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April 27, 2009


Paul Riddell

If history is any indication, it's going to be a wild ride for those who got out while they had the chance, too. Sure, they got out early, but usually they come back to fill a niche left empty by someone else who decided to bail. We're going to be seeing a lot of business magazine veterans who are going to be in denial over exactly how badly they're wanted by the market at large, particularly through all of the Advance Publications Business Journal papers, and they aren't going to understand why someone isn't just waiting to snap them up as editors and columnists for yet another flashy ego project.

Bill Coffin

That this magazine went down as it did and yet still earned national magazine awards along the way reinforces the dubious quality of most publication awards, period. Rarely do these things really speak to the viability or the need or even the excellence of the publications they lionize. They seem more to be a method for publishing executives to find ways of congratulating themselves while burnishing their resumes. Awards don't necessarily translate into higher subscription numbers, better ad revenue or even higher reader satisfaction. They are, more than anything, a waste of time and money. Let sucess in the market be the true mark of success for any publication.


The disconnect between revenue and editorial expense at big publishing companies never ceases to amaze me. They still don't have any clue that you can create great magazines without having 50 editors on board. In fact, I would argue that having fewer editors gives a magazine more personality and helps keep it focused.

Companies like Conde Nast are totally unsuited to cope with today's economic realities, and totally unable to adjust their operations to fit the economics of the Internet. Pretty soon, it's gonna be "The Devil Wears Old Navy."


I actually liked Portfolio. It was an interesting read.

But you were right all along. It is a shame 85 people have lost their jobs though.


When I heard about the folding of this fine journal on the radio this morning, I laughed and thought of you, dear Reaper.

Tyler Adams

@Bill, "Let success in the market be the true mark of success for any publication", sure, but what does that have to do with awards that are based on editorial content? By that logic, the highest grossing motion picture of the year should win the Academy Award for best picture. Your argument just doesn't make any sense. If you work in the industry you know that great content or numerous awards don't necessarily equal more subscribers or ad pages. The New York Times wins awards year after year;I hope you wouldn't argue that just because it is heading ever closer to bankruptcy that it isn't a publication worthy of such awards.

Paul Riddell

Congo, but every big magazine needs 50 editors. How else is the executive editor able to hire all of his college buddies, thereby goosing their resumes with something approximating gainful work? Without all of those editors who owe him favors when they move on "to pursue other opportunities," how will the executive editor find work when he's the one facing employment based on actual skills instead of connections? (Yeah, I'm bitter. Watching legions of pocket psychotics fall upward after getting fired for sexual harrassment, embezzlement, and complete incompetence gets old after a while. If the magazine industry ever instituted a lemon law to protect previously successful magazines from being driven into the ground by one of these onanists, I suspect that we all know at least two who'd be recalled and thrown feetfirst into a tree mulcher to prevent their diseased genes from infecting future generations.)

Bill Coffin


Obviously, the NYT's financial problems don't disqualify its editorial excellence. But I do think that there is this awards mania within the magazine publishing industry that seems to serve the staff members' resumes more than the viability of the book. It's great for a title to have plenty of awards that prove its editorial excellence, but if the book cannot survive, if its own readers abandon that very same excellent work, then...so what?

Look, marketplace survival does not equate editorial excellence. But I do think magazines in general need a reality check on what these awards really stand for in the long run. I have seen books scoop up FOLIO awards while they were in fact bleeding cash. They may be books that are well done, but in the end, they still aren't needed by the people they are meant for.

That's why I took such umbrage at Portfolio touting its awards even as it was closing down. I say this as both an editorial director and as a publisher. Awards mean nothing if the book they exalt relegates itself to the scrapheap of relevancy.


Agreed, Bill. These awards are for editorial excellence - as judged by editors. I don't care what editors think of each other's work. What really matters is what the audience thinks.

Magazines and websites are best when they love their audience and do anything and everything they can do to make that audience love the editorial product. That doesn't happen much in NYC these days. And that's why so much of the writing in magazines sounds the same - most of these editors are just trying to impress each other, not working for their audience. The result has been that the "magazine guy" writing style has spread like kudzu and choked out everything else. Enough!

Paul Riddell

Bill and Congo, when you get the chance, look up the sad story of the Katy Awards in Dallas. There you see the logical end-result of awards mania: awards given to reporters in an incredibly journalistically insecure city, where one person in charge could award multiple awards to herself without anybody calling her on it, and the one person who broke the story did so only because he didn't get one. (I used to work for an editor who was obsessed with winning a Katy, and never mind that his output pretty much consisted of "What We Like To Drink" filler.) The scary part is that even after everyone in the Dallas journalism community realized that the Katys had been rigged for years, the current effort is to "rehabilitate" them so that it doesn't embarrass the people who won.

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