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Publishers bravely venture into tech

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On Nov. 1, The Deal LLC launched a preview issue of Tech Confidential, a magazine that will cover the nexus of technology and finance. The appearance of this new tech publication came on the heels of the relaunch of Red Herring in October by Alex Vieux, owner of Dasar, a French technology and media company.

The question must be asked: What were they thinking?

"I'm surprised that someone would relaunch this title," Seth Alpert, managing director at media investment bank AdMedia Partners, said of Red Herring. "The technology business is coming back, and technology investment is coming back. That is the core of what these guys are up to, but whether that will support a publication is not at all obvious to me."

Tech ad pages decline

It's not hard to make the case that now is a difficult time to launch technology magazines. Even though b-to-b advertising pages as a whole crept upward by 3.7% in August compared with August 2003, technology pages continued their decline. Software ad pages fell 12.1%, and computer ad pages declined 9.3%.

Other tech media are also suffering. Two trade shows, Comdex and Business4Site, were "postponed," and CMP Media confirmed that TECHXNY would not return in 2005.

Despite the overall decline in tech ad pages, Tech Confidential and Red Herring are attempting to make the case that there is a demand in the market for this kind of publication.

"There really has been an absence of publications devoted to the technology space since the demise of Upside and The Industry Standard, and a nearly two-year absence of Red Herring," said Cheryl Dickerson, a managing director at Jefferies, an investment bank that placed an ad in the preview issues of both Tech Confidential and the relaunched Red Herring. "We're looking for a magazine that is more about business strategy and business development, and about the business and finance of the technology industry."

The Deal LLC described Tech Confidential as a magazine "covering the business and finance of technology and the life sciences." The 32-page preview edition was bound into The Deal's Nov. 1 issue.

Beginning in May 2005, Tech Confidential will be published every other month and will be poly-bagged with The Deal to reach 25,000 executives. Advertisers in the first issue included SAP and Siebel Systems.

"We saw a void in the market about the relationship between the business and financing of technology, and we thought we could fill that void," said Kevin Worth, president-CEO of The Deal LLC.

Red Herring's preview issue- which featured a cover screaming in large type, "We're back!"-also has some heavy-hitting advertisers, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. After ceasing publication in 2003, Red Herring returned to the Web several months later. The relaunched print publication will appear every other week until January, when it will become a weekly, according to Editor in Chief Joel Dreyfuss.

This latest incarnation of Red Herring is backed by Dasar's Vieux. In the "Publisher's Note" in the preview issue, he expressed optimism that venture capital was returning to technology around the world in "Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Shanghai and Helsinki."

Designed to Limit risk

Red Herring and Tech Confidential are being published on a much smaller scale than The Industry Standard and its ilk, circa 2000. While the dot-com bubble enticed those publications to bulk up on staff and sink money into real estate, Tech Confidential and the new Red Herring are lean magazines that have been designed with an eye toward limiting risk.

Tech Confidential has a limited frequency and piggybacks on The Deal's subscriber list. As for Red Herring, it doesn't have the large editorial staff of its predecessor. It goes out to 25,000 readers, and the company hopes to raise that to 50,000 by the end of the first 12 months. At its zenith in 2000, Red Herring had a circulation of more than 300,000.

"There was not anything wrong with [Red Herring], it just got over-extended in the bubble like everyone else did," Dreyfuss said.

Jeff Dearth, partner at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, said Red Herring and Tech Confidential may have hit upon a resurgence in the market. "There's money going into and being invested in high-tech information and technology-related companies," he said. "Convergence is coming back with a vengeance." 

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