AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: Alpha Media Group Inc. made another round of sweeping changes to its business, shuttered the struggling music monthly magazine Blender on Thursday and centered its editorial operations around the Maxim brand. The company’s co-chief executive Glenn Rosenbloom has also departed, leaving Stephen Duggan as Alpha’s sole ceo.
“Given the reality of the current economic climate, we are unable to continue publication” of Blender, Duggan said. The magazine’s April issue will be its last, and 30 employees will be let go as a result of the closure. Blender editor in chief Joe Levy will become editor in chief of Maxim. Levy succeeds Jim Kaminsky, who was editorial director of Maxim. Maxim.com editor in chief Jay Woodruff has been named chief content officer of Maxim. Blender.com will live on, and will be overseen by Levy and Woodruff.
The shuttering of Blender, first reported by Advertising Age, follows a tornado of changes since Quadrangle Group bought Maxim, Stuff and Blender from Felix Dennis for a reported $250 million and formed Alpha in 2007. Since then, the magazine closed young laddie mag Stuff and dismissed ceo Kent Brownridge after a year. It then named Rosenbloom and Duggan as co-ceo’s. In the fall, the firm relocated some back office staffers to Tennessee in a cost-cutting effort, and recently sought to turn over ownership of the company to lenders including Cerberus Capital. Business at its magazines also headed south as the recession crippled advertising spending. Through 2008, pages for Blender shrank 31 percent, to 522, and another 57 percent through April, according to Publishers Information Bureau and Media Industry Newsletter.
As of December 2008, Blender’s circulation remained at 912,739, but newsstand sales fell 18 percent, to 44,000, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures.
MORE CUTBACKS AT THE TIMES: The New York Times said Thursday it is implementing a temporary five percent wage cut across the board, which will include 10-day leaves, and has laid off 100 business-side employees. (The company has asked for Newspaper Guild approval of the plan, and nonunion employees will see the cuts unilaterally.) As of yet, the New York Times Co. has relied far less on newsroom cuts than other newspapers, tackling its shrinking ad revenue and sizeable debt with measures that include a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú and a lease-back agreement for its new New York headquarters building.
The salary cuts at other Times Co. properties, such as About.com and the Regional Media Group, are smaller, at 2.5 percent.
“Next year, we plan to return salaries to their current levels. Of course, such a decision depends on the state of our business,” New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and chief executive officer Janet Robinson wrote in a memo to staff.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on March 11, Sulzberger’s total compensation in 2008 fell by about $1 million, to $2.4 million, with a bonus of $38,045 to compensate for a salary freeze. An Associated Press analysis also concluded that Robinson received a package worth $4.4 million, more than half of which was in equity awards that are currently worthless. In total, she was paid about $600,000 above her base salary in cash bonuses. A Times spokeswoman said, “Arthur and Janet will have their pay reduced 5 percent. It’s too early to say what will happen with bonuses.”
— Irin Carmon
CROSSING OVER: Like politicos who leave office and move on to the lucrative lecture circuit, Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant have quit the daily grind of magazine publishing and launched themselves into the buzzy business of wrangling the talent — and making stories happen — at Condé Nast’s European titles. “What we’re doing now is the fun part — without the pains and problems of producing a magazine,” said Sischy during a telephone interview with Brant. “We’d done Interview, and it’s really boring to do the same thing over and over. Life’s too short.”
Earlier this week, the chairman of Condé Nast International, Jonathan Newhouse, handed the duo two more assignments on top of their current roles as international editors at the Spanish and Italian editions of Vanity Fair. They now will hold similar positions at Russian Vogue and German Vogue. They say their mission is to be the catalysts — and fixers — for stories and shoots at the titles.
Over the past six months, they snagged Hugh Jackman for a November Italian Vanity Fair cover, scored an interview with Danny Boyle as “Slumdog Millionaire “was about to hit movie screens, and got Bruce Weber on board for a 28-page shoot — a tribute to the New York theater — with actors including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kristin Scott Thomas.
They made sure the Italian magazine got to Sean Penn before “Milk” was released, and even suggested that writer Elvis Mitchell be the one to interview the Oscar-winning actor. At the Spanish title, they arranged for Julian Schnabel to photograph and interview Takashi Murakami on the eve of his exhibition at the Guggenheim in Bilbao for the February issue.
Sischy, who continues to be a contributing editor at American Vanity Fair, a role she’s had since 1997, said she and Brant will have a similar approach to the Vogue titles, collaborating with the editors in chief, generating ideas and hooking the titles up with the right talent, especially in New York, Los Angeles and London. “Outside eyes can be really helpful,” said Sischy.
— Samantha Conti