By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 11, 2009
The journal of record of the newspaper industry and a 76-year-old book review were told on Thursday to shut down, becoming the latest casualties of last-century media cut down by the Internet and user-generated content.
Editor & Publisher, which has covered the newspaper industry since 1884, and Kirkus Reviews, which has reviewed books since 1933, did not survive a big sale of magazines by their parent company, the Nielsen Co. In addition to shutting down E&P and Kirkus, Nielsen is selling publications including Adweek, Mediaweek, Backstage, Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, the company said on Thursday.
The buyers are Pluribus Capital Management, a group that includes James Finkelstein, owner of the Hill newspaper, and the deal's financial backer, Guggenheim Partners. The purchase price was not disclosed.
"We've been aware of the rumors about the sale for the past month, and some of the reports had us included . . . and in others we weren't mentioned at all," E&P editor Greg Mitchell said in an interview Thursday. "We thought there was a good chance we'd be included but we also didn't think that if we weren't included we'd be folded the same day. . . . This really was quite a surprise."
Mitchell said it is unclear at this point whether E&P's next issue, scheduled to be put to bed a week from Tuesday, will be published. He said he received "hundreds, maybe thousands" of e-mails of support, condolence and outrage. In 2004, E&P switched from weekly to monthly publication while amping up its Web site. Mitchell said that E&P recently won an award as Nielsen's best magazine and that the site averaged about 500,000 unique viewers per month. It has a staff of about 10 and made money until fairly recently, Mitchell said.
Nielsen Business Media president Greg Farrar did not respond to requests for an interview on Thursday to explain the decision to close the magazines. His spokesman, Gary Holmes, said: "We are constantly evaluating our portfolio to make sure we're focused on assets that have the greatest potential for growth."
Kirkus and other print-based book-review products were once the only places to turn for book reviews. In the past decade, however, online user-generated reviews have proliferated on Web sites including Amazon.com, where book buyers are increasingly seeking out the crowd's wisdom over a single reviewer's recommendations.
Kirkus Reviews editor Elaine Szewczyk did not respond to interview requests Thursday.
"As a result of these decisions, many of our friends and colleagues within these businesses will be leaving the company or will begin to transition to the new ownership immediately," Farrar wrote in a letter to employees.