by Martha Woodroof
The news broke December 10th: Nielsen Business Media will cease publishing Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews at year's end.
This publishing industry mini-bombshell came out with Nielsen's announcement of its sale of eight magazines (among them The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and Mediaweek) to e5 Global Media Holdings.
The Los Angeles Times quotes a Nielsen spokesperson as saying E&P and Kirkus were "no longer aligned with our strategy."
Yes, these are not exactly the magazines you find in your dentist's office, but if you care about books and newspapers, you're worried and sad. Editor & Publisher has been covering the newspaper industry for over a century, operating as conscience, scold, cheerleader and job source for those who work in the field.
The bi-monthly Kirkus, founded in 1933 as a book industry trade publication, reviewed some 5000 titles yearly, two to four months before publication. Its death means that there's one less reliably objective source to get word about new books "out there" to libraries and bookstore buyers.
The question of why, and the part where the story takes a turn, after the jump.
Appropriately enough, E&P editor Greg Mitchell tweeted the news of E&P's announced death: "Yes, it's true, my magazine, E&P, axed today, out of a job. At office until end of year — and here, of course." (Note Mr. Mitchell's inclusion of that "a" in his tweet. Perhaps a sly tribute to his magazine in which articles — of both kinds — flourished?)
Reached at home, Mr. Mitchell said he didn't know why the ax had fallen now. ""I knew that like others we were struggling for more revenue, but no more than most."
No one seemed to know at the time of the announcement whether the next issue of E&P, already put to bed, would be published.
Like most journalists on the prowl for a story, I surfed the Internet for information and reaction. And that behavior, it seems, may be in part what's killed off E&P and Kirkus — at least as part of Nielsen Media's "strategy alignment."
The chatter suggests that print journals covering print industries that are, themselves, struggling are perceived as being too far behind on the information highway to merit readers' loyalty and advertisers' dollars. Chatterers took a very Darwinian view: E&P and Kirkus, as two of the perceptually non-fit, were doomed to distinction.
Long-time journalist/blogger Gina Chen put it this way on The Neiman Journalism Lab website:
"In the old days, I paid for E&P because if I didn't, I'd have no idea what was going on in the industry. I wasn't paying for news; I was paying for the chance to be in the know in my field.
Things changed with the web. Now, if I choose one magazine to subscribe to out of myriad sources, it feels like I'm limiting my options in a way."
This attitude somewhat mystifies Greg Mitchell. E&P, he says, has been online since "back in the dark ages of the 1990's. It's not at all as though we were sticking to print and weren't adapting to the modern age."
Mr. Mitchell does report an "overwhelming" outpouring of support for Editor & Publisher. "We're valued for being independent. We're not just another rah-rah trade publication. It's heartening that so many people we've criticized are expressing outrage."
Then on December 14, the E&P site posted this: "Due to overwhelming reader and advertiser demand, Editor & Publisher will publish its next issue, the January 2010 edition, as planned."
As for Kirkus, Contributing Publishers Weekly editor Charlotte Abbott (who also writes for EarlyWord.com: The Publisher-Librarian Connection) dug around to find that subscriptions have declined until "the primary audience is librarians," who rely more upon Library Journal and Booklist.
So, while Editor & Publisher is still registering a faint pulse, it looks as though Kirkus Reviews is done for.
But thanks to e5 Global Media Holdings, The Hollywood Reporter marches on...
Martha Woodroof is a reporter and producer for WMRA, where she also blogs about all manner of nifty stuff.