New owners aim to revive defunct media properties

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They're still alive.

Several b-to-b media properties declared dead by their former owners are being resurrected by others, who see an opportunity to position them to grow as the economy rebounds.

Cases in point:

  • Thomas Publishing Co. announced in April it was shuttering the U.S. edition of Industrial Equipment News, a 76-year-old product tabloid, with the May issue. A few weeks later, three former employees said they planned to relaunch IEN in September.
  • Conde Nast, a unit of Advance Publications, in April shut down the print version of Portfolio, its mainstream business magazine. A few weeks later it was announced that the Web site would continue as a part of American City Business Journals, another Advance unit.
  • Crain Communications Inc., the parent company of Media Business, closed RCR Wireless, both in print and online, earlier this year. Another company, Arden Media, announced in May that it is now operating the RCR Wireless Web site.

“I think it's a positive thing, because perhaps part of the reason for shutting down these publications is a function of large company expense, overhead,” said Mike Parker, managing director of media investment bank AdMedia Partners. “There are some entrepreneurial guys looking at this and saying, "We can produce the same thing for far less money.'”

In its statement confirming the closure of IEN, Thomas Publishing blamed the move on “current economic conditions.”

The three partners who are reviving IEN—Todd Baker, Thomas Publishing's former director of product news development; Ciro Buttacavoli, former IEN publisher; and Cal Calhoun, former IEN independent rep—believe the lower overhead in their new venture will help profits. "Large publishing companies can't shed their fixed costs fast enough," Baker said. "What they would love to do is get rid of the furniture and all of the other legacy costs."

Baker also said that he and his partners, who have licensed the IEN brand from Thomas Publishing, will trim costs by publishing the print magazine at the reduced frequency of six times annually. Additionally, they aim to boost revenue by revamping the IEN Web site.

Baker said the Web site had flourished in the past year and a half at Thomas Publishing. “We had growth of about 600% in traffic ... and we more than doubled revenue online,” Baker said. But the print version of IEN had lost pages, and Penton Media's New Equipment Digest is viewed as holding the No. 1 position in the marketplace.

With Portfolio, the print magazine isn't being revived, just the Web site. Portfolio, which was launched in 2007, saw its print ad pages plunge more than 60% in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2008. Conde Nast said was drawing as many as 2.8 million unique monthly visitors.

American City Business Journals' is overseeing both the editorial and business sides of the site, which has access to content created by more than 600 American City Business Journal editorial staffers around the country.

The revival of RCR Wireless also does not extend to the print magazine. The Web site had 100,000 unique monthly visitors, compared with the magazine's 50,000 print subscribers. In May, Crain Communications announced that it had sold the rights to the RCR Wireless News name and Web site to Arden Media, which also owns, Tech&Jobs Expo, Tech&Jobs Magazine and

Reed Phillips, co-managing partner of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, is encouraged by the revival of these brands. “In times like these, there are going to be opportunities like that,” he said. “There are going to be people who think they can rebuild a business and come out of the recession in good shape with it. I think you're going to see more things like this.”

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