Posted by: Jon Fine on December 14, 2005
So much for ambitious pop-culture plays in the magazine space:
Radar magazine is folding.
The November-December issue currently on newsstands will be its last. Staffers were informed of the news late this afternoon.
(When we said yesterday we expected more media layoffs before ‘06, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.)
Radar was the brainchild of Maer Roshan, who held high editing positions at New York and Talk magazine (which was shuttered in early 2002). An initial round of funding yielded two “test” issues in 2003 and then he embarked on a long, strange, and well-publicized search for funding. That search included near-misses with parties ranging from Dennis Publishing, owners of Maxim, to mysterious Moroccan heiriess Maria Oufkir.
In October 2004, though, two New York heavyweights—Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman and financier Jeffrey Epstein—who were part of a failed bid to buy New York magazine pledged to ante up around $25 million to launch the title. The magazine published three issues in 2005.
Radar was the subject of so much chatter and coverage within the hothouse of New York media that it risked being the kind of pop-culture artifact you become sick of before you actually see it. (Gawker wrote about it in such volume and with such snark that Roshan arranged for Gawker Media head Nick Denton to be hit in the face with a pie at Radar’s launch party earlier this year.)
It was, actually, a sharp and funny magazine that refreshingly ignored many of the standard settings one sees in current magazines, like obsessions with shopping and product, or pages devoted to lowest-common-denominator service articles. Its Web site managed to break news in the very crowded field of publications that touch on celebrity and pop culture.
Roshan’s title sought to prove that a smart segmentation of a young andurbane audience could work in magazines in a manner akin to how HBO makes it work in TV. That his backers ultimately disagreed will do little to convince a magazine world already hopelessly stuck in “me-too” mode to take chances on novel ideas. But given current business dynamics, that’s at least partly understandable.
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.