SIn recent months, new online business sites like Clusterstock and Slate's The Big Money launched—and what timing! The current meltdown of all things money-related is the biggest business story in a generation or more. But therein lies the quandary that is currently fucking with most of the big business media brands. Understand this, and you'll understand everything (about business media): Market crashes are, almost without argument, the biggest business stories there are. They're the wars of the financial world. Bull markets, runaway successes, and bubbles are all well and good from the reader's point of view—and they do tend to spawn new titles—but they lack the element of tragedy and fear that mark truly great stories. Ten years from now, business outlets will be judged by their coverage of this meltdown in the same way that the New York Times was judged by its 9/11 coverage, or the Littleton Independent was judged by its Columbine coverage. That said, the business side of business media should be booming, right? Audiences are up! Everyone is addicted to CNBC! The Wall Street Journal has been unmissable for a solid month! And it's fair to assume that readership and viewership is up across the board for business outlets, to varying degrees. Fear makes people extremely interested in information. Here's the quandary: The biggest story for business media always comes along at the same time as the worst ad market. By definition, unfortunately! Market crashes are great from a reporter's standpoint. From an ad salesman's standpoint, they're horrible. So a site like The Big Money, which would seem to have had the good fortune to launch on the wings of a massive story, is actually getting choked by the very same conditions it's reporting on. There's already speculation that Portfolio, Conde Nast's $100 million business offering, is on shaky legs. We know that the Great Magazine Die-Off caused by this shitty economic period is already underway. And ironically, mags like BusinessWeek or Fortune could be likely candidates for severe cutbacks, if not actually death. And hey, the publisher of Fast Company—actually a good magazine!—was just forced to lay off 20 people. That's a lot for a mid-sized place like that.The publisher, Mansueto, is also ending free snacks, gym reimbursements, and, worst of all, closing its Events division. That's a terrifying sign, since there are lots of business publications out there that (shhh!) make more money off their events than they do off their publication. In some cases, a shitty magazine is just a loss leader for a moneymaking side business of awards shows, seminars, and other branded events that companies will shell out for in order to "network" and have allegedly independent awards to use in their marketing materials. But when the businesses themselves tank, the business media tanks harder. It's as if Sports Illustrated saw all of its ads evaporate at Super Bowl time. It sucks, but it's a fact of media life. The survivors will come out stronger than ever, and can feast on the carcasses of their dead competitors, picking off choice talent at low prices. Journalism!
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