Friday, May 9, 2008

Bankruptcy at Starlog, Fangoria owner

Bloomberg news and other sources report that Creative Group, the publisher of Starlog and Fangoria magazines as well as the producer of animation and other related businesses, filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors earlier this year. (On the Bloomberg link, the story is about halfway down the page.) In short, it declared bankruptcy. I'm not able to figure out if the cause of Creative's financial troubles was its small magazine division or if it was the various video production and other parts of the company.

Though this news admittedly set off a spate of professional fantasizing by me ("I could round up investors and buy Starlog/Fangoria from Creative! Invest in rebuilding the Starlog brand and implement all of my digital-and-print publishing and marketing plans!"), more realistically, it will follow the pattern that is expected when the core business that's in trouble is nonetheless still valuable: it will be picked up by its creditors at a bargain price, and they'll sell or just close what's a total money hole, rebuild and then sell anything that looks like it has strong upside potential, and sell immediately anything that's got value in it but not a lot of upside. Bloomberg notes that the creditors are already wrangling over that, and I just hope it's not going to take a big toll on the staff or the brands themselves.

If Starlog and Fangoria get someone who can continue to invest in Fango's multi-platform development and start to invest in Starlog's platforms (there are many inexpensive or even free things they could be doing that would help tie their audience to them, such as short video blogs by the editors, video interview excerpts, text blogs by editors and other contributors, weekly e-mail newsletter, etc.), then they can reap a big profit from a very respected and venerable brand name. They can also finally begin to really take on the market threat: The British publishers, who appear to be able to put out magazines that are bigger in every way (more pages, larger page dimensions, higher prices) and who are expanding their market presence, all while Starlog has suffered over the past 7 years. It's been even worse for Starlog's competition; in recent years, Cinefantastique (redubbed CFQ) ceased publication, as did Dreamwatch and Cinescape.

So let's hope they get an investor/owner who both wants to make money and who's smart enough to mine what value is already there – built up over more than 30 years of continuous publishing and market dominance – and to know how to expand the brand to take on the competition of today. Hello, investors?

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