Well, this is interesting.
I don’t think it was a bad idea for Conde Nast to try to do a business mag. They had the wrong editor and they spent too much money on stupid shit that readers don’t care about.
Both of those problems could have been remedied. And weirdly, there wasn’t much improvement in quality over the life of the magazine. I thought the first issue was appallingly bad but sort of expected that someone there would realize that and make some changes.
That said, I didn’t expect that person to be Joanne Lipmann. Conde Nast HR called me after I resigned from mediabistro and asked if I wanted to come in and talk about the new biz mag they were starting. (Or as it amusingly was put to me: “Don’t you think it’s about time you came in here?” Apparently one’s failure to ever apply for a job at Conde Nast is automatically an egregious oversight.) CN HR people are like the CIA, and they somehow knew I’d been pitching Adam Moss business stories at New York. I was already planning to launch Dealbreaker at that point, and I told them point blank that I had something in the works and even told Lipmann what it was. She replied that she “didn’t really get the web.” (Thankfully, some people there did. The Portfolio website wasn’t too bad, especially given CondeNet’s usual determination to make sure their mag-related sites are little more useful than online subscription advertisements for their print products.)
Anyway, The details are not particularly interesting, but that’s the only interview I’ve walked out of in ten years thinking, I could never, ever work for this person. I didn’t follow up, and neither did they. Dealbreaker launched a couple of months later.
It’s kind of unfortunate, though. I don’t think print is dead, and I think it’s entirely possible to do a sustainable, profitable magazine. But when you massively overpay for art and editorial, refuse to do timely and important stories, and inflate your rate base far beyond actual reader demand, what do you expect to happen?
Maxim was launched for $4 million. I had a meeting a while back with the guy who launched it, and he was convinced it could have been done for half that. It’s not the same category, obviously, but baseline costs are theoretically similar. Portfolio? $120 million.
I just got the press release for the Portfolio shutdown. An excerpt:
The pressures and realities of the continuous deep economic slump have lowered Portfolio’s revenue projections below what is needed to continue publication,” Mr. Townsend said. “Portfolio was an ambitious and innovative magazine and website, and we were proud to publish them. The challenges facing this launch however proved too great.”
Challenges like not overspending by millions of dollars? Like putting the wrong person in charge and expecting it to work anyway?
Christ. THIS is why print is getting killed. It’s not the economy.