Harper’s Magazine in Trouble

Ru-oh. I’ve subscribed to Harper’s Magazine continuously since the 1980s; it has shaped me in all sorts of subtle ways. I can’t imagine a world without it, but apparently, I better quickly grok the idea.

Newstand on State Street circa 1996

In a rambling 40-minute monologue that left many attendees perplexed, John R. MacArthur, 53, talked about the problems facing Harper’s: readership was down 35,000, newsstand sales were plummeting, the only direct-mail piece that seemed to work was 20 years old. Worse, Harper’s seemed irrelevant — “the mainstream media is ignoring it to death,” he said — according to people who were at the meeting.

What he did not address was the chief concern on everyone’s mind: two days earlier, without warning, he had fired the magazine’s well-liked editor, Roger D. Hodge, in a five-minute conversation as Mr. Hodge was finishing his breakfast croissant.

The episode has sent ripples through the placid magazine, which has long been an outlier in the fast-paced New York publishing world.

Harper’s is a nonprofit that relies on the support of Mr. MacArthur’s foundation. As advertising revenue in publishing has declined, many organizations have considered that foundation model — combining traditional revenue with donations — to finance quality journalism. But as the Harper’s situation shows, no publishing model is immune to change — especially when one influential person runs the place.

[Click to continue reading Rick MacArthur Shakes Up Harper’s as Sales Fall – NYTimes.com]

Lewis Lapham is like my third grandfather, but he’s no longer editor, and hasn’t been for a few years. I have no solution to proffer, just hope Harper’s doesn’t vanish. Harper’s is also one of the few magazines I subscribe to that I want to keep after I’ve read: I have several years worth of back issues. I know I shouldn’t keep them – what’s the point, right? Very rarely would I think to go browse an old issue, but still, they feel substantial, so I keep them on a shelf until they fall victim to one of our periodic house cleaning purges. We subscribe to plenty of periodicals, but most are ephemeral, of the moment. Harper’s Magazine isn’t.

Playboy Magazine Outsources Business Duties

An iconic Chicago magazine is seemingly in its death throes

Red Light Night

Playboy Enterprises Inc. has agreed to outsource most of the business operations of its namesake magazine, as it seeks to stem losses and restore the cachet that helped embed the brand in the popular culture.

Under the deal, reached last week, Playboy will turn over all the magazine’s operations except the editorial ones to American Media Inc. AMI, of Boca Raton, Fla., publishes more than a dozen titles, including Star and Men’s Fitness. The five-year partnership will help return the magazine to profitability by the end of 2011, said Scott Flanders, chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy and AMI wouldn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal. What it costs Playboy will be based in part on advertising sales, which AMI is taking over. But the partnership will significantly reduce Playboy’s costs, Mr. Flanders said. Playboy has roughly 30 full-time employees working in these areas, and while some will be offered jobs at AMI, most will be let go.

[Click to continue reading Playboy Magazine Outsources Business Duties – WSJ.com]

Doesn’t bode well for those who read Playboy “just for the articles”, editorial operations will be the next to be downsized.