Nielsen closing Editor & Publisher and selling other titles, including Hollywood Reporter

By Andrew Vanacore, AP
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nielsen sells journals, closes Editor & Publisher

NEW YORK — The Nielsen Co. is selling some of its most prominent trade journals — including The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard — and shutting down Editor & Publisher, which has chronicled the newspaper business for more than 100 years.

The changes come in a tumultuous year for the media industry, with some storied brands put on the auction block or shuttered altogether. Such titles as Gourmet magazine and the Rocky Mountain News have been closed.

Nielsen is selling eight titles to e5 Global Media LLC, a new company formed by private equity firm Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners, a financial services company. James Finkelstein, one of Pluribus’ three founders, will serve as e5’s chairman. Guggenheim’s executive chairman is the former CEO of Bear Stearns Cos., Alan Schwartz.

The price of Thursday’s deal was not disclosed. Finkelstein did not return messages seeking comment, and Schwartz declined to comment through a spokesman.

At The Hollywood Reporter, which tracks the film and TV industries, editor Elizabeth Guider said the newsroom was generally upbeat after the new owners held a conference call to discuss the acquisition. While a buyout is always cause for “jitters,” Guider said, the new owners “put the accent on expansion and growing the brands.”

Guider said The Hollywood Reporter is still profitable, “just not as profitable as we’d like to be, or clearly that Nielsen wanted us to be.”

The daily publication, first published in 1930, had an average circulation of 49,800 during the six months ended in March. A predecessor of the company that is now Nielsen, Dutch media conglomerate VNU Group BV, got control of The Hollywood Reporter in 1994.

One question for its new owners will be whether to keep The Hollywood Reporter’s material available for free online. The publication’s main rival, Variety, began charging for access to its Web site on Thursday, ending a three-year experiment with free online content.

Billboard, a weekly magazine of the music industry, has been published since 1894. Lately it has been struggling to fend off digital competitors, and its average circulation in the first half of this year was 15,700, down from 20,100 in the same period of 2008, according to BPA Worldwide.

Nielsen would not reveal details about the financial performance of Editor & Publisher or another publication it is closing, the book review title Kirkus Reviews. The two publications, both bought by Nielsen in 1999, have 18 employees combined.

The E&P name was launched in 1901. But the magazine dates to 1884, the year that The Journalist, a rival with which it merged in 1907, was founded.

In the first six months of the year it had an average circulation of roughly 12,200, down from 13,500 in the first half of 2008. But its editor, Greg Mitchell, said Editor & Publisher appeared to have turned things around after struggling at the beginning of the decade. The magazine switched to a monthly format from weekly in 2003 and heightened its focus on the Web.

The shutdown of E&P “was a shock,” Mitchell said. “We knew that something big was happening but we didn’t think the aftermath was that we wouldn’t be sold and it would be folded.”

Nielsen said both the print and online operation will close immediately. But Mitchell hopes Editor & Publisher will return in another form.

“I would hope because of our special history and our role as a watchdog in journalism that it would be more likely in this case that there will be someone that’s going to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to let this die.’”

Kirkus, founded in 1933, has played a similarly crucial role in the book business.

It was one of three major titles — along with Publishers Weekly and Booklist — that reviewers, librarians and bookstores all checked when sorting out what to order from publishers, said Henry Kisor, retired book editor for the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Authors everywhere waited with bated breath for Kirkus to notice their upcoming books,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Its loss is like one of the wheels falling off one’s tricycle. The job of choosing books will be harder for everyone.”

But both E&P and Kirkus found themselves entwined with declining industries.

Editor & Publisher used to be a place for journalists to look up job listings, but that function has been largely replaced by and other Web sites, said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University.

Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes said his company is still reviewing its properties to make sure the company is focused on businesses with “the highest potential for growth.” Nielsen is keeping a handful of other media properties, including Contract Magazine and Progressive Grocer.

Nielsen, which is perhaps best known for its television ratings service, is owned by a group of investors that include AlpInvest Partners NV, The Blackstone Group LP, The Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman LLC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP, and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP.

AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

will not be displayed