Remember a couple of years ago when the television networks were declared dead? They held a mirror up to the body and failed to discern breath?
Has anyone looked recently at Mr. Tisch's bottom line at CBS? Or noted that when Cap Cities/ABC stock went through the $700 barrier (some barrier!) Tom Murphy promptly declared a 10-for-one split. And Fox, which wasn't going to survive the departure of Barry Diller, is doing very well.
More recently it's been the magazine business for which death notices have been posted. Much alas and alack and the wringing of hands. But if magazines are dead, it's the sprightliest corpse around.
Not that everything's great, not with the ad page sales recovery decidedly spotty and February a bummer and Frances Lear packing up her toys and shutting down ... and Spy getting the Mata Hari treatment.
But over at Elle Regis Pagniez hasn't sacked an editor so far this year and People is spinning off In Style and Chuck Townsend bails out on The New York Times Co. to join Conde Nast and TV Guide's up 8% in ad pages and Ron Galotti lives!
Jim Guthrie of the Magazine Publishers of America has me giving a little breakfast talk this Thursday morning to MPA members in New York and I've been jotting down a few notes about just what I might say that would make sense.
And it occurred to me that for all the negatives, and there are plenty, there hasn't been as much excitement and dramatic hirings (and a few firings!) and brand new entrepreneurial companies and startling turnarounds (how about Entertainment Weekly, from flop to top?) and new launches since Harold Ross founded The New Yorker and Briton Hadden and Henry Luce started Time.
And that was back in the Roaring '20s. Anyway, here's some of what's been happening around here in the '90s (we haven't yet nicknamed the decade but you can be confident we soon will) just that I've noticed:
Steve Florio replaces Bernie Leser at Conde Nast. At Esquire Ed Kosner is hiring every writer out there but Cleveland Amory. Becky Darwin is out at Mirabella and Cathy Viscardi in. Hearst imports Marie Claire. Men's Journal is building and Men's Health is booming, an extraordinary growth story. Murdoch kills off Married Woman, maybe the quickest divorce ever. Time Inc. does joint ventures with American Express. And Quincy Jones?
Norm Pearlstine, the Wall Street Journal editor with all that delicious entrepreneurial cash behind him, brings in Peter Eldredge to help spend it. Mademoiselle recruits Elizabeth Crow. Clay Felker is writing a book. And if he tells all, won't that be fun! W, John Fairchild's baby, adopts a new format, and contrary to my predictions, is doing very nicely, thank you. Liz Tilberis, who has brilliantly reshaped Harper's Bazaar, falls ill, and brows furrow, as an industry wishes her well.
Chris Meigher cranks up his first two launches. Remember Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen, those two wise guys who so alienated everyone with their Spy savagery that they'd never again get a job in this town? And where does Anne Sutherland Fuchs go from here and what does she do and whatabout the great Jack Kliger?
Rolling Stone marked another anniversary and so did young Bob Guccione's Spin and Don Welsh launched another youth book called Quake and James Truman got a big job but, hey, Alex Liberman is going to live forever and now he has more time to sculpt and Dick Barthelmes is doing professional things with magazines over at American Express. Sports Illustrated is bouncing back with ad pages and Forbes just keeps cranking 'em out along with Busy Week. And Fortune retired Jim Hayes. And Meredith and Rodale make little noise and lots of money.
Just to make sure I knew something of what I was talking about I had lunches with a couple of publishers I hadn't known before: Jake Winebaum of Family Fun and Larry Burke of Outside. I suppose these guys are smarter than most of the rest of us but typical of those who refuse to believe the good old days are over. Take Winebaum.
He got out of Dartmouth, was hired by Time Inc., did circulation things at the knee of Chris Meigher, joined Mort Zuckerman's U.S. News at four times the money, had an itch to run something himself, nearly bought a sailboarding mag and ended up instead launching Family Fun (and with his wife's assistance, had a baby!) which he then sold off to Disney (the mag, not the kid) and has already spun off something brand-new called FamilyPC, with Disney and Ziff-Davis.
Just listen to this guy for an hour or two and you want to buy stock in the company. And Jake is 34 years old and looks about 20.
Then there's Larry Burke from Chicago who, when he was eight, his old granddad sent him to Colorado packing a rucksack to spend the summer with a priest at a mission, and the kid learned over the next four summers all about hunting and fishing and bugs and hiking and horses and all that good stuff and somehow survived and went on to various colleges and graduate schools and then tended bar at Tahoe and spent five years bumming around the world and started up a magazine about the outdoors called Mariah, named for a boat (and I believe a woman), and when Jann Wenner needed cash, Larry bought Outside from him (and Don Welsh came along in the package) and now Larry's got a quarterly as well called Outside Kids.
And he just delivered the biggest Outside ever, 117 ad pages for May, and he's moving the whole damned company from Chi to Santa Fe over a weekend the end of May. Why? He likes the air and the sky and the people and the pace. Listen, you own the company (he's got 93%) you live and work in Santa Fe if you like.
And then there's the job Myrna Blyth is doing at Ladies' Home Journal and the SmartMoney success story and Allure and, oh, yeah, just what is Peter Diamandis up to?
And there's something called Troika, about "wit and wisdom," and Showhouse, about interior design, and is JFK Jr. really starting his own political magazine?
Don't tell me things are dead. Or dull.