Friday, February 25, 2005

She didn't see it coming

According to a report in the Globe & Mail, Suzanne Boyd, the wunderkind editor of Suede (and former Editor at Flare) which was killed this week by Time Inc. after only four issues, was gobsmacked by the news. She never saw it coming, which may be part of the problem.

Editors who pay little or no attention to the economics of their magazines are doomed to be similarly surprised. It is not possible to maintain some elegant distance from "the money stuff" and editors should be suspicious of a company whose senior management says "You leave that to us."

The flat fact is that 70 or 80% of revenue for most consumer magazines come from advertising and the indicators are impossible to hide. One needs only count the pages and smart editors do exactly that. Even if they are being sold at a deep discount, the actual number of ad pages is a dead giveaway, particularly if the ratio of ad pages to edit falls below 40%. There is a reason why fat fashion books have 55% ad ratios -- they need that money to pay for the very expensive product.

Editors who pay attention to the relatively simple arithmetic of magazine publishing will never be surprised, even if they are getting smooth reassurances from their betters at corporate headquarters. Follow the money.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jon Spencer said...

I'd go one step further... I'd say "Duh!" to any high-level editor who left a paying job to join a start-up without first asking to see the business plan, and (when it showed huge losses for the first few years, as it presumably would have), didn't ask the question "So, you've got financing lined up to cover you until break-even in year 3?".

OTOH, if the business plan showed unrealistic expectations of initial revenues, the seasoned editor should have known at least enough about magazine publishing to say "Now just exactly how certain are you of these assumptions?"

Maybe all this happened in this case, but ... maybe not. It certainly struck me as highly odd that they'd kill it so soon after startup. Had they done any business planning at all?

5:58 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

Nothing to disagree with there...I imagine Suzanne Boyd was more concerned with where the best parties were and who would lend her designer clothes (as she was when in Toronto).

12:12 am  
Anonymous David Olive said...

After a string of notable successes, including Entertainment Weekly, Teen People, InStyle and Real Simple, it's indeed odd, as Jon Spencer says, that Time either didn't have a convincing business plan or lacked the staying power to prove this title in the marketplace. Shades of The Fanciest Dive, Time's debacle with TV-Cable Week...

3:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone stop to think that maybe Time backed out due to the mostly ethnic/urban content/audience?... and that this may also be the very reason why Suede didn't get enough advertisers on board in the first place? I for one think that the creativity that went into the mag was superb...I wish it lasted longer...

1:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone stop to think that maybe Time backed out due to the mostly ethnic/urban content/audience?... and that this may also be the very reason why Suede didn't get enough advertisers on board in the first place? I for one think that the creativity that went into the mag was superb...I wish it lasted longer...

1:46 pm  

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