucking the downward trend in tech publishing, CMP Media L.L.C. this week launches Optimize, a 70,000-circulation monthly aimed at C-level business technology executives. The genesis for the magazine came from readers of CMP’s Information Week, who cited the need to familiarize themselves with conventional business thinking. Optimize targets CIOs, chief technology officers and corporate managers involved in technology, who are starting to move from the conference table to the mahogany table.
"We need to help these people understand the processes that will help them become leaders of their organizations," said Scott Vaughan, publisher of Optimize. He said advertisers will include software and business infrastructure companies, with initial buys by IBM Corp., Compaq Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., SAP and
Veritas Software Corp.
TechTarget.com Inc. is also going against the tide with its planned March 2002 launch of Storage. The 50,000-circulation monthly will provide storage executives with news and analysis on managing, storing, networking and safeguarding the data stored by large companies, issues that have moved front and center throughout corporate America in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The [terrorist attacks] have put the urgency of disaster recovery to the front of mind, and I think that will be a driving factor in the publication," said Cynthia Martin, senior director-corporate marketing for Mountainview, Calif.-based Veritas Software Corp., which has bought the publication’s back page throughout 2002. "It’s targeting the kind of people who we talk to on a regular basis."
Greg Strakosch, CEO of TechTarget, said:"Tech advertisers have money to spend but not to waste. There’s a lot less focus on branding and more on lead generation and revenue."
Storage accounts for 50% of the average company’s IT budget, and that figure is expected to grow. "There’s nothing that a business now does that doesn’t generate more data," said Mark Schlack, editor in chief of Storage. "The bottom line for many companies is storage."
Roland DeSilva, managing partner in the media investment banking firm DeSilva & Phillips, said that in the current climate publishers intent on launching a new magazine have to constantly make sure their business plan is sound.
"There needs to be a high level of assurance that the ad revenue is there and that there is a real reader need for the product," he said.