16 October 2008

Publishing Firms Trying to Reinvent Themselves

This week has brought so many news stories about publishing companies having to remake themselves that it's hard to choose just one.

As reported in the New York Post, the media company that owned the Weekly World News sold the property to a group of investors named Bat Boy LLC. (This has nothing to do with Batman's sidekick Robin.) The new owners aren't chasing newsstand sales, which have been tanking ever since we started to find all the kooky, unreliable "news" we can stand on the internet.

Rather, Bat Boy LLC sees value in the intellectual properties that WWN staffers created, such as Bat Boy himself (already a Broadway star), the Aliens involved in the 1992 presidential race, and the general vibe of the tabloid itself. And since you can't lick the internet, WWN has launched its own website of badly faked photos.

Also this week, Ad Age reported that TV Guide was sold for the nominal sum of $1.00. In fact, the seller, Macrovision, loaned the buyer $9.5 million on generous terms just to get the property and its liabilities off the books. The deal didn't include the TV Guide Channel, leaving me to wonder how the magazine is supposed to make money these days.

Back in the last century, TV Guide was one of the most immensely profitable magazines in America, the basis of Walter Annenberg's fortune. But somehow, now that we have more television than we know what to do with, we don't want a magazine guiding us through it anymore.

Finally, Publishers Weekly reports that the how-to publisher F+W (in much better shape than the two companies I just mentioned) has restructured itself around markets/communities of interest. Rather than have a book-publishing wing and a magazine-publishing wing, each also potentially running online supplements and in-person events, the company will organize itself around topical departments.

Thus, for example, there will be a Woodworking group to publish woodworking magazines and books, maintain online communities for woodworkers, and sponsor conferences on the topic. The other F+W communities are:

  • Fine Art
  • Crafts
  • Genealogy
  • Writing (e.g., Writer’s Digest)
  • Antiques & Collectibles
  • Automotive
  • Sports and Construction/Trade
  • Numismatics
  • Design
  • Horticulture
  • Log Homes
  • Outdoors
  • Scuba Diving
I'm struck by the thought that Sports and Construction have so much overlap in their market as to fit into one department, but Log Homes is separate.

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