If there was ever any doubt that Time Warner’s financial struggles were a key factor in MAD‘s switching to quarterly publication and laying off several (more) staffers, this article from My Way News should squash it:
TW lost $16.03 billion in the last quarter of 2008. Knowing all that was going down, is it any wonder TW sold all the remaining and most valuable original MAD cover artwork, and then cut publication and personnel? It was a company wide bloodletting, and althogh recent drops in circulation didn’t help even if MAD was still selling over 200,000 copies an issue I doubt things would have been any different. According to the article:
“The publishing division reported a 13 percent decline in revenue to $1.3 billion, primarily pulled down by a 20 percent drop in ad sales.”
“Time Warner has also announced layoffs at its various divisions because of the recession.”
“Last month, its Warner Bros. Entertainment movie studio announced cuts of nearly 800 jobs, or 10 percent of its global work force, through layoffs, attrition and outsourcing, citing sinking consumer demand and the overall weak economy.”
John E. Hett, publisher of the MAD fanzine “The Journal of MADness” expounds some interesting ideas about the future of MAD possibly being in the purchase of the magazine from Time Warner by some wealthy benefactor, restoring it to the old black and white version and the skeleton staff and returning to the days of autonomous rule not seen since Bill Gaines passed.
Would that work? Yes, if said wealthy benefactor had bottomless pockets and did not mind losing money, but continued to publish because of a nostalgic love of the classic MAD. Would that ensure MAD‘s success? No… only it’s continuation. Sort of a “band aid” if you will…. one I would not scoff at, however. Still I do not see how regressing back to the old black and white version would do anything but pacify those seeking MAD as comfort food. It would not bring in many new readers.
It’s my belief that MAD must adapt onto the internet to not just continue but thrive and reach a new audience. A combination of original on-line content and print could bring MAD to a whole new generation of readers. Long term that is the only answer, and the remaining question is if MAD‘s brand of humor can be relevent enough in the 21st century. I think there will always be a market for smart humor that does not rely on shock value or profanity to get a laugh, and I’d like to think good cartooning is a timeless source of entertainment. If either TW or that fore mentioned wealthy benefactor embraced the interent and figured out how to make it work (a tall order), then hopefully we’ll see MAD not just survive but thrive in the 21st century.
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911 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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