Mag Bag: 'Blender,' 'Genre' Close

Blender magazineAfter many months of speculation, Alpha Media's music magazine Blender is closing, the company announced Thursday, adding another big title to the rapidly growing heap of consumer magazine casualties in 2009 (see graph below).

Blender's doom seemed likely as ad pages and single-copy sales made a long downward spiral. Ad pages fell a vertigo-inducing 57% in the first four months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008 -- from 162 to 69, according to MIN Online. Worse, that came on the heels of a 30.6% decline the year before, when ad pages fell from 752 in 2007 to 522 in 2008.

The closing of Blender leaves Maxim as the last young men's title standing in the Alpha Media portfolio. When Quadrangle Capital Partners bought the bulk of Dennis Publishing's American consumer magazine business in August 2007, the deal included Maxim, Stuff and Blender. Stuff closed shortly after the Quadrangle purchase. As the closings indicate, things rapidly went sour for Quadrangle and Alpha. In November 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that Alpha might be turned over to creditors after violating its debt covenants. Quadrangle closed its media hedge fund around the same time.

Blender is not alone; the music magazine category in general was taking hits even before the recession, and the trend has only accelerated with the downturn. In the first four months of 2009, ad pages are down 34.3% at Spin and 43.8% at Vibe, according to MIN. Through late February, Rolling Stone was down 28.4%, and Country Weekly recently announced that it will go to newsstand-only distribution.

This week also saw the demise of Genre, a monthly magazine for gay men that originally launched as a quarterly in 1991. Over time, the magazine's coverage trended away from a mix of news, politics and culture to entertainment -- a progression that could be tracked by the shrinking surface area of fabric adorning its cover models. However, it was unable to save the magazine from ad revenue declines. The long-term shift of print ad dollars to the Internet has been especially pronounced in media targeting LGBT audiences, which were early adopters of social networking and online publishing.

In general, the last six months has seen a remarkable increase in the number of consumer magazines going out of business. According to a survey by eMarketer, a total of 525 magazines folded in 2008, and another 87 have closed in the first quarter of 2009. Focusing on big magazine titles (admittedly a somewhat subjective judgment) more major magazines have gone out of business in the first three months of 2009 than in all of 2008.

Major magazines closed per month chart

Post-Conde Shakeup, Beckman Moves to Fairchild

After weeks of rumors that the boss of Conde Nast's Media Group has fallen from favor, Richard Beckman is leaving the corporate sales unit to take a new position as president and CEO of the Fairchild Fashion Group, which publishes a number of business-to-business titles, including Women's Wear Daily and FN (Footwear News). Beckman will be succeeded by Lou Cona, currently the senior vice president of the Media Group.

The move is widely seen as a step down for Beckman, a hard-driving salesman who built the Conde Nast Media Group over several decades with the company. The first signs of trouble came a few weeks ago when rumors circulated that Beckman might be assigned to succeed Walter Anderson as chairman and CEO of Parade, Conde Nast's newspaper-distributed magazine. Although Parade has one of the largest circulations of any American magazine, and Women's Wear Daily is widely respected for frontline coverage of the fashion industry, in Conde Nast's highly status-conscious corporate culture these publications are treated as poor cousins of more prestigious titles like Vogue.

Ladies' Home Journal Launches "Do-Good" Initiative

Meredith Corp.'s Ladies' Home Journal is launching a "Do-Good" initiative to honor women and companies for philanthropic work and projects serving communities. The multiplatform initiative includes both editorial content and advertising in Meredith magazines, an online "Do Good" channel -- all set to launch over the next few months. LHJ Senior Vice President and Editor in chief Sally Lee added: "I can't wait to see the power this program unleashes from our 13 million readers."

Wellington Takes Helm at ReadyMade

Jeff Wellington has been named publisher of ReadyMade by Meredith Corp. Most recently, Wellington served as the vice president and publisher of Readers Digest; before that, he also served as the president and group publisher of Time Inc.'s Parenting Group, with responsibility for brands including Parenting and Babytalk, Parenting.com and MomConnection, an online research network, as well as a custom publishing and sampling unit.

1 comment about "Mag Bag: 'Blender,' 'Genre' Close".
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  1. Mikki Beno, March 27, 2009 at 1:45 p.m.

    Hope they give refunds to subscribers who are still owed issues. My subscription wasn't up until 2010 . . .

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