Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Acquisitions and the future of indie publishing (part two)

Speaking of shitty...

Grocery magnate billionare Ron Burkle, who owns magazine distributor Source Interlink (who in turn bought long-time distro IPD a little while back) just bought a pile of magazines from Primedia, a publisher of mainly auto magazines and hobbiest titles (they even have more than one equestrian magazine!). Which would be strange in and of itself (do we really want distros owning publishers??) if Burkle wasn't also the same dude that tried to buy the remnants of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain last year.

You don't go from wanting to own a piece of the Knight legacy to wanting to own Arabian Horse World magazine without a few extra plans in the background. And, as it turns out, rumors are swirling (scroll down) he's also looking to buy American Media, Inc. publishers of such grand titles as the Star tabloid, and a pile of health magazines. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves beyond that, putting together a portfolio of titles to launch him as a player in the big-mag publishing game.

So what's it mean? Well it means that boring mainstream titles are being bought out by a creepy dude for unknown reasons, which is scary in and of itself. And it means that one of the big two mag distributors in the country will all of a suddent have a large number of wholy owned titles in its midst, which is ethically questionable in more ways than I can count.

But it means something more too: Source Interlink has just been named the exclusive magazine distributor for Borders (meaning they'll now just deal with one distro instead of the apparently overwhelming two they had before), which has many a publisher a little worried about the possibility of favoritism, vertical integration, predatory pricing and all sorts of other nasty stuff. Because lord knows the newsstand needed to get even more unfavorable to publishers brave enough to stick it out.

One last note: I am not a business reporter and can't even begin to get my head around Burkle's entire list of holdings which include a $100 million chunk of Puff Daddy's clothing company and a "former Beanie Baby promotion agency" (WTF??). All I know is that the dude's got a whole lot of money and can flush it away for a loooooong time if he wants to compete with the big boys in this game, which tends to mean that he's going to win. And we're going to lose.


mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

Daniel, thanks for this blog -- it helps to understand all of the horrifying acquisitions that are going on, I just read Richard Nash's post that mentioned Perseus was closing Carroll & Graf and Thunders Mouth (adding to the fact that Seal, also on Avalon which Perseus bought, is going from 40 titles a year to 15 + the Soft Skull info), and my mouth dropped open, now I'm so wired that I'm writing sentences like this one, I mean sentences that don't even make sense, I'm afraid.

You make a really good point about whether distributors should be owning publishers, etc.

So thanks again for this blog, I will be checking it out regularly...


Sinker said...


Hey! Yep, it's weird times. And now that I'm on the other side of my own weird times, I'm looking forward to updating more regularly. Keep reading!