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W e're having an exciting time at our company these days, and we're feeling pretty good about the future of our ink-on-paper business in this era of interactive and electronic publishing.

In other words, we don't think our traditional business is in any imminent danger of going the way of the horse and buggy.

This is a year of looking back and looking forward for us. Two of our publications-Crain's Detroit Business and Crain's New York Business-are celebrating their 10th anniversaries. And we're launching two new publications, Franchise Buyer and Waste News.

Our Detroit newspaper was pretty much an immediate success. Our New York paper tried to cover too broad a territory and took seven years before it finally broke into the black. But it's done so with a vengeance, I must say.

If New York was tough, the startup of our original city business paper in Chicago had its own frustrations.

Cliff Mulcahy, publisher of Franchise Buyer, sent me a copy of a column I did back in 1978 for the pilot issue of Crain's Chicago Business. The Franchise Buyer staff is going through the pangs of trying to create recognition for their new baby.

Dan Miller, who was managing editor and later editor of our Chicago newspaper (and is now chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, I am proud to say) lamented back then: "We'd call up publicly held firms in the area and introduce ourselves: `Crain's, that's C-R-A-I-N apostrophe S, Crain's Chicago Business. We're a new business weekly that will be coming out later this spring and we need ....."

Dan said, "It got to be .... disheartening when we saw how many people didn't know we existed. We were all suffering from an identity crisis."

One thing I've learned about the birth of a new publication is that it soon takes on a life of its own and goes off in directions the parents may not have intended (just like real children).

I originally visualized Crain's Chicago Business, and seven years later, Crain's New York Business, as being a cross between a local business journal and a city magazine.

But a disparate formula just doesn't work in a business publication, we have found time and time again. We cover specific niches, whether local business; or advertising and marketing; or risk management; or automotive-and readers bring to each issue definitive expectations of what they want to read.

But sometimes we can take subjects we cover on a regular basis and spin them off into a publication of their own. We did that with Electronic Media, which came from the pages of Advertising Age. Before that, Pensions & Investments sprang from Business Insurance.

So please stay tuned. The next 10 years promise to be equally eventful, if only because with this issue we're introducing a new section called "Events & Promotions." It also promises to have a life of its own.

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