Notes on Black Friday: Maer’s Pot of Gold, David Blum’s Demise Foretold

Headlines at radaronline.com on Tuesday, Oct. 28, included: “Jessica Simpson: Major Movie Star, Comrade”; “Vanessa & Zac Back in the U.S”; “Sean Penn’s Gay History Closeted.”

Yowza!

Radar has ever been sold as an heir to Spy: poppy and irreverent and, most of all, smart, as though OK! had gone to college and majored in semiotics. But in the days since the Web site has been acquired by AMI, the proprietors of The National Enquirer, it seems to have dropped a few grades behind.

Maer Roshan, the editor and founder of Radar, who has now watched his magazine fold for a third time, said he would not be involved in the Web site.

“It’s not the Web site I put out,” he told The Observer on the site’s second day of publication since a group of investors including billionaire Ron Burkle and Yusef Jackson pulled their funding for his magazine and sold off its Web property.

No, Mr. Roshan, the new Web site is meant to compete with TMZ, not The New Yorker.

Mr. Roshan told The Observer that it takes five years to break even on a magazine, and he thought he had a much longer commitment from his investors. Back in June, after five staffers fled Radar and rumors began circulating that the magazine was in trouble, he told The Observer, “Everything is more than O.K. We’re doing well.” 

But a person close to Integrity Media, the group owned by Mr. Jackson, said the magazine’s prospects were never that bright. 

“Two things: number one, the market conditions, and number two, there was a pot of money that was allotted and it was burnt through,” said the source. “It’s not like there was a commitment for five years or a certain amount of magazines—there was a commitment to a certain dollar amount.”

The source said the Web site was doing really well, so once AMI called and asked for a takeover, they jumped at the deal.

Meanwhile, across town, 02138, the glossy Harvard alumni magazine that was purchased by Manhattan Media from the Atlantic Media Group in May, was shuttered before it even produced its first issue under new ownership.

“The decision was made very quickly,” said David Blum, the editor of 02138, and the former editor of The Village Voice and the New York Press.

He said he learned about the decision on Oct. 23, a day before the announcement went out and only five months after Manhattan Media had promised to increase its frequency from a quarterly to six times a year, and provide him a budget to hire staff (he wound up having a staff of five on the editorial side).

On Oct. 24, however, the magazine announced it wouldn’t be able to print a single issue (the contents of the December/January issue will be produced online sometime next week).

But even though the decision came down quickly, Mr. Blum said he had regular conversations with Tom Allon, the chief of Manhattan Media, and Jamie Hooper, its publisher, and he was in the loop.

“I was aware of their struggle,” he said. “But I was just as much aware by reading the morning paper as I was talking to them.”

jkoblin@observer.com

Notes on Black Friday: Maer’s Pot of Gold, David Blum’s Demise Foretold