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A year ago at this time, three ex-magazine editors in chief who saw the worst of the print collapse when their titles folded had moved to reinvent themselves in the New Media world.
Pilar Guzman, who lost her Cookie magazine in 2009, was developing a business plan to start a Web site called Momfilter.com; Deborah Needleman, whose Domino was folded by Condé Nast that same year, was developing an e-commerce site with Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer, and Brandon Holley, who was editing Jane when it folded, was a couple of years into a job at Yahoo and bringing in more than 25 million unique visitors a month to her vertical, Shine.
It looked like the future. These three women were going to reinvent themselves as Web stars. It was certainly the trend throughout the media industry. Tina Brown, shortly after starting the Daily Beast in 2008, vowed that she “would never work in print again.”
“I didn’t think I would have a job in 10 years if I stayed in magazines,” said Holley.
But over the last year, a funny thing has happened. Guzman gave up hope that her start-up would become a real business and started a job as editor in chief of Martha Stewart Living on Monday. Needleman lost excitement for her start-up and joined the staff of The Wall Street Journal, launching its new weekend sections and eventually taking over its glossy supplement WSJ. Holley left Yahoo and its robust Web traffic to rejoin Condé Nast as editor in chief of Lucky. And then there’s Brown — her second issue of a relaunched Newsweek hit newsstands this week.
Print, it seemed, didn’t collapse.
So what happened?
It depends on who you ask. Maybe it’s a matter of returning to a line of work you’re used to. Maybe the Web’s ascent and print’s decline is happening a bit more slowly than originally thought. Maybe the only money to be made these days is in print or some tablet-Web-print hybrid. Whatever it is, it appears the old-fashioned print world has a little left in the tank.
“I think people have learned now that print is not a dead business,” said Holley.
“Yes, of course, [print] is where the money is,” said Guzman. “We haven’t weaned ourselves off of that yet, but maybe we shouldn’t. Everyone is like, ‘It’s all digital! It’s all digital!’ but I think it will always be a mix, at least for a while.”
“Yeah, very few people are making money off of editorial content on the Web,” said Needleman.
Guzman said shortly after Cookie folded, there were a few investors who were interested in the idea of turning Cookie — which had a lot of buzz and sort of a cult following — into a Web site. But, she said, they didn’t seem to understand what made a good editorial product. The more she had these meetings, the more she got the heebie-jeebies.
“You know, no one has the answer,” Guzman said. “And so it was sort of, ‘You know what? I can’t. I’m not going to do that.’”
There was also the fact that she was still getting distracted by things that — oh, right! — paid her (“You get sidetracked with projects that are actually paying you”).