Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Magazine News: Writing off $25 billion at Time Warner

At the magazine I edit, I'm paring expenses to the tune of $600 off this photography budget, $1,200 off that production budget, $400 off the staff lunch budget. So I'm – what's the word?? – gobsmacked at the news that Time Warner is writing off $25 billion of the value of its new- and old-media properties. I could buy a lot of staff lunches with even just 10 percent of that.
Time Warner's new-media property is AOL, once a raging behemoth of popularizing the Internet revolution, but it soon turned into a big anchor around the neck of Ted Turner's fortune.
The old-media properties include Time, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, and about a zillion more. Each has long been a leader in its respective market niche.
Despite the mind-boggling number of $25 billion, it's really indicative of the loss of value of many media properties, from Playboy's stock drop to Starlog's circulation plunge. And on and on.
It's getting very ugly out there. And my fear is this: Those laptop "experts" who spout off about what everyone else should do in their industry will use this to pound away at anyone they deem "out of touch" enough to still be in the print industry. The Atlantic web site even has someone predicting the end of the New York Time's print edition within the next few months.
There are a lot of people who think print is useless, but I think they're overplaying their hands, because there's still benefit to having a hard copy that one can read while sprawled on a couch and that is – to use a current term – persistent; it's there on the coffee table or next to the bed or wherever.
But my prediction is that they, and the people in financing who rely more on trends and crowd-mentality than on common sense and perception, will use the current recession/proto-depression to kill off as many magazines (and newspapers) as possible, unaware of what's being lost in terms of marketing tools, deep pockets for investigative reporting, and personal reader identification with the hard-copy "product."
I hope they are wrong. I hope they are ineffective. But short-sightedness tends to win out.
Anyone want to fund my awesome new magazine idea?

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