Although Portfolio was a truly fantastic magazine — one of the best financial resources around, it was obvious to me that a startup magazine which had over $100 million invested in it would have a tough time weathering the dual storm of print advertising decline and financial crisis. Sadly today is the day of the official demise of this publication and website. I was a happy subscriber to this publication which had a total of just under 450,000 subscribers according to Folio.
The similarities the media business is facing is very similar to what is happening in communications. Just as newspaper and magazine owners are trying to figure out how to make a living in a web dominated world of free information, many telecom companies are trying to figure out how to make a living in a world where VoIP can be had for free.
For media companies though the problem is one of timing. By now the web needed to be a more substantial revenue source than it currently is for most companies. It is very late to start a serious internet advertising strategy. This needed to be done in 2002-4.
Getting back to telecom, as carriers have seen their PSTN revenues decline, many have focused more on wireless, broadband and IPTV. But it is unclear how the media business in general can follow a similar migration path. Certainly Amazon’s Kindle offers some hope but I for one think it is silly to think the majority of people will pay for content on a device when they can get it free on other devices.
It will be interesting to see how print publishers adapt to the web. The transformation is happening faster than most expected and there is less investment money floating around so my concern is more quality print publications will fold before they get a chance to explore alternatives online.
Update: April 27, 2009 6:00 PM:
Here is a great article from a former staffer on the magazine. It is great because it is detailed but it paints a picture of poor quality editorial which doomed the publication. But the quality of the publication was good. I can’t speak to how efficient the company’s editorial team was but it seems tough to imagine that poor editorial quality and other editorial decisions are the major reason for the publication’s demise.