I've been meaning to send Ryan Avent a congratulatory note on his move to Portfolio for weeks now (though I really should have been sending that note to Portfolio for snagging Ryan.) Alas, instead, I had to send him condolences this morning: Portfolio is shutting down. There will be a lot of retrospective quarterbacking, but in the end, launching a $100 million magazine into the teeth of a recession is a dicey project. Especially when it's launched the Conde way, with high-gloss finish and an all-star cast of thousands.
Most readers don't notice, but it's on the top of every journalist's mind that every publication we pick up these days feels nearly emaciated. That's because everyone's losing ad pages--and editorial pages, because the ad pages pay for the content between them. It's a rare publication where the revenue from subscriptions and newstand sales exceeds the cost of printing and distributing the paper. All the costs of producing the content are paid for by advertising, and companies aren't doing much of that these days.
Not much comfort to Ryan, though, or the 84 others who have to look for jobs in a very tough media market. Speaking from my own household experience, I think journalists are going to be very leery of getting involved with media startups for quite a while.