Publications can make millions.
They can also lose a company millions.
This story is about the latter category.
We collected some of the biggest editorial busts in the history of magazines as well as a few publications that seem to be headed that way.
The outlets in question range from a few unsuccessful spinoffs to a $100 million bust and an idea that costs $160 million per year.
We are now 12 years out from that epic launch party at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Everything seemed so rosy and full of potential. Talk folded three years later after burning through millions of dollars.
In a 2009 New York Times story, Talk editor-in-chief Tina Brown spoke about how that party signified something larger: 'It was the end of something extraordinary, but none of us knew it at the time. What followed was a very turbulent odyssey, not just for me, but for all of us. There has been a volcanic realignment that none of us foresaw.'
The Men's Health spin-off targeted rich men and the toys they loved. Launched in 2004, it never really found a niche before Rodale killed the pub in 2009. The book didn't have a huge staff - with some of the Men's Health eds pulling double duty - but the quality writers (Denis Johnson to David Mamet), top-end production, and high-value lifestyle advocated certainly cost something to create.
Another magazine in the 'our older audience will buy expensive things' vein, Outside's Go was launched in the Spring of 2007 as a bi-monthly spin-off of Outside. It died a quiet death a few years later after dropping down to just twice a year.
As with Best Life, Go used some editorial talent from Outside so it didn't cost the company as much as starting a traditional new magazine would. But the clientele demanded expensive items in the copy, which don't come cheaply. Plus, given how much trouble Outside was having paying its writers, the company didn't need another money-sucking endeavour.
Vogue for dudes was one of those ideas that might have worked back in the golden age of the magazine world, but was destined to fall. It fell victim to downsizing when McKinsey ordered Conde Nast to cut 5% of the budget. While the original plan was to drop to two issues, the book hasn't been seen from since. The amount of money Conde lost is unknown, but thing were not done on the cheap given that Anna Wintour was the editorial director.
The good news: Most of the staff found new work.
Conde Nast's crown jewel business magazine debuted to massive fanfare. It collapsed even more impressively, costing the company a reported $100 million before it pulled the plug. It didn't help that Michael Lewis was getting $12/word before he jumped to Vanity Fair.
But a bigger issue was one of timing: Launching a business magazine right before the economy collapses was never going to be a good idea and advertising plummeted accordingly.
At least one person thinks so.
Rupert Murdoch's pet project lost $10 million in the first quarter, but it still has the support of the New Corp. head. At some point, the iPad-only model will work. The question is whether The Daily came a bit too early (and the organisation was a bit too chaotic) for it to be the publication that finds success.
There are signs of improvement - the magazine's advertising is improving and newsstand sales are up 30% - since Tina Brown took over, but it's far from out of the woods. Newsweek went dark for four weeks this summer in an effort to save some cash. Can Brown turn it around?
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