Friday, January 15, 2010

E&P rises from the dead, a couple limbs missing

Nielsen has sold the rights to Editor & Publisher to California boating publisher Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc. Mark Fitzgerald, a veteran of the publication, who had been serving as editor-at-large, was named editor. The new ownership has promised the resume publishing the print magazine with the February issue.

Editor-in-chief Greg Mitchell was informed he would not be retained.

"Got call from new buyer of Editor & Publisher, Duncan McIntosh, who publishes Boating World magazine and Fish Rap News in Irvine, Ca., late Thursday, telling me that I am out as editor after eight years (and 10 years with magazine)," Mitchell reported on his personal web site, Pressing Issues.
Long time reporter Joe Strupp said he also would not be joining the new team, writing on his blog "I am not part of the deal. It was not the right situation for me. I am weighing other options."

The E&P web site reported the news last night.  "Such a critical information source for a newspaper industry so desperately in need of help should not go away," McIntosh said. "I've been a reader of E&P over the course of 30 years and know its incredible value to readers and advertisers."

As of the time of this posting, the E&P web site had not been updated to reflect the makeup of the new staff. 

As I mentioned in my report on the shuttering of the magazine, E&P would most likely face a reduced staff. The announcement that Mark Fitzgerald and publisher Charles "Chas" McKeown would take over the reins leaves me wondering if there were factions within the publications and whether the configuration of the new team reflects one faction finding a buyer before another. On the other hand, Mitchell reports on his site that he had been included in conversations with the new owner and had been assured he would be retained.

In any case, it was obvious from the beginning that the staff was not unified. Shortly after the announcement of the decision by Nielsen to close the magazine a collection of individual web sites from former employees appeared. Greg Mitchell launched his site at E&P In Exile, Joe Strupp launched a separate blog, while Mark Fitzpatrick continued writing for his Fitz & Jen blog. (Mitchell listed the entire staff on his site though it appeared that Greg was the only writer to post there with input from Joe Strupp -- see below.)

Maybe the fact that Joe Strupp and Greg Mitchell were not offered positions is all about reducing costs, or maybe there is politics involved (what? politics in the staff room of a publication?). In any case, there are now at least two more competitors to E&P on the Internet.  But one thing is certain: the new owners have the deep sea-based journalism market locked up.

Update: Greg Mitchell writes in to say that Joe Strupp, Jennifer Saba and Reiko Matsuo all contributed to the E&P in Exile blog, with Greg crediting Joe Strupp with several stories this week.

If so, it's possible that the site was created with only one blogger account because Greg's name is the only one that appears on actual posts. (Blogger allows you to create teams, something I would like to create at some point. As my former editors will confirm, I've always been an advocate for team blogging -- takes the pressure off of the one person who otherwise would have to write all the new posts several times a day. The DailyKos model of diaries and team blogging is certainly evidence enough that this method can create vibrant web communities.)

Update 2: Staci Kramer on notes of the relaunch of E&P that "it’s a reminder—or should be—that the newspaper industry stretches a lot farther than the major dailies that get so much attention."

True, but it's also a reminder that E&P was (and now is again) a trade magazine. As such, it can be owned by anyone familiar with the business of B2B magazine publishing -- even a boating publisher.  Once E&P changed its frequency from weekly to monthly, it even more clearly was dealing with the same issues as others in the trade press business -- reduced ad revenues, increased print and distribution costs, the struggle to monetize and profit from online ventures. As a weekly it surely depended on classified and subscription revenue, while struggling to grow display advertising. As a monthly, it would be more attractive to display advertisers, but the print classified model has definitely collapsed, and maintaining a high subscription price, currently at $99 per year, would be hard with a 12x frequency.