I.D. Magazine had netted five National Magazine Awards since 1995, including three wins for general excellence, as it covered the art, business and culture of design, a subject with growing appeal.
But I.D., a small bimonthly, still faced the same forces that had already knocked far larger titles from print. The downturn in print advertising, the increasingly specialized information needs of I.D.'s core readership among product designers, and the proliferation of other resources all worked against I.D.'s sustainability, according to Gary Lynch, publisher and editorial director of the F&W Media Design Community.
F&W said it will continue to produce the I.D. Annual Design Review, an international design competition.
National Geographic Adventure had amassed half a million paying readers and collected four National Magazine Awards, including one for general excellence in 2002, since its debut as a quarterly in 1999. But the brutal economic climate and the changing contours of the media business conspired against it in 2009. Its ad pages fell 35% in 2009, a year when monthlies as a whole fell 21%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter.
After exploring a sale of the title, National Geographic wound up deciding to pull it from print, where it had already reduced the annual frequency to eight issues from 10 last year, and continue the National Geographic Adventure brand online and in other media, including newsstand editions, books, e-magazines and mobile applications. The editor in chief since its introduction, John Rasmus, and 16 other employees are losing their jobs as a result.
"We're tremendously proud of what John Rasmus and his team have accomplished over the last 10 years," said John Q. Griffin, exec VP and president of publishing at the National Geographic Society, as he announced Adventure's exit from print. "They have consistently delivered award winning editorial to an enthusiastic audience of readers and advertisers. But given the current advertising environment and the opportunities we see in emerging digital platforms, we think the time is right to transition the Adventure brand."
Radio One, a big radio broadcaster focused on African Americans, bought Giant Magazine in 2007, shortly after the lifestyle and entertainment title also started focusing on African Americans in particular. But Radio One never sounded too committed to the print edition.
"We didn't pay much for Giant, $270,000, so really the big thing for us is the losses that we incur on it," president-CEO Alfred Liggins said during an earnings call in February 2008. "But we bought Giant really sort of as the editorial platform for what we're going to do online."
By November 2009, Radio One decided to bet exclusively on the online play, rebranded GiantLife, and suspended the print edition, which had a guaranteed paid circulation of 250,000. "Over the past three years, the print version of Giant magazine has grown in advertiser support and fostered a loyal following among readers both online and off," said Tom Newman, president of Interactive One, the digital division of Radio One. "The economic downturn has had a tremendous impact on print media, and we had to make the decision to suspend printing the publication. Additionally, we recognize the increase in demand for real-time information and see this as an opportunity to leverage our existing robust online platform to better serve Giant consumers and advertisers through our interactive medium."
Metropolitan Home had lived through a lot, starting with its origins in 1969 as a special interest publication called Apartment Ideas and then as a regular magazine called Apartment Living, both aimed at the Woodstock generation. "Apartment Life profiled bearded men in dashikis playing the flute while building bookcases and sensitive-looking couples eating quiche together in bed," The New York Times recalled in a 1993 piece on shelter magazines.
Meredith renamed it Metropolitan Home in 1981 as part of an effort to grow up with Boomers, or at least any Boomers who cared about design. Hachette Filipacchi bought Met Home in 1992, making it a sibling of Elle Decor, a title with which it had been competing.
But the 2008 recession and collapse in the housing market both hurt shelter titles' ad revenue and made publishers wonder whether two magazines in a category were too many. Hachette eventually closed Met Home, saying Elle Decor would be its focus in the shelter category.
Conde Nast's decision to shut down the venerable Gourmet, the first of its crown jewels to meet the axe, probably did more than any previous shutdown to give the general public the sense that magazines are in peril. In reality, magazines aren't endangered so much as they are contracting. And Conde Nast's continued reliance on ad pages, the part of magazines' business contracting the most, meant it had to make hard choices as the economic slowdown. In the epicurean category, it chose Bon Appetit over Gourmet, much as it simultaneously culled its bridal titles by closing Elegant Bride and Modern Bride to focus on Brides.
All the same, closing Gourmet shocked many people. "It's a real center of gravity that vaporized," said Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and host of "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. "I understand the bottom line; we all do. But I'm really surprised that Conde Nast would jab itself in the eye like this."
At the same time that Conde closed Gourmet and two bridal titles, it shut down Cookie, the monthly parenting magazine it introduced four years earlier for moms with disposable income and an interest in style. The parenting category was never underserved, of course, so recession and changes in media only added to a challenge that existed from the start. Cookie joined a parade of Conde launches that fell since 2000, including Cargo, Men's Vogue and Conde Nast Portfolio.
Home magazines continue to suffer amid the recession and real estate collapse. Southern Accents became the latest victim on Aug. 6, when Time Inc. said it would close the 32-year-old print edition, published six times a year, after the September/October issue. The website at SouthernAccents.com will continue.
Approximately 20 of the 29 employees at Southern Accents will lose their jobs, the company said. The Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital Group will handle SouthernAccents.com along with other brands, as the group has already been doing.
Ad pages in Southern Accents fell 37.4% in the first half, compared with the first half of 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Magazines as a whole, by comparison, saw ad pages slide 27.9%. Southern Accents reported paid and verified circulation averaging 405,635 in its most recent report, down nearly 1% from the period a year earlier as newsstand sales dropped 11% and subscriptions fell 5%, but its use of free public place copies surged.
"Southern Accents is an elegant, sophisticated brand that has resonated with its devoted readers for many years," said Sylvia Auton, a Time Inc. VP who oversees its lifestyle group. "However, in this difficult economy, we need to focus our energy, resources and investment on our biggest and most profitable brands, so we had to make this difficult decision."
Vibe was no sure thing when it first appeared in 1992. "Convinced that hip-hop music is giving rise to the same kind of pervasive culture that rock-and-roll did a generation ago," The New York Times reported that September, "Time Warner Inc. and the musician Quincy Jones are starting a funky new magazine called Vibe."
That "funky new magazine" took off as hip-hop proved its founders right, particularly in the 1990s. The bottom line, however, was less reliable. Time Inc. sold Vibe in 1996; the buyers sold Vibe again 10 years later. Last February the latest owners, Wicks Group, cut circulation by a quarter, dropped two issues from the schedule and put the staff on a four-day work week -- with commensurate 10% to 15% pay cuts. About four months later, nonetheless, Wicks shut Vibe down entirely, as AOL's Daily Finance blog reported June 30.
The recession explains a good deal of Vibe's fatal troubles, but not all of them. Other factors likely include growing music coverage online and struggles within the music industry itself. Vibe's ad pages from January through June plunged 39.2%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter, a bigger decline than monthlies' average 22.8% drop. Vibe's paid and verified circulation averaged 817,825 over the second half of last year, down 8.6% from the half a year before, as a big expansion in free copies to doctor's offices and hair salons was overcome by big drops in subscriptions and newsstand sales, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Add Nickelodeon to the list of family-oriented cable networks like Hallmark Channel and Disney who closed a magazine in 2009. The Viacom kids brand announced it will cease publication of 16-year-old Nickelodeon Magazine, as well as Nick Jr. Magazine and Nickelodeon Comics, at the end of 2009. The magazine group included some 30 employees. "While some staff members will stay on through the end of the year to finish publication of the final issues, the remaining staff regrettably will be let go," the company said in a statement.
2008 was a rough year for the kids title, with total qualified circulation down from 1,101,866 in December 2007 to 748,159, according to BPA Worldwide. Ad pages in Nickelodeon also fell 26.9% in 2008, a year when magazines overall saw ad pages fall 11.7%, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami said in a company memo, "From the onset, Nick Magazine set out to be a publication for all kids and to be inclusive of everything that they were interested in, with an irreverent attitude and humorous voice that was totally unique. It pioneered the children's magazine category, and continued to be a leader as the group grew to include Nick Jr. Magazine and Nickelodeon Comics.
"But as I am sure everyone knows, the magazine publishing industry as a whole is severely challenged, and because of that we have decided to exit the magazine business and will cease publishing them by the end of this year. This was a very difficult decision, given the amazing work that the magazine staff has turned out issue after issue and year after year."
The magazine's debut issue, over 600 days in gestation, exemplified the new tone Portfolio strove to adopt, weaving business coverage (and ads) with fashion and lifestyle content (and ads). A two-page spread on a diamond company CEO pictured her posing in a strapless emerald silk chiffon gown, complete with fashion credits. Cover stories included "The New Masters of the Universe" by Tom Wolfe and "A Tiger Woods I.P.O?" by Michael Lewis.
But its tone, not to mention its massive overhead, lost some of its appeal as the global economy convulsed and shrank in 2008 and 2009. Advertisers cut all but their most important magazines. Portfolio's ad pages from January through the April issue fell 61% from the period a year earlier, which included one more issue, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Most magazines suffered but not nearly that much: Ad pages for monthlies fell 22% from January through April.
"Even if the economy starts to recover, it's likely the advertising is going to lag it," said David Carey, the group president and publishing director, on the day the magazine closed. "The gap between where we needed the business to be in 2010 and 2011 proved to be too large."
The shutdown eliminated more than 85 jobs (although Portfolio at one point employed as many as 140), including those of editor in chief Joanne Lipman and publisher William Li.
Blender, the music magazine founded by Felix Dennis, acquired plenty of fans along its way, including 768,000 paid subscribers toward the end of its run. But ad revenue fell far short. Ad pages at Blender sank 31% last year and plummeted another 57% from January through April of 2009, according to the Publishers Information Bureau and the Media Industry Newsletter. Monthlies as a whole, by comparison, sank 12% last year and another 22% through April.
For all its readers, circulation wasn't headed the right way either. Alpha had pushed its paid circulation guarantee to 1 million copies an issue from 800,000. But copies distributed to public places like waiting rooms grew the fastest, from 13,000 copies in the second half of 2007 to 100,000 a year later, according to company reports with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Paid subscriptions fell 8% while newsstand sales declined 18%. The web site, Blender.com, will continue.
The title's shutdown, announced by the company with "great sadness," cost the magazine business another 30 jobs.
Best Life had lived on the bubble since its expansion from a newsstand-only quarterly in 2004, each year a referendum on whether it would see another, but Rodale's entry into men's lifestyle finally met its end in March 2009. The May issue will be its last. The web site will go dark as well.
Best Life reported average paid circulation of 526,276 over the second half of last year, up 6.1% from the second half a year earlier. And the young title's ad pages were still growing, expanding 6.6% in 2008, the Publishers Information Bureau said. But the pressure on its advertisers, who are responding to recession by concentrating ad spending in a few top magazines, evidently proved too much. Ad pages fell 36.3% in the first quarter alone, according to the Media Industry Newsletter.
Rodale said it expects to find new positions for about a quarter of Best Life's 40-plus employees, including VP-publisher Michael Wolfe and editor in chief Stephen Perrine.
American Express Publishing decided to take Travel & Leisure Golf out of print after 11 years, making the March/April issue the last.
Ad pages at Travel & Leisure Golf had sunk 13.9% in 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. It reported average paid circulation of 194,047 over the second half of 2008, 32% lower than the 286,053 paid circulation it reported for the second half of 2007, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations and BPA Worldwide. Including free copies distributed to public places like doctor's offices, the title reported average overall circulation of 637,048 over the second half of last year, according to BPA.
The print edition will be survived by an affinity membership club called Travel & Leisure Golf Players Club and possibly other elements. The company said it is considering its options with the website and events program.
Hallmark Cards got its magazine going just as major publishers were beginning to thin their portfolios in earnest, prompting concern from media buyers who considered the women's magazine category pretty well covered already. But Hallmark bet that its brand and retail distribution system would give it an advantage.
And the title, indeed, grew from a paid circulation guarantee of 400,000 to a guarantee of 800,000. It was still growing in 2008, posting an 11% gain in ad pages during a downturn that hurt the vast majority of titles. But it was not enough -- particularly not, the company said, given the "trends facing the magazine publishing industry as a whole."
"Despite favorable consumer acceptance of the publication, we can not justify continued investment in the magazine at a time when we must focus our efforts and resources only on those projects that will lead to long-term profitable revenue growth for the company," President-CEO Donald J. Hall Jr. said in a statement.
The magazine, which published six issues a year, employed 28 people; its shutdown also eliminates 10 related jobs in the parent company's creative division. Its website will also shut down.
Conde Nast decided to shut down Domino magazine and its website only two weeks after naming one of its senior executives to shepherd the title through the recession. The magazine, which was introduced in April 2005, hadn't run out of launch runway. But the weather was getting worse. "The economy is bad," an insider explained. "It's not getting better. We're on the wrong side of the balance sheet."
Ad Age named Domino a launch of the year in 2006. Its ad pages fell only 4.5% in 2008, a decent performance in a year when monthlies on the whole dropped 9.4%. But home magazines have been bloodied by the implosion in the housing market.
"Although readership and advertising response was encouraging in the early years," Conde Nast President-CEO Charles Townsend said upon closing the title, "we have concluded that this economic market will not support our business expectations."
As recently as the millennium, Teen magazine was publishing 12 issues a year and maintaining paid circulation above 2 million. By 2008, it was publishing quarterly and selling just 200,000 copies. Meanwhile Hearst Magazines decided to concentrate on Seventeen alone, so it shut down CosmoGirl in 2008 -- and announced Teen's demise in 2009. The brand will continue in print only as a prom annual. Earlier shutdowns among teen or young-women's titles include Hachette's Elle Girl, Time Inc.'s Teen People and Conde Nast's Jane.
Disney axed Wondertime magazine, the 3-year-old parenting title, after its March issue because of tough economic conditions, the company said. The website will go dark too, although some Wondertime blogs and community areas will head to other Disney sites such as FamilyFun.com.
Unlike most of the magazines getting yanked from print these days, Wondertime was still growing. Its ad pages expanded 20% in 2008, a worse year for ad-page sales than even the disastrous 2001, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. But its ad pages were still small in number -- and 2009 threatened to severely slow their growth rate. Wondertime reported average paid and verified circulation just below 400,000 copies in the first half of 2008, the most recent six-month period available.
Plenty appeared at just the right moment to capitalize on new interest in green living, but just the wrong time to introduce a new magazine. Instead of publishing "green issues" on glossy virgin stock every spring, its pages used 85% to 100% recycled paper every issue. It won shelf space from Hudson News to Whole Foods. Plenty's media kit for 2009, prepared before the end arrived, promised paid circulation of 200,000 six times a year. The economic meltdown, though, meant Plenty would need new financing to continue -- and made new funds impossible to secure. The carbon-neutral website is getting axed along with the print edition.
Ziff Davis bought this magazine in 1996, when its paid circulation hadn't yet topped 400,000 but the promise of the growth in video games made its future look attractive. And it was, for a time. Average paid circulation topped 600,000 in 2005 and stayed there since. But online game coverage undermined the print version. After its final print issue, EGM will continue as an area on the 1UP Network, which Ziff Davis sold to Hearst's UGO Entertainment in early January.
Country Home's paid and verified circulation had held steady at nearly 1.3 million copies, an impressive level that once attracted advertisers, but the meltdown in the housing markets simply savaged its ad-page sales. Ad pages in 2008 fell a full 25% from 2007, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. So Meredith shut it down, laying off its 40 employees as part of a larger round of cuts totaling 250. The website will go dark when the print edition shuts down after its March issue.
Even shiny city magazines tailored and targeted for local elites can't escape the effects of recession. Or, as Ocean Drive Media Group founder Jerry Powers said: "We have decided to focus resources and energy on the strategic investments that are best suited to continue our growth objectives for the future success of our business." The December issue of Atlanta Peach, which had fewer than 10 employees, will be its last.
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