In many ways, Radar had it all -- a brilliant editor and a sharp staff, financial backing from heavyweights Mort Zuckerman and Jeffrey Epstein, covers by George Lois, a Web site that smart competitors should envy and rapidly improving ad sales going into issue four.
But by last night, when Mr. Zuckerman said continued publishing was unfeasible, the forces pushing Radar off course were clear enough to see. Call them Radar’s Bermuda Triangle.
At the tip of the Triangle sat Radar’s irreverent focus on media, pop culture, style and, of course, scandal. That drew plenty of readers but also placed it squarely in competition with rapid-fire outlets like Gawker.com and even celebrity weeklies. (Gawker, despite its regular, harsh disparagement of the title, also frequently linked to news items generated by Radar.) It may be that magazines covering such contested grounds need to publish on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Radar’s nonconformity comprised the second corner of the Triangle. Among the general-interest titles from which advertisers and readers needed to be drawn, Radar was hard to classify. It certainly wasn’t Vanity Fair. However much we claim to appreciate innovation, advertisers and readers often turn first to quantities they know best.
And there was the uncertainty facing magazines in 2006, a condition Mr. Zuckerman referred to as “the current economic environment.” That not only clouded the forecast for Radar, but for another Zuckerman property now making hard decisions, U.S. News & World Report. It is easy to see how the vague revenue picture sapped Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Epstein’s appetite for supporting a start-up.
But Radar may find its way yet. The statement from Maer Roshan, editor in chief, noted accurately that the magazine has already built brand recognition and credibility that takes many titles years to acquire. “We are currently engaged in productive discussions,” he added, “with a number of new investors and I look forward to continuing operations in the near future.”
Then again, given the fact that this is Roshan’s third or fourth go-round to find investors, maybe he should just settle for producing Radar as a Web site. After all, most of its buzz came from stories it broke online first, and it would greatly reduce his need for a large chunk of backing if he dispenses with paper and paying for press time.