Just yesterday in a bookstore, I looked at the cover of the current issue of Condé Nast Portfolio, which showed a close-up photo of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the big headline, "Lead Us. Please." I thought, That looks interesting; I should buy a copy. I knew that inside the magazine would be some good long-form business journalism, some interesting short columns, and some stuff that would be useless. Actually, that's a very good mix for a magazine; if there are two good articles that interest me in a magazine, it's worth buying.
But not enough people thought so, and advertisers have fled the young magazine in droves. So today comes news that Portfolio has been canceled. At just under 450,000 in circulation, the magazine wasn't big enough to get the attention apparently needed in the marketplace, despite Condé Nast sinking a reported $100 milllion into the title. (And do we even need to note that its survival was made even harder by the economic collapse? Can't we just add that sentence to the end of practically every article we write these days?)
I'm sorry to see Portfolio go. In a world in which journalism has gotten dumber and dumber, in which business journalism has tended to be cheerleaders for the businesses with the strongest marketing pitches and the least ethics, in which financial writers have had a long-term memory of about three months, Portfolio was a refreshingly original and high-quality magazine that deserved a bigger audience. It did solid long-form journalism while all the marketing lemmings say that long-form is dead ("nobody reads anymore anyway!"), and it took some healthy whacks at businesses that lied, cheated, or at least deserved more scrutiny.
There are still some financial publications that have not guzzled down the kool-aid (I'll tighten my grip on my thin Financial Times and refuse to let go). But Portfolio is truly a loss of an independent source of news.