Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rumors about Fangoria's Fate

Blogger JadedViewer provides a roundup of rumors and questions concerning longtime horror film magazine Fangoria (and its related online operations and other media).

As I've noted recently (here and here), the web sites for Fango and science fiction sister brand Starlog have been down for weeks. Starlog's web site has been restored to life, or at least existence; but the Fangoria site has not. If you do some hunting on Twitter and Facebook, you can piece together a bit of the story. It sounds like the online staff walked off the job a in January. I haven't found out the reasons why, but generally when you have a mass defection from a company, either it's not paying its staff or there are terrible management problems.

Fango/Starlog have been through hell and back in the past decade. After original owners Starlog Group fell on rough times in 2001 and had to close most of their dozen-or-so titles, the rump company continued under that management for a few years before being sold to Creative Group. A couple years later, Creative Group went bust, and Tom DeFeo -- one of the Creative leaders -- bought the two brands and continued as The Brooklyn Company. Earlier this year, Starlog ceased publication as a print magazine, continuing as an online-only property; in December, longtime editor David McDonnell resigned -- again, no further info, but there's probably an interesting story there.

It's interesting to read the online comments from readers. There's the usual claptrap about "print is dying anyway," which simply isn't true. Magazine readership is actually up over the past decade. What there is right now is an advertising depression, and there's a near impossibility even for successful small businesses to get the financing they need to stay afloat. You can thank the global financial collapse for that. Companies generally need a steady supply of credit, because there is always a lag between the expenditure of money (salaries, printing costs, office rent, insurance, etc.) and the receipt of revenue (advertising, newsstand sales, etc.). I have no inside knowledge whatsoever about The Brooklyn Company's situation; I'm just suggesting that tight credit is hobbling a lot of companies these days and could well be a factor if there are money problems there. (The credit issue is the reason President Obama is planning to pump $30 billion into small banks for loans to small businesses. There's only so long a business can stretch and delay paying its suppliers before it runs into hard money problems.)

So how does this all relate to Starlog and Fangoria? As I noted, nothing conclusive. I suspect the two titles aren't dead (and magazines are kind of like Spock: even death isn't the end of life). Whether The Brooklyn Company knows how to make the titles flourish again as print magazines is an open question. Personally, I now believe the field is wide open for a smart publisher to create a new title and take over Starlog's old science fiction media magazine territory -- and I write that as a longtime Starlog supporter. It's sad, but I think it's true. And I'm working on something in that space. We'll see.

As for Fangoria, the magazine is still alive and lively. Inveterate readers of magazine staff boxes, like I am,  will probably glean some info from the next issue due to come out later this month. But by then, we might already have heard more about the future of the longest-running horror film magazine in this country.

UPDATE: Inside the turmoil.
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