Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ouch: Amid Constant Cuts, Billboard Continues To Ruin Its Reputation

It appears that I got out of my former career job at the right time. When Billboard magazine laid off the majority of its veteran writers in 2008-2009 (myself included) then-owner Nielsen was chopping its bottom line to bits in order to sell off its trade journals—including Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Backstage (recently sold) and Adweek Media.

The resulting buyer, equity group Prometheus Global Media has sadly become a textbook example of what's wrong with today's publishing industry. In addition to forcing remaining experienced journalists to carry the weight of those who were fired, new hires are often inexperienced green kids on the cheap whose musical knowledge goes back about as far as Hanson.

When I arrived at Billboard in 1995, the mandate was that you were an expert in your genre, with a loaded Rolodex of sources, practiced talent as a professional journo and intensive knowledge of the music industry—before you were let in the door. After I left, one of my gigs as Single Reviews Editor, which had been a signature role for me for nearly a decade, was taken on by a former intern... Need I say more?

Several articles are making the rounds about the circumstances that continue to pound Billboard's legacy into the ground. The first, via here. The second is at The Wrap here, which The Improper offers its perspective on here.

Among highlights:
There’s a Billboard exodus underway at Prometheus Global Media. Popular publisher Lisa Ryan Howard was pushed out and high-profile Billboard editor-in-chief Danyel Smith and Billboard deputy editor Lou Hau have resigned. More staff are expected to follow. "Morale is in the toilet because the level of dysfunction there and inside Prometheus is off the scale," an insider says.

Prometheus is also stopping annual employee reviews so it can eliminate 2% raises. "Prometheus keeps trying to cut its way to prosperity." Prometheus, initially entitled e5 Global Media, made an acquisition from Nielsen in 2009 and was formed jointly by private equity partner Pluribus Capital Management: Neither have entertainment media experience.

The Wrap...
Billboard is bleeding top talent (as it) is in the process of cutting costs. This has produced low morale and prompted exits, as well as a fast rate of turnover. Financial troubles have plagued other Prometheus titles.

The Improper...Billboard's Failed Strategy Sparks Cuts, Staff Exodus; Magazine Writes for Audience That No Longer Exists: Back in the day, Billboard’s strength was its ability to reach tens of thousands of record store owners. Those days are long gone. Its major advertisers, record labels, fled, yet, the magazine has never been able to reinvent itself. Today, the magazine reads like a fanzine, even though it costs 10 times as much to subscribe as the leading fan publication Rolling Stone, which far exceeds it in quality and circulation. *