Time Warner Woes

February 5th, 2009 | Posted in MAD Magazine

alfredquarter

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:

Time Warner swings to 4Q loss on hefty writedown

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.

Comments

  1. Antzo8 says:

    Whoa. $16.03 billion…? I suddenly have loads more respect for them. Knowing that they lost shiploads of cash they still chose to keep MAD alive, when they could easily of cut them like that. Its sad about the staffers laid off and the issues cut back, but they chose to keep MAD around….for the time being.

    One of the main critisms of MAD is its web page. I see comments about it being out of date and lacking content all the time. Meaning that people ARE visiting the site, but can’t really go anywhere from there. Maybe a weekly cartoon, or parody news updates, or something along those lines. I know that somebody actually has to do all those things, but hey, based on what I’ve seen, it can’t be too hard. The site can be a supporting feature to the mag, rather than just an ad to go buy it. Many print things have websites, and people still buy the associated magazine, (trying to think of an example and all I can come up with is TIME)
    Anyway, who knows what will happen? Long live MAD! 🙂

  2. Dan Schwab says:

    Seems the internet is the only way to go nowadays. Like Egon Spengler said in Ghostbusters, “Print is dead”. And that’s a shame. There’s an interesting article in Time Magazine about more people reading newspapers nowadays, mostly because they’re available online; and, because newspapers are giving away their product for free, circulation is way down. Doesn’t bode well for people like me trying to put together 6 weeks of strips for syndicates while the printed word, (and comic) is a dying art.

    MAD will find new life online, and not in the same vein as “Cracked”. I hope it does, too. because one of the things about MAD I love is the fresh take on politics and pop culture. Waiting 3 months for a satire on something relevant now? Feh!

    Here’s the TIME article, (for free???). http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1877191,00.html

  3. Bryan Senka says:

    A lot of publishers try cutting back production in tough times, but that usually doesn’t help their case they way they think it will. The less you are around, the more people will forget about you. Out of sight, out of mind. And you end up losing even more readers.

    Many of our clients originally did cut back on the number of titles and the frequency of publication, but now have returned to a much more robust schedule. Publishing is what they do, you simply can’t just not do it and expect to stay in business.

    So they find other ways to trim costs. Smaller page counts, smaller press runs, less colour, cheaper paper, etc.

    I do agree that a better online presence can and should compliment MAD well. There are things that they could be doing daily/weekly that would keep people coming back, and could be just a teaser for the printed books.

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