the audit

BizWeek Emblematic of the Fall of Print

From $1 billion to less than $5 million in nine years
October 13, 2009

The big business-media news this week will be BusinessWeek‘s sale to Bloomberg for $2 million to $5 million plus the assumption of liabilities, in what is surely the best outcome the magazine and its newsroom could have.

While it’s worth remembering the silly BW-will-sell-for-$1 meme that made the rounds this summer, the price caps a stunning fall for the once-mighty magazine.

BusinessWeek‘s good news story on the deal reports that the magazine, at its peak in 2000, was valued at about $1 billion. Today it sold for 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent of that, nine years later. Incredible.

So there’s your new emblem for the Fall of Print. That decline in value happened for the most part not because it’s readers abandoned it—circulation (rate base) dropped about 20 percent during that time—but because its advertisers did.

The same thing, of course, is happening at nearly every newspaper and magazine across the country.

What’s good here is that the magazine was purchased by an outfit that’s one of the few old-timers still making new investments in journalism. It gives Bloomberg, which has more than 2,000 journalists, a new outlet for its content.

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Here’s hoping Bloomberg is planning on keeping most of the newsroom and using its own existing resources to beef up BizWeek‘s offerings, while using the magazine’s to beef up its own.

And a little spit and polish from some good magazine editors wouldn’t hurt a bit.

UPDATE: See this follow-up post on the hopeful sounds Bloomberg is making about its intentions.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.