The ever-shrinking world of print journalism shrank a little more Thursday.
Editor & Publisher, a magazine that for a century chronicled the rise and now decline of the U.S. newspaper industry, fell victim itself to the wrenching changes on the media landscape. Its owner announced Thursday that it would cease publishing at the end of this year.
Founded at the turn of the 20th century when William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were bitter rivals in the competition to build big city newspapers, E&P began a struggle to survive at the turn of the 21st century as print advertising peaked and the Internet disrupted journalism’s business model.
In the course of selling off several trade publications including the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, a division of Nielsen Co. decided to cease publishing E&P and Kirkus Reviews, a pre-publication book review magazine.
E&P Editor Greg Mitchell held out hope for a white knight to rescue his magazine. But like a doctor diagnosing his own terminal illness, he laid out the bleak scenario that led to E&P’s demise.
“We’re part of a besieged industry, magazine publishing, and we’re covering another besieged industry, newspapers, so it’s kind of a double whammy,” said Mitchell, taking a break from tweeting about his magazine’s death.
Mitchell said he was unsure whether the January issue his staff was working on would be published: “We’ll keep putting stuff online for a while, but like I said, we’re hopeful that someone may step forward and buy us.”
With the closure of E&P and Kirkus, 18 people will lose jobs.
Predictions that the glossy magazine wouldn’t survive began in 2002 when it went from publishing weekly to monthly. But Mitchell, who became editor that year, said E&P instead started making money, winning awards and gaining attention not only by breaking news online, but also by advocating for beefed-up newspaper websites.
Online journalism news aggregators such as Romenesko regularly relied on stories by E&P, linking to them for reporting on a new study or analysis of anything relating to the newspaper industry.
But Romenesko and other free sites such as Mediabistro.com also snatched readers and job listings that might have landed in E&P’s classified section.
E&P’s more journalistic competitors have also faced cutbacks and reduced their frequency of publishing, but they stay in business with support from nonprofit foundations and university institutes.
With 10,000 subscribers and 800,000 unique monthly users of its websites, the small magazine that chronicled the decline of an industry was ultimately itself brought down by similar factors: It lost revenue because its advertisers had business problems or had moved to the Web and because of the less-profitable nature of selling advertising online.
Lauren Rich Fine, a former media analyst for Merrill Lynch who now teaches at Kent State University, said she remained a loyal E&P subscriber but knew it was fighting an uphill battle.
“The number of people fascinated by decline of the newspaper industry is enormous, and E&P did a great job keeping them interested,” Fine said. “But the number of people who can pay for the publication and depress themselves by reading about their industry, well, that’s a shrinking population.”
Both E&P and Kirkus were part of a trade publication group of Nielsen that included the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, Back Stage and Film Journal International as well as the Clio Awards. Those eight brands were bought by a consortium of investors led by James Finkelstein, whose News Communications Inc. controls publications including the Hill, covering the nation’s capital, and the Who’s Who directories.
It was unclear why a buyer had not been found for E&P and Kirkus. A Nielsen Business Media company spokesman said they were “no longer aligned with our strategy.”
Kirkus was founded in 1933 and was published biweekly. It relied on a small staff and an army of freelancers who reviewed about 5,000 books a year three months before their publication dates. Authors looked to Kirkus reviews to test how their books would be received; libraries and independent bookstores turned to them to decide what to buy.
But not only are there fewer independent bookstores, according to Lorraine Shanley, a principal of consulting firm Market Partners International, there are also “more options for libraries to decide how to buy.” Some authors will mourn Kirkus, she said, if only because there are so few outlets to get even a blog posting assessing a new book, never mind a review in a publication.
The news of E&P’s termination is similarly fraught for some journalists who, at some point, have seen it as a place to help chart their careers.
In his blog Thursday, TJ Sullivan, a Los Angeles journalist, described how, after graduating from college in the 1980s, he turned to E&P to hunt for work. He said he wrote about 60 letters to newspaper editors -- and received five offers.
“Times change,” Sullivan wrote. “Life goes on. There are now and will continue to be watchdogs to keep the journalism industry honest. But we owe a lot to E&P. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”